Ancient Egyptian eye amulets, 4000-30 BC.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
An amulet is a personal ornament which, because of its shape, material, or colour, is believed to endow its wearer with certain powers or capabilities and offer protection. The Ancient Egyptians often used amulets to protect themselves against disease. The Egyptian words for 'amulet' come primarily from words meaning 'to guard' or 'protect' and also 'well being'. These faience amulets were made as votive offerings to the gods. Amulets like these were made of all parts of the body and were offered to the gods in prayers for healing. Faience is the oldest artificial substance, first made 5,500 years ago, probably in Egypt. It has a core of quartz particles, and over this a thin glas glaze is applied in different ways.