Lungs and Windpipe Sema Amulet

The Sema or Sma hieroglyph, used in the words “unification,” “to unite,” and their derivatives, represents an animal’s lungs and windpipe. It is often described as a pair of lungs attached to a windpipe, genitalia, and sometimes both simultaneously. The Sma was often placed on a mummy’s chest in order to give it life in the underworld. As such, the shape of this sign frequently appears in Egyptian art in scenes of the king uniting the two lands of Upper and Lower Egypt.

As an amulet, the sema hieroglyph ensured a unified corpse, integral to one’s survival in the afterlife. The customary choice of dark stone for this amulet refers to the darkness of the night sky and the fertile silt of the Nile’s inundation (or annual flooding)—the sources of the daily rebirth of the sun and the yearly regeneration of nature.

Lungs and-Windpipe Sema Amulet
Lungs and-Windpipe Sema Amulet

Dark brown stone ‘sm3’ sign, as amulet. Back flat and plain. Front surface incised at base only. Dull finish. Blind eyelet at top. Coarse work. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the hieroglyph is used for the phonetic value of sma, (a triliteral) with meanings of to join together, to unite with.

Late Period, 26th Dynasty to 30th Dynasty, ca. 664-332 BC. Made of obsidian. 1 1/4 × 9/16 × 3/16 in. (3.1 × 1.4 × 0.5 cm). Now in the Brooklyn Museum. 16.580.60