Gold openwork plaque showing Amenemhat IV

British Museum

British Museum

The purpose of this plaque is uncertain. As there are no suspension loops or other fastenings, it is unlikely to be a pectoral (ornament worn on the chest). It is possible that it was used to decorate a larger object such as a box or other item of furniture.

The plaque was made using the technique called 'ajouré'. The design is cut out of sheet metal by using a chisel to punch around the outline; the Egyptian craftsman did not possess shears or fine saws. To get over the difficulty of producing smooth edges, strips of metal were soldered onto the base plate to provide cells into which inlay could be added. This technique was often used to produce pectorals and other pieces of jewellery.

Openwork pieces without further adornment are quite rare. Here the details on the figures and hieroglyphs have been chased onto the metal using a fine chisel and mallet. The work is of extremely high quality, particularly the delicate modelling of the muscles of the legs of the figures.

The discovery of the plaque at Byblos shows that Egypt had contacts, probably through trade, with this important port during the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC).

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  • Title: Gold openwork plaque showing Amenemhat IV
  • Physical Dimensions: Width: 3.10cm; Height: 3.10cm; Thickness: 0.005cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: chased; soldered
  • Subject: ancient egyptian deity
  • Registration number: 1929,0209.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Byblos
  • Period/culture: 12th Dynasty
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Amenemhat IV
  • Acquisition: Donated by Birmingham Jewellers' and Silversmiths' Association. Previous owner/ex-collection Saraffian


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