Necklace of Ahhotep with Golden Flies

Necklace of Queen Ahhotep I, or Iah (“peace of the moon”) with golden flies. The fly symbolized tenacity, this ceremonial necklace given as award for valor in battle.

This necklace, with three pendants in the form of flies, was given to queen Ahhotep by her two sons Kamose and Ahmose in gratitude for her supportive role during the struggle for liberation against the Hyksos.

Necklace of Ahhotep with Golden Flies
Necklace of Ahhotep with Golden Flies

The presence of this type of gold jewelry, which corresponds to a military decoration bestowed upon military leaders for their courage in the battle field, is unique in a queen’s collection. It is made of stylized flies formed of plaques of gold with two bulging eyes and an open work body.

The flies are made from very fine gold and are extremely stylized; they have smooth wings and chased bodies and are hung from short, finely linked chains that attach to the rings fixed between their protruding eyes.

“The wings of the flies are made from sheet gold upon which a second piece—hammered into a mold to represent the head and eyes—has been soldered. Slots were then cut along the back to represent the body of the fly. These are said to flash as the wearer moves, capturing the iridescence of the living insect.”

From the beautifully illustrated book ‘Ancient Egyptian Jewelry: 50 Masterpieces of Art and Design’, by Nigel Fletcher-Jones (AUC Press, 2020).

Second Intermediate Period, 17th Dynasty, ca. 1560-1530 BC. Length of the chain 59 cm, length of the pendants 9 cm. From Dra’ Abu el-Naga’, West Thebes. Excavation by A. Mariette (1859). Now in the Luxor Museum.