A unique ancient Egyptian green faience amulet was discovered by a curator at Swansea University's Egypt Centre in Wales on Tuesday.
Carolyn Graves-Brown stumbled upon the amulet when examining a collection of 50 objects loaned to the centre by Woking College in England.
The amulet depicts the face of the ancient Egyptian dwarf god Bes, the protector of households. It has bulging eyes, a long tongue sticking out of its face and a crown of feathers. The amulet has a hole at its top so it can be suspended on a necklace or a pin.
In addition to the amulet, the collection includes a Sokar hawk, a large number of 3000-year-old ushabti figurines (servant statuettes), two glass bottles from the reign of Cleopatra and two amulets.
Grave-Brown told Live Science that she did not recognise the importance of the amulet until she learned of similar objects at the British Museum. She was then able to determine that it was a faience god Bes bell amulet once used to protect mothers and children from evil spirits.
“It is one of a very few known to exist,” she said.
The amulet is well preserved but fragile and could be easily broken, said Graves-Brown.
“Faience was very often used for objects that had a magical or religious significance in ancient Egypt,” she told Live Science.
Few existing Bes bell amulets have been found in their original context, which is why there are several theories about their purpose, she added.
They may have been worn by pregnant mothers or children, or perhaps placed beside the child while they slept as magical protection against evil.
However, there could be another explanation, she said.