MUSEUM PIECE: Ba bird? Or Nekhbet?

I decided this would just be a quick look at this quirky little Old Kingdom amulet, but as with most things, I managed to uncover more questions than answers!

I decided this was an interesting piece, as there seems to be a great amount of facial detail. I particularly loved the bulbous nose and chin. It looked a bit like a grumpy old man!

amarna potBritish Museum

So, this is a blue lapis lazuli amulet. It has the hybrid form of a vultures body and a human head. I personally had never seen anything quite like this, but I will admit it’s not my specialist area, more of a curiosity. So I began thinking, is it an amulet to represent the Ba bird? The character or uniqueness of someone, the aspect of a person the ancient Egyptians believed would live on after death. It certainly has character in the face! The Ba was represented as half human half bird, and would take flight from the tomb to re-join the Ka (soul). However, when I looked at other amulets that represented the Ba I was met with pictures of hybrid forms that seemed to take on more of a falcon like body, or alternatively the wings were outstretched (see below). While I am not ruling this out, I would need more evidence (and more time to research) to find out the answers.

Other examples of Ba amulets and figurines seem to have a more falcon like body, whereas on this amulet you can clearly see the back wings hunched over like a vulture.

Ba-bird, 6-4th century B.C. EgyptianEgyptian Ba statue

amarna potAmulet representing Ba bird

Perhaps instead, the amulet symbolised Nekhbet the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, however, she isn’t usually portrayed as a hybrid, instead she retains her vulture face as well as body. Her wings are almost always out in a protective way. I wonder if I could see the amulet face on whether there would be more to tell.

I will keep searching and researching on this one, but in the meantime if you have more information on this amulet or a similar piece, then please do get in contact and share!

Best wishes,

Ankh Nfr

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