Egyptian rock crystal hippopotamus amulet
The face of this unique rock crystal hippopotamus amulet is carved with naturalistic features, the heavily proportioned body surmounted by an integral suspension loop with a modern gold wire added. It was used as a protective charm or symbol in ancient Egyptian culture.
The rock crystal material was believed to possess special properties and was often used for amulets due to its clarity and durability. The hippopotamus, in Egyptian mythology, was associated with fertility, protection, and the power to ward off evil. These amulets were commonly worn or placed in tombs as a form of spiritual protection or to ensure a successful afterlife.
Rock crystal, also known as quartz crystal, held significant importance in ancient Egypt. It was highly valued for its clarity, beauty, and believed metaphysical properties. Egyptians used rock crystal for various purposes, including jewelry, amulets, and religious artifacts.
Rock crystal was often carved into intricate amulets and charms, such as the aforementioned hippopotamus amulet, to provide protection and ward off evil spirits. It was also used in the creation of jewelry, such as beads, pendants, and amulets, which were worn by both the living and the deceased.
The hippopotamus was a common inhabitant of the Nile River. The animal’s aggressive nature and large size worried the ancient Egyptians because they frequently went out in boats on the river. Protection against this dangerous animal was imperative, however, the hippopotamus was also associated with positive qualities such as regeneration. See C. Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, London: British Museum Press, 1994, p. 64.
Such amulets of hippopotamus heads and full figures of the animals were sometimes made in semi-precious stones like carnelian, feldspar, amethyst, and in this example, rock crystal. Rock crystal was a particular luxurious and rare product, and its use for amulets was very restricted.
The hippopotamus was considered a dangerous and unpredictable creature due to its aggressive nature and its association with the Nile River, which was vital for agriculture and daily life in ancient Egypt.
As a result, the ancient Egyptians believed that wearing or possessing hippopotamus figurines made from glass, faience or semi-precious stones would provide protection against malevolent forces, particularly in the realm of childbirth and fertility.
Middle Kingdom, ca. 2050-1650 BC. Provenance: Rock crystal. Length: 3 cm. Art market, London. Private collection, France, acquired in the late 1990s. Kallos Gallery