Black stone amulet carved into the shape of the sema hieroglyph, which means ‘unite’ and similar concepts. It is often described as a pair of lungs attached to a windpipe, genitalia, and sometimes both simultaneously. The Sema was often placed on a mummy’s chest in order to give it life in the underworld.
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. Small-scale Egyptian figurines, known as amulets, were thought to promote health and good luck.
Amulets were such an important part of Egyptian religious beliefs that they were worn by both the living and the dead. They could be mounted on rings or strung as bracelets or necklaces and were placed among the mummy wrappings to secure the deceased’s rebirth and well-being in the afterlife.
Many varieties of amulets survive, including figures of deities, parts of the human (or divine) body, animals, plants, and objects of daily life.
Late Period to Ptolemaic Period, ca. 664-30 BC. Obsidian, overall: 30 mm x 11 mm x 5 mm. Now in the National Museums Liverpool, World Museum. 56.21.88