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Common type of amulet, seal or ring bezel found in Egypt, Nubia and Syria from the 6th Dynasty until the Ptolemaic Period (2345-30 BC). The earliest were purely amuletic and uninscribed: it was only during the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) that they were used as seals. The scarab seal is so called because it was made in the shape of the sacred scarab beetle (scarabaeus sacer), which was personified by Khepri, a sun god associated with resurrection. The flat underside of the scarab, carved in stone or molded in faience or glass, was usually decorated with designs or inscriptions, sometimes incorporating a royal name. Scarabs, however, have proven to be an unreliable means of dating archaeological contexts since the royal name is often that of a long dead ruler; Menkheperra, the prename of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC), being a particularly common example.

During the reign of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), a series of unusually large scarabs were produced to celebrate certain events or aspects of Amenhotep's reign, from the hunting of bulls and lions to the listing of the titles of Queen Tiy. There were also a number of funerary types of scarabs such as the large winged scarab, virtually always made of blue faience and incorporated into the bead nets covering mummies, and the heart scarab, usually inscribed with Chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead which was included in burials from at least the 13th Dynasty (1795-1650 BC) onwards.

The term scaraboid is used to describe a seal or amulet, which has the same ovoid shape as a scarab but may have its back carved in the form of some creature other than the scarab beetle. This appears to have developed out of the practice of carving two-dimensional animal forms on the flat underside of the scarab, which is known as early as the First Intermediate Period (2181-2055 BC).

Finely carved scarabs were used as seals; inscribed scarabs were issued to commemorate important events or buried with mummies. Lapis: Metamorphosed form of limestone, rich in the blue mineral lazulite, a complex feldspathoid that is dark blue in color and often flecked with impurities of calcite, iron pyrites or gold. The Egyptian considered that its appearance imitated that of the heavens and considered it to be superior to all materials other than gold and silver. They used it extensively in jewelry until the Late Period (747-332 BC) when it was particularly popular for amulets. It was frequently described as “true" Khesbed to distinguish it from imitations made in faience or glass. Its primary use was as inlay in jewelry and carved beads for necklaces.

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Ancient Egyptian Scarabs Worn As Jewelry

by: Terry Kubiak (August 27, 2008)