In ancient Egyptian religion, Menat was the name of the goddess Hathor. The artefact, whose name was slightly different in hieroglyphic spelling than that of the goddess, was held in the hand by its counterpoise and used as a rattle by Hathor’s priestesses. The form of the amulet is like an Aegis (shield from Greek) to protect the carrier.
Picture of the Menat necklace adorning the cow goddess Hathor
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This necklace called “Menat” is composed of a multitude of threads loaded with pearls of several shades of blue, among which are distinguished rare threads composed of multicoloured pearls. All the threads are then gathered together (perhaps even twisted or braided) at each end to form a single cord. It is on this one that is then strung, on both sides, coloured beads, much larger and of very varied shapes. They are mostly round and long, but the assembly is different, on one side and the other. Glass, agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise, the pearls come together, without obeying, it seems, a defined harmony, except perhaps for a reason of balance in the final part which hang on the hook to the counterweight.
Necklace “menat” – New Kingdom – reign of Amenhotep III
discovered in Malqatta in 1911 during excavations carried out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) – reference 11.215.450
This significant part of the collar seems to have been added later; indeed: “if the name of Menat already appears in the Middle Kingdom, the representations that we have then show the necklace finished by pendants, and not by the counterweight. It seems it has been since the XVIIIth dynasty only that this one exists. ” (Paul Barguet)
Almost 15 cm long, it is carved in bronze. If it is sometimes indicated that it takes on the aspect of a “keyhole”, this interpretation on its form, issued in particular by Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, seems to us most relevant and seduces us – once again! – by the imagination and the symbolism of ancient Egypt: “It has been shown without difficulty that this one, close to that of certain“ dolls ”found in Theban tombs of the Middle Kingdom, is only the stylization of ” a female torso reducing the woman’s body, whose hair is evoked by the mass of pearls, to her pelvis (circular part) and to her bust (trapezoidal part), that is to say to its two essential functions: childbirth and breastfeeding. “
If this necklace could be worn as an adornment, it would be, like the sistrum, an attribute of the goddess Hathor. “The Menat, formed from a heavy bundle of pearl threads joined in cords at both ends and was Hathor’s favourite attribute, and one of the most common accessories of his cult.”
This is how it is found in the hands of certain goddesses, priests, but also women – especially in the New Kingdom the singers of Amun – who agitated it during religious ceremonies. Indeed: “after having folded the mass of pearls on the counterweight, it was used as a liturgical musical instrument, the friction of the two parts against each other producing a crackle, a sort of rhythmic clicking which must have been comparable to that of the sistrum: it is, therefore, often seen in the hands of singers and musicians, or in those of queens and princesses, who play the role of priestesses, alternately shaking the two instruments while raising them towards the gods. “
The “sound” emitted was magical and could “appease a god or a goddess”; as for the “gift of Menat”, it meant protection. So, quite naturally, it comes to mind the image of the magnificent relief that Jean-François Champollion brought back from the tomb of Seti I, which is exhibited in the Louvre. It represents, in a gesture that reveals infinite tenderness. Hathor is giving this Menat necklace to the pharaoh. “Hathor could not grant his followers a favour, greater than extending his Menat and having them touch it, to assure them of his protection.”
This necklace, dated to the New Kingdom, from the reign of Amenhotep III. It was discovered in 1911-1912 during excavations, carried out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the west bank of Luxor, south of the Theban necropolis, more precisely on the Malqatta site.
Christian Leblanc thus enlightens us on this place: “The palatial city of Malqatta covered a very large area: it had to start where the temple of Aÿ-Horemheb is located in the north and extend to Deir el-Chelouit in the north. It was a real city with its infrastructures, including a huge lake (± 2.5 km long x 1 km wide), known as Birket Habou, artificially dug and fed by a canal coming from the Nile. This aquatic structure, more than ± 5 m deep, which also served as a port, provided the city’s water supply and also could be used, on certain occasions, for religious ceremonies. The city was founded by Amenhotep III, perhaps long before his first jubilee, as certain “jar labels” found on the site seem to attest. The royal court lived there, surrounded by its dignitaries and its officials. The young Akhenaton and Nefertiti must have stayed there with their first maids before leaving Thebes for Tell el-Amarna. “
The Metropolitan expedition excavated the site for five seasons, from 1910 to 1921, under the direction of Herbert E. Winlock. “Members of the Egyptian Expedition” cleared sections of the palace that had not excavated by Tytus and Newberry, and the remains of the palace grounds that had not been destroyed by cultures. They also excavated and mapped much of the surrounding area, including the North Palace, several groups of private houses, a glass factory, a large ‘village hall’ and a mud-brick temple dedicated to the god Amun. “
The “Menat” necklace and the two other pearl necklaces
discovered in the “Private House B” of Malqatta in 1911
during excavations by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
New Kingdom – reign of Amenhotep III
It was in “Private House B” that this discovery took place. This miraculously preserved menat necklace and two single strand pearl and amulet necklaces were found in the corner of a room in a private house near the King’s Palace. in a canvas bag, traces of which were still visible. ” The presence of this “protective” bag certainly reflects the strong attachment that their owner devoted to these jewels …
It was in 1911, under the reference 11.215.450 which, this Menat entered – with the other two necklaces – at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thanks to a donation from the Rogers Fund.
“ Menat necklace from Malqata ” (MET)
“ Excavations throughout Met History, 1870-present ”
Ancient Egypt and its gods – Illustrated dictionary, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, Fayard 2007
“ The origin and the significance of the counterweight of the collar-menat ”, BIFAO 52 (1952), p. 103-111, Paul Barguet
“ Thebes, Malkata To Thebes, the Ramesseum (Archeology of Ancient Egypt) ”
“ Recent Work at Malqata Palace ”
“ The statue of the” royal servant “Nofirronpit (Louvre Museum) ”, Charles Boreux, Monuments and memories of the Eugène Piot Foundation Year 1933 33-1-2 pp. 11-26