The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Jewelry and Ornamentation
This carnelian bird supporting the sun's disk is mounted on the swivel joint bracelet. Carter noticed that the bird corresponded in form with one that figures as an illustration to Chapter 86 of the Book of the Dead and is called menet in the text. The word is believed to mean a swallow, but Carter identified this bird as an Egyptian swift (Cypsellus pallidus), the two birds being sometimes confused in religious texts. the title of the chapter is "Spell for assuming the form of a menet bird" and it ends with the words "Whoever knows this spell can go forth by day without hindrance at any door in the kingdom of the dead and he can assume the form of a menet bird. It has indeed been efficacious millions of times." Tutankhamun, by the possession of the bracelet, may have hoped to enjoy this freedom. Swifts, according to Carter, live in large colonies in the cliffs bordering the Nile valley and fly daily to the river, returning in the evening. It was this habit, he thought, that the ancient Egyptians regarded as analogous to the daily emergence of the dead from their tombs and their return at sunset. With the aid of magic they could assume the form of the bird and adopt its mode of life.
Apart from providing the dead with an image into which they could be metamorphosed, the menet bird symbolized a minor deity who was associated with the region of the Theban necropolis and to whom artisans and people of the middle classes sometimes looked for help and offered their prayers.