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The Use of Clay Balls In Ancient Egypt: A ritual of fertility, rite of passage and a contractual agreement?

Hammett, Amy (2017) The Use of Clay Balls In Ancient Egypt: A ritual of fertility, rite of passage and a contractual agreement? Master of Philosophy (MPhil) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:66034)

Language: English
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The function of the clay balls of ancient Egypt has not been conclusively established, despite the fact that they are a versatile object found in homes, tombs and near temple complexes and are dated to a period which spans 3000 years. Previously scholarship has focused primarily on the clay balls which contain hair, but these only make up a small percentage of the total balls found. The majority of the clay balls currently have unknown contents and a few balls contain different materials such as linen, string, papyrus or reed. This thesis has determined that a typology of the artefacts was necessary due to patterns which emerged when looking at the characteristics of the balls, such as the contents and decoration.

This research discusses theories posed by previous scholarship and determines whether these are plausible explanations to the function of the clay balls, as well as providing new theories. Firstly, it explores whether the artefacts may have served as part of an execration ritual, based on the existence of rituals depicted on monumental art. The 'striking of the ball' ritual involves the smashing of clay balls with a club or bat to destroy the eye of the evil entity Apophis, whereas in another ritual balls are thrown towards the cardinal points to protect the sun god from evil forces. There are also a number of spells which follow a similar theme which will be discussed.

Secondly, the research has investigated the possibility that the clay balls served as a rite of passage, due to the inclusion of hair and the existence of a similar artefact in modern Egypt which is given in offering to thank for the life of a child. It has also explored the concept of balls within cosmic rites of passage, such as the birth and rebirth of the sun god in the form Khepri. Thirdly, the study will assess whether the proposal that the clay balls served as a contractual agreement with a priest based upon the inscription xtm, found on a number of balls. This chapter explores different forms of contract that may have existed in ancient Egypt, as well as comparing the clay balls to the bullae from Mesopotamia which have similar characteristics to the clay balls.

This thesis has shown that the clay balls have been worth further study, contrary to Peet's statement that to research them futher was "foolish". Although they have a general multi-functional apotropaic and amuletic purpose, their specific function can be determined depending on type. This study has it has highlighted the importance of the clay balls and has provided a base for future studies, in addition it has contributed to the understanding of ancient Egyptian symbolism, religion, fertility, rites of passage, and our understanding of ancient Egyptian belief in cyclical time.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Philosophy (MPhil))
Thesis advisor: Baker, Patricia A
Thesis advisor: La'Da, Csaba
Uncontrolled keywords: Archaeology Egyptology Religion Egypt Clay Balls Fertility Contract Sidelock Magic Magical Spells Execration Contract Offering Hair Cutting Solar Birth Sexuality Trade Marriage Deities Ancestors Mortuary Priest Seal Ritual Amarna Kom el-Nana Reqaqnah Abydos Beth Shan Lahun Zawiyet Royal Cardinal Lily Hieroglyphs King Pharaoh Rites of Passage
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: [UNSPECIFIED] Alumni Scholarship- University of Kent
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 16:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:53 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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