Necklace with fly amulets

British Museum

British Museum

Fly amulets first appeared in the late Predynastic period, around 3100 BC. They continued throughout the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC) and New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), and were made of various materials, including stone, faience and glass. Their exact purpose is uncertain. They might have been intended to bestow the notorious fecundity of the fly onto the wearer or they might have simply been used to drive off or protect against this common pest.

Flies made of gold had a special significance in the New Kingdom. The golden fly was an honour awarded to people who took part in the struggle to drive the Hyksos kings out of Egypt. They perhaps symbolize persistence. Later in the New Kingdom, honorific flies were awarded for worthiness in fields other than military endeavour and multiple flies, strung with beads as necklaces, may not have had the same symbolism. It is difficult to believe that the examples found in the tombs of the wives of Tuthmosis III were awards for bravery in battle. The fly had perhaps by this time regained some of its former symbolism, which was perhaps in this case linked to fertility, as other pieces of jewellery found in the burials seem also to have had this purpose.

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  • Title: Necklace with fly amulets
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 24.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: solid-cast
  • Registration number: 1939,0324.144
  • Place: Found/Acquired Egypt
  • Period/culture: 18th Dynasty
  • Material: garnet; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Mond, Robert Ludwig