Historical period(s)
Late Period, 664-332 BCE
Faience (glazed composition)
H x W x D: 16.7 x 7.1 x 1.2 cm (6 9/16 x 2 13/16 x 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Egypt, Hathor, Late Period (664 - 332 BCE), Menat, protection, vulture

To 1907
Unidentified owner, Egypt, to 1907 [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased in Egypt from an unidentified owner in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 1848, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


This keyhole-shaped object served as a counterpoise on a menat necklace consisting of several strands of tiny beads.  At the straight end are two perforations for the attachment of bead strands. Centered near this end is the incised image of a vulture who wears a headdress and holds a flail.  At the rounded end is the incised image of the kheker. This symbol is most likely a bundle of reeds bound together, forming a rosette-like design. The menat was a symbol of the goddess Hathor. The vulture incised on this example is also symbolic of the goddess Hathor, as well as of the goddess Mut.

Menat necklaces are sometimes depicted around the neck with the counterpoise hanging down between the shoulder blades; with the counterpoise extended, it could be held in the hand. As a ritual object, the necklace may have been shaken to allow the beads to connect with the counterpoise and fend off evil spirits by the noises this action created. During the festival of Hathor, the priestesses of the goddess would go from door to door shaking menats and sistra (rattle-like musical instruments) to endow the occupants of each house with the favors of life, health, and rebirth. The menat is also found in graves, where it was worn as an amulet to protect the deceased in their transition and rebirth in the afterlife.

Published References
  • Paul T. Nicholson. Egyptian Faience and Glass. Shire Egyptology, 18 Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, UK. .
  • Ann C. Gunter. A Collector's Journey: Charles Lang Freer and Egypt. Washington and London, 2002. p. 131, fig. 5.6.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.