The Sky’s the Limit: Iron Ore Usage for Ancient Egyptian Amulets

Lecture by Catie Witt, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago

  • 5:00 p.m.Illinois
  • The Oriental Institute of the University of ChicagoLaSalle Banks Room
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By the 18th Dynasty a highly specialized amuletic form emerged in the shape of the headrest or wrs. These amulets, which were originally reserved for royal burials in the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, became a hallmark of Late Period burials and are overwhelmingly found made of hematite, a black or brown colored iron ore. It has been assumed that the dark color of hematite was the attractive quality for these and other amulet types, with black symbolizing rebirth and regeneration. While color certainly played an important role in why the ancient Egyptians chose the particular minerals they did for their amulets, various raw materials themselves were considered magically charged and connected to certain deities. Join Catie Witt for a discussion of the raw material preferences for these headrest amulets and the significance of hematite and other iron ores and accessory minerals chosen for their manufacture.


About the Speaker

Catherine (Catie) Witt is a PhD student in Egyptology. She obtained her M.A. in Ancient Middle Eastern Studies from The University of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (2018) and her B.A. from the University of Evansville (2015), majoring in Archaeology, minoring in Theological Studies, and completing the IBASE business certification for humanities students. Her research interests include ancient Egyptian material culture, particularly headrests and headrest amulets, the significance of raw materials, and gender as it pertains to New Kingdom religious performance. She is also passionate about museum outreach and public education, using ancient Egypt as the springboard for engaging students of all ages with the humanities as a whole.