Scarab

CULTURE:
Egyptian
DATE:
1785–1550 BCE
more object details

General Description

Small scarab amulets were common objects in ancient Egyptian funerary burial practice as devices to ward off evil and promote rebirth. Egyptian embalmers often placed amulets within body wrappings during the mummification process to protect the individual during his journey to the afterlife. Frequently represented in Egyptian art and especially amulets, scarab beetles push a ball that represents the sun and symbolize eternal life.

On the underside of this scarab, an incised design depicts a striding lion who meets face-to-face with a uraeus (royal cobra). Symbolizing the the king and his superhuman power, the lion tramples a sprawling human enemy, seen here depicted in profile. This object probably served as a magical amulet to invoke the power and protection of both the king and the sacred beetle.

Because this amulet is pierced longitudinally, it could have at one time been mounted in a setting with a pivoting bezel held by a long wire or cord wrapped around the hoop allowing the beetle to rotate, a common and popular Egyptian type known as a finger-ring (2006.68.2). Some scarab finger-rings on swiveling bevels bore names and titles of officials to serve practically as administrative seals, and other iterations feature various geometric designs, hieroglyphs, or figures with more symbolic meanings. While most amulets were found in burials and probably manufactured expressly for the dead, they were also known to be worn by the living for their protective and symbolic significance.

Heather Bowling, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

Drawn from

  • Mary Ann Pouls, "Scarab Seal" in Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture, and Artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, David P. Silverman, ed., (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), cat. 57, 195.

  • Carol Andrews, Ancient Egyptian Jewelry, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers 1990), 163-64.

  • Daphna Ben-Tor, The Scarab: A Reflection of Ancient Egypt, (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum 1989), 26-32.

  • David O'Connor, "The Chronology of Scarabs of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period," in The Journal of The Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, Volume XV No. 1, (Toronto: Benben Publications, January 1985), 1-41.