Page images

hard stone, mother-of-emerald, green and black basalt, yellow jasper, etc., is remarkably fine; it is perhaps best exhibited in the scaraboids, cowroids, and plaques of the period. With the close of the XXVIth dynasty the use of the scarab as a seal declined, but a form of it was in demand for funerary purposes, that is to say, for attachment to the outer wrappings of mummies and glazed-faïence beadwork. The commonest form of it was made of glazed faïence, light green in colour, and beneath the body there is a small ring by which it could be sewn to beadwork. Scarabs of this class are uninscribed and have no bases. How long this class of scarab continued to be made cannot be said. The actual evidence supplied by scarabs shows that they were used from the VIth to the XXVIth dynasties, i.e., for a period of between two and three thousand years. If we accept the traditions recorded in the Papyrus of Nu we must lengthen this period and add to it the years of the reigns of the kings from Semti to Pepi II.

The Rubrics in the Book of the Dead show that the Egyptians considered it necessary to write certain hekau, or "words of power," on certain kinds of stone, and this fact suggests that they attributed magical properties to such stones. Thus the heart-scarab was to be made of a certain kind of green stone (basalt ?), the Tet of carnelian, the Uatch amulet of mother-of-emerald, and so on. The stone most used for scarabs was steatite, which is usually light grey in colour, but as the scarabaeus sacer in Egypt was usually black, the craftsman covered the natural colour of the stone with some kind of dark wash or pigment, and later with green or blue glaze. Under the XIIth dynasty many scarabs were made of amethyst, but as the cutting of inscriptions upon them was very difficult work, their bases were covered with thin plates of gold, on which the names of the owners were cut or stamped. The jewellery of the XIIth dynasty found by de Morgan at Dahshûr includes scarabs made of carnelian, sard, obsidian, haematite, various kinds of agate, lapislazuli, and the choice of material by the scarab-maker at that time seems to have been untrammelled by any religious regulations. Gold was used but rarely.1 Scarabs in ivory are not common, though Wilkinson found a batch of about thirty in an XVIIIth dynasty tomb at Western Thebes. Although models of the scarabaeus sacer existed in millions in Egypt, few large-size models, or colossal scarabs, such as would be deposited in temples, are now known. The largest example is in the British Museum (Central Saloon 965). It is made of green granite, is uninscribed, and is 5 feet long and 3 feet high, and weighs about 43 cwt. It was brought from Constantinople by Lord Elgin, but where it stood originally is not known. Another colossal scarab, which was made

1 The two hollow-work gold scarabs, with the prenomen of Thothmes III stamped upon their bases, in the British Museum (29159, 29160) are modern imitations; they were made by a goldsmith at Luxor.

in the reign of Amenḥetep III, was found by Legrain at Karnak; it stands on a high pedestal at the west end of the sacred lake of the temple of Amen.

In the space here available it is wholly impossible even to summarize the various inscriptions and designs that are found cut on the bases of scarabs, but a brief general description of their more important characteristics may be attempted. Royal Scarabs of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The principal feature of these is, of course, the royal name. Sometimes one of the king's names only Khafra (Khephren),

is given, e.g.,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Usertsen (Senusert), and sometimes the

royal name in a cartouche stands with spirals or linear ornaments

on each side of it. The cartouche may be preceded by 1, “beneficent god,” or plumes

[ocr errors]


King of the North, or

King of the South and North, or A, Horus, or

son of Ra, and on some the uraei of sovereignty, each wearing a



crown, appear. In the field are often seen the signs †, “life,” 1,"stability," gold,” FE, the two Utchats,, the plant of the North (lotus ?); occasionally the frame of the takes the place of the cartouche. The scarabs

Horus name

of officials give the names and titles of their owners, often at some length, and many of them are ornamented with spirals or linear designs, a form of decoration which is said to be of foreign origin. The titles are often important as throwing light upon the history of Egypt, religion and administration. Many scarabs have nothing but linear designs1 inscribed on their bases, and the most intricate of these contain motifs which have survived in Coptic and Arabic decorative patterns found on walls and house furniture and in manuscripts. The scarabs of the Hyksos Period are very important, both historically and artistically. They form a very large class, and from most of them, through the operation of the salts in the Delta mud, the glaze and colour have entirely disappeared. Outwardly they are not as attractive in appearance as the scarabs of Upper Egypt. The Hyksos scarabs have preserved for us the names of many Hyksos kings of which no other memorials exist, and from them the list of the kings of the XVth and XVIth dynasties has received many authentic additions. The names of

1 These are best studied from the photographic reproductions given in Hall's Catalogue, when originals are not available.

princelings and kinglets are sometimes given between parallel lines thus, "son of Ră Iamu," but more often without lines. The names of really great Hyksos kings are given in car

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

scarab-makers of the Hyksos Period copied the decorations of the scarabs of the XIIth dynasty, and thus we find on their scarabs the Utchats, the winged disk, the lotus cluster, the spirals, the hawk wearing the crown of the North etc. The entire bases of many of their scarabs are filled with hunting scenes, figures of lions, crocodiles, small animals of the desert, the ass (?), the Hathor-headed standard, the gryphon,

[ocr errors]

the winged uraeus, the fish and †, and the whole base of one is occupied by a beetle,



An interesting feature on some of them

is the human figure shown full face, one being surrounded with annules. It seems fairly certain that the Hyksos associated no religious beliefs with the scarab, and that they only used it as a seal or wore it for an ornament.

The designs on the scarabs of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties have much in common with those on the scarabs of the XIIth dynasty, and the scarab-makers of the period initiated little. Scarabs bearing the prenomen or nomen of Thothmes III and his titles were made in myriads, and the popularity of his name as a "word of power" was very great. His cartouche was decorated with uraei and other emblems of his might and power, and borders of spirals and annules often appear. Under the XVIIIth dynasty, especially in the reigns of Thothmes III and Amenḥetep III, a custom grew up of inscribing texts commemorative of great or important events on the bases of scarabs, which were made of steatite and were as large as the Goliath beetles of the Sûdân. Thus Thothmes III caused a scarab to be made and inscribed with a record of his erection of the obelisks at Karnak;3 Amenḥetep III commemorated his marriages and hunting exploits by issues of scarabs; and Amenḥetep IV had specially large scarabs made in honour of Åten the solar disk. The inscriptions fill the bases of these scarabs, and they are without ornament.

A very large number of scarabs bear no names on their bases, which are entirely filled with representations of flowers, designs that

1 Newberry, Scarabs, plate XXV, No. 27.

2 Ibid., plate XXV, Nos. 4, 5, 6.

3 Preserved in Berlin; see the official Verzeichniss, p. 417, No. 3530.

• See the unique specimen B.M. 51084; Hall, Catalogue, p. 303, and Budge, Tutankhamen, p. 104.

are floral in character, spirals, annules, hieroglyphs of amulets, figures of men, animals, trees, fish, reptiles, etc. Many more have figures of gods and goddesses cut on their bases, e.g., Amen, Amen-Rā, Mentu, the War-god of Thebes, Rā, Rā Her-Aakhuti, Khnem, Horus, Ptaḥ, Thoth, Shu, Maāt, Isis, Hathor, Bes and other Sûdânî gods, and Set (comparatively rarely). Another large class is inscribed with short legends containing statements of devotion to or trust in some deity, and good wishes, e.g., Khensu in Thebes is protector, ffff; Amen is protector,


guide to the seat of the heart (i.e., happiness),

favour of Åmen of Thebes is protection, unite thyself to peace,

Face is the lord of the rewards of men,


H; Amen is the

[ocr errors]

; the


; Ptah of the Beautiful

Ho, everyone, Ptaḥ of Memphis is the giver of strength,

A; Amen-Rã is the guide of happiness,

; Amen, be not afraid,

[ocr errors]

; Ptah is the

guide to happiness, I am true of heart,

[ocr errors]


the peace of Amen-Ra, the self-produced,


Some scarabs were given as gifts with good wishes, thus: thousands

of good things [to you],

†††; every good thing [be thine],

001; ; a happy year! (○‡; a happy new year from the high priest

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

thy house be abundant in food with strength to thee,

[ocr errors]


; may

Will There is no doubt that scarabs, both inscribed and uninscribed, were given to the gods as votive offerings, and that those on which the power of Amen and Ptah is proclaimed were carried back to their homes by the faithful who had visited the great sanctuaries of these gods at Thebes and Memphis. Scarabs were never used as currency, as was once thought.

Scarabs inscribed with certain kings' names were made and worn for centuries after the death of the kings whose names they bear. Thus the scarabs found at Naucratis cannot be older than the VIIth century B.C., but many of them bear the prenomens of Thothmes III, Seti I and Rameses II. Material, workmanship and design all point to the XXVIth dynasty as the period when they were made. Some appear to be the work of Egyptian craftsmen,

but the greater number must have been made by the Greek settlers at Naucratis. Scarabs have also been found at Ialysos and Kamiros in Rhodes, and at Tharros in Sardinia. At Ialysos porcelain and steatite scarabs are rare, and this is true also of Kamiros as far as concerns the tombs. But a well on the Acropolis was found to contain many specimens mixed with objects that appear to be of about the same date as the early tombs. In those tombs at Kamiros, where black and red-ware vases were obtained, as at the spot called Fikellura, no scarabs were found. The scarabs seem to be distinctly associated with pottery made under Oriental or more particularly Assyrian influence. The scarabs disappeared when the purely Greek style of black and red vase decoration came into force. The scarabs of Tharros are indisputably of Phoenician origin, but whether they were produced by the Phoenicians proper or by their later descendants, the Carthaginians, whose influence began to prevail in Sardinia as early as about B.C. 500, is somewhat uncertain.1

The Phoenicians borrowed the use of the scarab from Egypt, and as their country was overrun by Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria B.C. 859-824, and by many of his successors, it is only natural that the scarab inscribed with devices to suit the Assyrian market should find its way to Nineveh and Babylon, the Phoenician adopting in return the cone, the form of gem commonly used by the Assyrians for seals. A good example of the Phoenicio-Assyrian scarab is No. 1029, exhibited in the long Table Case in the Second Semitic Room of the British Museum. It is made of green jasper, and measures 13 inches in length. On the base is inscribed a man who stands adoring a seated deity; above is a seven-rayed star, and between them is ankh, “life.” Beneath is inscribed in Phoenician characters, 177, "Belonging to Hôdô the Scribe." For other examples see the specimens exhibited in the same case. As an example of the adoption of the chalcedony cone by the Phoenicians, see No. 1022, on which are cut the figure of a man standing before a fire altar and the name Palzîr-shemesh in Phoenician characters. The scarab in relief,2 with outstretched wings inlaid with blue, red and gold, carved upon an ivory panel found at Abu Habbah, about five hours' ride to the south-west of Baghdad, together with a number of miscellaneous ivory objects, is a proof of the knowledge of the scarab in Mesopotamia. That the panel was not carved by an Egyptian workman is very evident.3 Scaraboids in

, להודו ספרא,characters

1 Murray, A. S., "Introduction" to A. H. Smith's Catalogue of Engraved Gems in the British Museum, London, 1888, p. 13.

2 See Table-Case I (Babylonian Room).

3 The two rectangular weights (?) found at Nimrûd by Sir A. H. Layard (Nineveh and Babylon, London, 1867, p. 64) have each, on one face, the figure of a scarab inlaid in gold in outline; the work is excellent, and is a fine example of Phoenician handicraft. Exhibited in the Assyrian Room, Table Case C, Nos. 14 and 15.

« PreviousContinue »