A bronze decorative counterpoise of a menat. It has the form of Sakhmet, with her body represented as a shrine. A figure of the goddess stands within the shrine wearing a sun or moon-disk. The menat, a bead necklace with counterpoise, was an important ritual object used by priestesses in temple ceremonies, and could be rattled to accompany singing and dancing.
Present location: LIVERPOOL MUSEUM [03/061] LIVERPOOL
Inventory number: 1987.408
Dating: 18TH DYNASTY
Archaeological Site: UNKNOWN
Technique: FULL CAST
Height: 15 cm
The menat (mnit) consists of several strings of beads joined together to a two-part end piece shaped like a rectangle or trapezium with a disk attached. This part functioned as a counterpoise whenever the menat was worn as a necklace. The menat was also often carried in the hand. The strings of beads resulted in the menat making a rattling noise when shaken, similar to that of a sistrum. Together with the sistrum, the menat was used as an accompanying instrument for song and dance.
The first illustrations date from the 6th Dynasty and show the menat being held by women who had functions in the cult of Hathor. Hathor is often shown herself with a menat around her neck, and it can even be seen as one of the manifestations of Hathor, with the counterpoise often taking the shape of the face of Hathor. Hathor's son, Ihy, uses the menat as a musical instrument, just like the musicians named after him who performed at Hathor festivals. Via Ihy, the instrument was transferred to Khons.
The menat is considered to be multifunctional - it could be used for protection, to calm a divine power, or to transfer something of the being of the goddess to the person who touched the menat. The close connection to Hathor meant that contact with the menat would transfer zest for life and love. One relief shows the goddess holding a menat to the nose of the king, as if it were an ankh sign. It is also related to the sphere of fertility and birth. From the late New Kingdom on, the deceased was given the end piece of a menat; in representations they wear it as a kind of pectoral. The friezes on sarcophagi dating to the Middle Kingdom already show complete menats; they represent the menats which were offered to the deceased in the tomb reliefs by dancers.
Piotr Bienkowski and Angela Tooley., Gifts of The Nile: Ancient Egyptian Arts and Crafts in Liverpool Museum., 1995., 62; pl.96.