Gold Bes Signet Ring

This ring bezel is decorated with the royal device of two cartouches topped by ostrich plumes, the cartouches frame dancing figures of Bes. Since Bes was closely associated with women in labor and with small children, the use of his image on this signet ring suggests it belonged to a queen, probably Nefertiti herself.

Though Bes had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name, he was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt. He was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetics containers and applicators, as well as magical wands and knives.

Gold Bes Signet Ring
Gold Bes Signet Ring

Over time, Bes came to be seen as the champion of everything good and the enemy of everything evil. It seems that he was originally known as “Aha” (“fighter”) because he could strangle bears, lions, and snakes with his bare hands. He is described as a demon, but he was not considered to be evil. On the contrary, he was a supporter of Ra who protected him from his enemies. As a result, he was a god of war who protected the pharaoh and the people of Egypt from evil forces. He was often depicted on knives in the hope that this would extend his protection to the bearer of the blade. His image also appears on numerous “magic wands” and on an incredible number of amulets.

The cartouche is nothing more than the elongated shape of the circular sign “shen”, which was most probably the symbol of the solar disk. It was exclusively used for the name of the king, protecting him and functioning almost as a magical barrier. In ancient Egypt, amulets in the form of cartouches had the same function: used both for the living and for the deceased, they ensured their eternal protection.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 BC. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 24.2.8