This bit was found with the bones of a sacrificed horse in the tumulus number 2 of the Qustul necropolis, located south of Abu Simbel, on the east bank of the Nile, opposite the site of Ballana. This tomb was heavily looted and delivered a set of objects dating to the X-Group period (Ballana Culture, ca. 370-420 AD).
This bit is a part of the horse harness. Placed in the mouth of the animal, it allows the use of reins to guide and also to control his pace.
If the horse is the most beautiful conquest of man, it was at the end of the Hyksos period (not until the 16th century BC) that the animal made its appearance on the banks of the Nile. It was still later that the horse became common in Nubia, in the beginning of the first millennium when he was a much appreciated present to kings and princes and buried with or next to the deceased.
Imported from the Near-East, he was quickly used in Egypt by the army, rarely as a riding horse, but to pull chariots that were to carry the elite units of the army of the pharaoh (refer to the caption for Nubian Soldiers). If the horse was not an animal venerated by the Egyptians, two riding deities also imported from the Near-East, were accommodated in the pantheon in the New Kingdom: Astarte and Resheph.
Many objects found in graves, either in the necropolis of Qustul or that of Ballana, show a curious mix of influences and borrowings from different cultures: Nubian, Egyptian and Byzantine. This was exemplified by regalia such as crowns (refer to the caption for Silver Diadem), but also by the harnesses of horses. We can consider some real fineries in terms of the richness of their decorations, such as silver medallions decorated with semiprecious stones (onyx).