c. 1391–1353 BC
Steatite, originally glazed
Overall: 1.7 x 1.8 cm (11/16 x 11/16 in.)
Guerdon S. Holden Memorial Fund 1975.24
Hedgehogs were common on amulets in the New Kingdom (1500s–1000s BC) and can also be seen on the backs of seals and scaraboids.
This hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus) stands in the round on an oval base, with openwork defining the legs. The carving is delicate and spirited. The face features large, round eyes; widely spaced, short ears; bulging cheeks; and a protruding snout. A tiny tail hangs at the rear. Crosshatching on the back represents the animal's spines. The design on the base begins at the head with a winged sun disk with pendant uraei. Below is a cluster of hieroglyphic signs, including an ankh-sign, a falcon with a sun disk, a hoe, and a maat-feather. A neb-sign fills the balance below.
The significance of the hedgehog has multiple theories. As a hibernating animal, it may have associated with the powers of self-renewal and resurrection. Another lies in the animal's defensive strategy of inflating itself into a ball and projecting its spines, a posture of obvious apotropaic significance. Lastly, Egyptian folklore maintained that hedgehog amulets provided protection against snake bites, a belief grounded in the animal's natural resistance to poison.
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