Tutankhamun’s Ba-Bird Amulet

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The Egyptians believed that individuals were made up of five parts: the ba, the ka, the name, the shadow and the physical body. According to Žabkar, there is no exact equivalent of the term ba in English. It is similar to our concept of personality but also refers to power and was extended to the gods. However, Ba is represented as a human-headed bird that leaves the body and only becomes manifest after the person has died.

Anyway, let’s stay in Egypt with this fascinating golden bird, The Ba! It was often shown as a bird whose duty was to feed the deceased. The Ba was so closely linked with the physical body that it needed food and drink. The Ba depended upon the corpse with which it had to be reunited each night. Here is a brilliant report by Marie Grillot about the Ba Amulet and its discovery.💖🙏

via égyptophile

Tutankhamun’s Ba-Bird Amulet

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – 18th dynasty
found on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.

“Between the open wings, the head of Tutankhamun, modelled in relief, is silhouetted in left profile. Despite the short tuft of a stylized beard under the chin, which is only a royal insignia, the portrait is that of a child. The elongated eye, the little upturned nose, the smiling mouth with full lips, and the roundness of the cheek make up an amiable and lively physiognomy. The slightly acute facial angle lends itself to replacing the profile of a bird, and the rows of the necklace provide a transition between the neck of the child and the ocellated body. A striated diadem, adorned with the uraeus on the forehead, is tied at the back of the head under a lotus flower, from which the two free ends of the ribbon fall on the shoulder, consolidating, like the beard, the implantation of the head above the wings “… Here is an extract of the description, all in sensitivity, that makes of this artefact, Pierre Gilbert in “The Reign of the Sun Akhnaton and Nefertiti.”

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – 18th dynasty
found on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.

The sovereign’s bird-ba is 12.5 cm high and 33 cm wide, conferred by the span of its outstretched wings. Like the body and the tail, they are worked according to the cloisonné technique. The degree of excellence achieved by the goldsmiths of the 18th dynasty made it possible to combine inclusions of semi-precious stones, which perfectly render the texture and composition of the plumage. Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, carnelian, or even glass, realistically restore the location of the primary and secondary remiges, as well as the rectrices of the tail, in shimmering polychromy. The body is decorated with a pattern of drops, using the same tones. The legs, in solid gold, each hold a ‘shen’ sign. This symbol of eternity is made of carnelian surrounded by turquoise-coloured glass.

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – 18th dynasty
found on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.
Photo: The Griffith Institute – Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation

The Howard Carter Archives – Photographs by Harry Burton

On October 28, 1925, Howard Carter discovered this magnificent jewel which rested on the chest of the young king. He indeed had to wait until the 4th season of excavation, after having dismantled the four chapels of gilded wood, opened the sarcophagus, then the three coffins, to finally find himself face to face with the mummy of Tutankhamen… He noted in his diary: “Below this mask, which extends to the hands, we see the linen envelope as well as the outer layers of strips, held in place by wide bands of gold, flexible, longitudinal and transverse, and a protective figure of Nekhbet in inlaid gold, very decorative. She has outstretched wings on either side of the body and a human head”.

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – 18th dynasty
found on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.
Photo: The Griffith Institute – Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation
The Howard Carter Archives – Photographs by Harry Burton

If he likens it at first reading to the vulture goddess “Mistress of the sky, protective goddess of Upper Egypt and the Pharaoh”, he will refine his perception. Thus in his descriptive card, he will note, “Pectoral in gold Ba- (bird) in the form of the vulture Nekhbet”. He also specifies that this jewel was provided with “eyelets” at the back, which made it possible to sew it to the linen fabric…

His presence responds to chapter 89 of the Book of the Dead, which indicates the “Words to be spoken on a soul of gold, encrusted with jewels, placed on the neck of man”.

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – 18th dynasty
found on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.
Photo: The Griffith Institute – Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation
The Howard Carter Archives – Photographs by Harry Burton

In “The bird-ba, second life in ancient Egypt”, Michèle Juret gives us the keys to better understand the importance of this ba entity that we “commonly translate by the word soul although the concept is much more complex. … The ba enjoys total freedom. She will be able to leave the tomb, climb into the bark of Ra, enjoy its rays, drink the regenerating water of the tree goddess, and take advantage of the food offerings… Each evening she will rejoin her deceased’s body; their reunion depends on survival….”

Bird-ba of Tutankhamun – gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, glass, carnelian – founded 18th dynasty
on his mummy in October 1925 in tomb KV 62, discovered on November 4, 1922, by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter
referenced: carter 256-b(2) – registered in the Journal of Entries of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo: JE 61903 – GEM 759-A.J.
Photo: The Griffith Institute – Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation
The Howard Carter Archives – Photographs by Harry Burton

On the mummy of the young king, and between his bandages, the priests and embalmers had deposited one hundred and fifty jewels, amulets or other objects. Howard Carter will draw the exact location of each ornament and reference them individually in “group 256”. This bird-ba was thus recorded “Carter 256-b(2)”. It was later recorded in the Cairo Museum Entry Journal JE 61903. It’s been listed at the GEM (Grand Egyptian Museum) – soon to be opened in Giza – as GEM 759-A.J.

Marie Grillot

Sources:

Excavation journals and diaries made by Howard Carter and Arthur Mace

Howard Carter’s excavation diaries (transcripts and scans)

4th Season, September 28th 1925 to May 21st 1926 http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/discoveringTut/journals-and-diaries/season-4/journal.html

Gold pectoral ba-bird, Carter No. 256b(2) http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/256b(2).html

The Griffith Institute – Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation – The Howard Carter Archives – Photographs by Harry Burton http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/gallery/gal-038.html#

http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/gallery/gal-039.html# http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/gallery/gal-039.html#

Howard Carter, The tomb of Tutankhamun

T.G.H. James, Howard Carter, The path to Tutankhamun, TPP, 1992

Nicholas Reeves, Toutankhamon, vie, mort et découverte d’un pharaon, , Editions Errance

Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, Vie et mort d’un pharaon, Hachette, 1963

Zahi Hawass, Catalogue de l’exposition Toutankhamon, trésors du pharaon d’or, IMG Melcher Media, 2018

“Le Règne du Soleil Akhnaton et Nefertiti”, Catalogue de l’exposition organisée par les Ministres de la Culture aux Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Bruxelles, 17 janvier – 16 mars 1975

Michèle Juret, L’oiseau-ba, seconde vie dans l’Egypte antique”

188 pages – Éditeur : Books on Demand

10 thoughts on “Tutankhamun’s Ba-Bird Amulet

  1. A stunning post! Thank you so much Aladin for sharing more of Marie’s Egyptian magick. The bird amulet is exquisitely beautiful, the craftmanship, much like the attention Marie pays to the finest of details given in her accounts, impeccable. I hope you’re having a lovely, restful weekend after what I imagine has been a busy time for you. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

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