This beautiful, turquoise-coloured beaded net is more than 2,000 years old and was placed on a body to assist with travel to the afterlife in ancient Egypt. Today, it sits in 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum in the Westpac Long Gallery, having been restored by hand by the Australian Museum conservation team.

To a modern viewer, these delicate pieces make beautiful funeral decorations, but they meant significantly more to Egyptians.

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Detail of Egyptian funerary faience net depicting a winged scarab and the figures of the four sons of Horus (Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef). Image: Finton Mahony
© Australian Museum

Attire for the afterlife

These funeral pieces more commonly appear from the Third Intermediate Period (from about 1077 BCE), although bead garments have been found in Old and Middle Kingdom burials. For those that couldn’t afford a high-end piece, knotted string versions were used or an imitation net would be painted on the linen shroud.

The distinctive style and colour are considered important for the wearer’s rebirth in the afterlife, linking them to the god Osiris and the sky goddess, Nut. The winged scarab and the figures of the four sons of Horus (Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef) protect a person’s organs and soul.


The net in 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum, probably dates to the Third Intermediate Period, making it at least 2,700 years old. Donated in 1928, it has undergone numerous conservation treatments, the most recent in 2017.

Considering its age, it was in relatively good condition. The thread holding the beads was, understandably, severely deteriorated, with only a few fragments remaining. The beads themselves are brittle, fragile and crumbly, especially in areas showing brown discolouration or where the original thread was lost. Not all of the beads survived the 2000-year journey to the Museum.

When selected for inclusion in 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum, the net was attached to a light grey padded backing board as part of a recent repair. The net itself was secured using thread at the junction of each diamond shape. Unfortunately, the board needed to match the black backing used for all the other mounts and bases in the exhibition.

Theban mummy & coffin

Ancient Egyptian faience net on display in the 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum exhibition, restored by hand by the Australian Museum conservation team.

Image: Abram Powell
© Australian Museum

Over several painstaking days, the team carefully cut away the modern stitches and restrung the faience beads onto linen thread. Any misaligned beads were re-positioned, and the net was reattached to a new board. The three remaining figures of the Sons of Horus were also moved slightly to make space for the missing fourth figure.

Our conservation team will continue to preserve this net, so this important record of Egyptian funerary rites is preserved – hopefully for another 2,000 years.

Visit the free exhibition, 200 Treasures of the Australian Museum to see the faience net on display.


  • Faience:  Egyptian faience is a ceramic material based on silica (quartz in the form of sand and a brightly coloured glaze with metallic colourant. Faience products show a range of bright colours, but the turquoise blue colour so characteristic of the material is created with copper. During the firing process, the alkali and the lime helps to form a glaze on the surface.