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Egyptians Believed Green Amulet Carried Special Powers

February 7, 2009

Researchers have reported the discovery of a rare mummified child buried along with a green amulet stone, providing further evidence that the ancient Egyptians believed the stone and the stone’s color itself wielded magical powers.

The first colored amulets occurred as early as the predynastic Badarian period, from 4500 to 3800 B.C., said lead author Raffaella Bianucci, a scientist in the Department of Animal and Human Biology at Via Accademia Albertina in Turin, Italy. Her study is set to be published in next month’s issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The recent find, which dates back 4,700 years, contains the remains of a 15- to 18- month-old toddler. Bianucci and her team determined the child died of an acute malarial infection.

The toddler was wrapped in linen bandages, in which researchers discovered a fossilized leather bag that contained two stones. Researchers focused on the bright green stone.

Using X-rays and electron microscope analysis, researchers determined that the stone was chrysocolla, or hydrated copper silica.

“Even in limited forms and materials, these earliest amulets give a good indication of the dangerous forces that the early Egyptians felt were present in their world and needed to be harnessed by magical means,” said Bianucci.

The find also explains why many ancient hieroglyphics that depict Egyptian children wearing green eye makeup. It also adds to the growing body of evidence that ancient Egyptians thought color itself held sacred energy that could help or hurt individuals.

“In ancient Egypt, color was an integral part of the substance and being of everything in life,” said Bianucci.

Chrysocolla may have been special for children, as archaeologists previously unearthed a small figure of a child made of the green material in another grave, according to an MSNBC article.

“We can hypothesize that (the parents) wished their child to be protected from unwanted influence and to be healthy in its afterlife,” said Bianucci.

“In ancient Egypt, color was an integral part of the substance and being of everything in life.”

Egyptians also believed other colors held particular significance, including red ““ the color of life and victory, black ““ the symbol of death and the night, and blue symbolized life and rebirth, she said.

Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead instructs that a scarab beetle amulet be made of green minerals and placed at the heart of mummies.

Image Courtesy Raffaella Bianucci

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