Object Study: A Sickle with Flint Blades in the British Museum

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Wooden Sickle with flint blades, hieroglyphs read ‘Amennakht’ CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 ©Trustees of the British Museum.

Another Object Study on something in the British Museum, this time a sickle with flint blades.

Museum Number: EA52861             Registration Number: 1914,0414.1

Dimensions: Height: 11.5cm | Length: 28.5cm Depth: 20.5cm | Weight: 267g
Site: Thebes Context: Unknown, donated by George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (of Tutankhamun fame)
Date: 18th Dynasty (1549/1550-1292BC) Material: Wood and knapped flint Description: This sickle is an example of the mundane becoming much more elegant. There is evidence of gold inlay in the hafting of the sickle and this is suggested to elevate the status of the owner in the afterlife, continuing the work they undertook in life (Graves-Brown 2011, 152). This is reinforced by the hieroglyphs on the sickle, which is a name, Amennakt, linking the prestige of the tool with the individual.
The use of flint is interesting, as the skill needed to knap it disappears elsewhere in the Near-East, whereas it is retained in Egypt upon till the late in the New Kingdom. It could be a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ as flint is readily available material, but Graves-Brown suggests that the flint had a certain significance to Egyptians (summarised p.280). One important aspect of this is the whiteness and shininess of the flint, and since the flint in on this sickle is white it suggests that it again linked to ideas of status.
Parallels: British Museum 115343; Manchester Museum 53. BM 115343 is an extremely early clay fired sickle from Iraq, but the shape is extremely similar to this example. MM 53 is a similar wooden example (12th Dynasty).

Bibliography
Graves-Brown, C.A. (2011). The ideological significance of flint in Dynastic Egypt. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London) available here.

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