Trussed ox amulets were popular during both the New Kingdom and the Late period, found in burial excavations and amongst mummy wrappings. They were intended to represent an offering of meat towards the gods. As with most customs relating to death, the Egyptian were formulaic in their offerings. A particular offering formula, known as the ḥtp-ḏỉ-nsw formula, allowed the deceased to partake in the offerings offered to particular deities. Oxen were part of expected and customary foods offered to the gods, along with bread, beer, birds, alabaster and clothing. Amulets such as this would have reinforced the offering by the deceased.
The colour of amulets was important and carefully chosen. The majority of ox amulets are red, created in red jasper or an imitating material. This particular example is made from hardstone but still retains the vibrant ochre colour, thus maintaining its apotropaic properties. Red was used frequently in Egyptian art. It was used to express the virility and lifeline of men and to symbolise rebirth, associated with Isis. Given it’s function as a tool for the afterlife, we can ascertain that the red hue of such ox amulets not only represented the fleshy nature of meat, but reiterated its association with rebirth.
To discover more about amulets in the Ancient Egyptian world, please visit our relevant post: Amulets in Ancient Egypt.