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Bone amulet in the shape of a hand and arm, Rome, Italy, 1870-1920

Hung around the neck, the bone arm and hand is shown displaying a fig or mano fica gesture with the thumb in between the index and second finger. The gesture was used to ward off the evil eye – the widespread belief that some people can cause harm to others simply by looking at them in a certain way. This ‘look’ be may given deliberately, in an attempt to cause harm, or accidentally, perhaps because of feelings of envy. The harm may take the form of bad luck, illness or death. Fig or mano fica gestures were common from the medieval period and were also used to convey obscenities or cause offence. The amulet is pictured here with similar examples made from coral (A665906) and metal (A665908).

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Glossary: manofica

No description.

Glossary: amulet

Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.

Glossary: evil eye

A manifestation of magic, commonly regarded as a curse which may result in bad luck, illness or even death. It has a place in many different cultures.