This wonderful catfish pendant exemplifying the high craftsmanship of jewelry makers during the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2030-1650 BC), this pendant also embodies the magic that was part of life for the ancient Egyptians, which they incorporated into a wide variety of objects. Believed to ward off drowning.
A loop for suspension extends from the mouth of the fish, which would have hung vertically. Despite the fact that it is only one and a half inches (four centimeters) in length, the pendant features amazing details—including the pores that create the so-called lateral line along its sides, the sharp ray on the dorsal fin, the mottling on the head, the comb of small spines on each side between the eye and the triangular gill cover, and the “whiskers” (barbels) that extend from its mouth.
The naturalistic depiction of the fish identifies it as a Synodontis batensoda, also known as the “upside-down catfish.”
Common to every continent except Antarctica, catfish are the most diverse group of fish on earth. The 2,000 to 3,000 species have some remarkable characteristics, so it is little wonder they attracted the attention of the Egyptians, one of the most animal-conscious ancient cultures.
Late 12th Dynasty – early 13th Dynasty, ca. 1878-1749 BC. Gold over a core of unknown material; L. 3.9 cm (1 9/16 in.), H. 1.6 cm (5/8 in.). Now in the National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh. 1914.1079