Arranging amulets in well-defined categories, according to precise criteria, is the expression of a modern, scientific preoccupation. No such concerns troubled the Ancient Egyptians, who believed in the powers of these innumerable images without in any way feeling the slightest need to arrange them in groups.
Peasant, scribe, or noble – all wore them, selecting them for their efficacy in relation to the situations they faced. If certain amulets – such as the wedjat eye which 'functioned' in all circumstances – appear to possess extended, not to say universal, powers, others had a more specific field of activity: a scribe would seek out an amulet representing his protector, the god Thoth, whereas a woman about to give birth would put her confidence in a small image of a hippopotamus, the goddess Taweret, effective protectress of maternity.
Certain texts, such as the Book of the Dead, or the Ritual of Embalming, give precise details of the material and colour of amulets and details of precisely where they must obligatorily be placed on the body of the deceased; however, these texts never refer to any form of classification in the sense that we understand the term today. Many Egyptologists have tried to classify amulets in groups according to varying criteria — some using aspects of religion, others relying on the function of the amulets or on archaeological criteria.
One example that could be mentioned is the classification suggested by Hans Bonnet in his book about Egyptian religion, Reallexikon der Ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte. He distinguishes eight groups of amulets: natural objects such as shells and birds' claws, knots, gods and demons, animals and part of animals, parts of the human body, symbols, crowns and insignia of power, ornaments and funerary equipment.
One of the tendencies now current, founded mainly on archaeological criteria, attempts an objective and scientific classification based on analysis of the object itself and of the use to which it was put. An example of this approach is an article by Julia Falkovitch, 'L'Usage des amulettes égyptiennes'. Although it fulfils the requirements of museology admirably, it fails to take account of the function of the amulet and in no way reflects the complex and often irrational world imagined by the Egyptian himself.
All these attempts, expressions of different points of view, have their respective merits. One is not 'better' than the other. They simply reflect different preoccupations.