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BEETLE OF THE GODS

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Bianca
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« on: June 18, 2007, 09:06:10 am »

 
                                          B E E T L E   O F   T H E   G O D S



                  


Written and photographed by Torben B. Larsen


The scarab, khunfus in Arabic, is a typical beetle - medium-sized and jet black - and most people would not give it a second look if they chanced on a specimen in nature. To the ancient Egyptians, however, the scarab was a symbol of the sun, of rebirth, of life itself.


In Egyptian art, consequently, some of the finest examples are devoted to the scarab. It is, moreover, one of the characters in the hieroglyphic alphabet, and because of its popularity in Egypt, its fame spread through the Mediterranean basin, even becoming part of the culture of the Etruscans and the Greek colonies of North Africa - quite an achievement for an undistinguished beetle of questionable habits.


To an extent, this all came about because the life cycle of the scarab fused with the content and evolution of ancient Egyptian mythology. Actually, the term "scarab" covers a multitude of closely related beetles with similar life styles and appearance, and the Egyptians probably accepted several different types as sacred. But the species that impressed them most was the "Sacred Scarab" (Scarabaeus sacer) and its closest relatives - as some of the best paintings and sculptures make clear: they contain such precise detail that entomologists can recognize them.


Despite its exalted status in art, the scarab has habits that would seem to disqualify it from glory, since as larva and adult it lives in and near animal dung - in safe underground burrows which it has hollowed out with forelegs specially adapted to be effective shovels.


It is not immediately obvious that a scarab can fly, but under the tough black surface of the body lie some folded, transparent wings. Thus, when the scarab is hungry, it simply flies off somewhere, rolls up a perfectly formed ball of dung and transports it to the burrow or another safe place where it can be enjoyed at leisure. Such a ball is far too heavy for air freight, of course, so other means have to be considered; some beetles roll the ball across the ground, often over a considerable distance, and usually in a straight line.


The single-mindedness of a scarab trying to overcome an obstacle in its path has to be seen to be believed. When facing, for instance, a steep ditch, the scarab, ball and all, often falls, head over heels, time and time again. But each time it repositions the ball, reviews the routes, pushes up the ball, and falls down again, like Sisyphus of Greek mythology who, on arrival in hell, was condemned to push a huge stone to the summit of a mountain only to watch it roll down over and over again. Unlike Sisyphus, however, the scarab eventually succeeds. And to the ancient Egyptians, this success was important.


When a female scarab has mated and is ready to breed, she builds a special underground chamber, sometimes as deep as 30 centimeters below the surface (12 inches) and rolls several balls into it, forming a pear-shaped mass in which she lays a single egg. It is important that the ball - food for the larva - be moist, because the larva will die of starvation if the ball dries out and hardens. Once her preparations are made and the egg laid, the female seals off the chamber, camouflages the entrance and wanders off to repeat the process somewhere else. Compared to most insects she lays only a few eggs, but because of her care and attention to detail, they nearly all produce offspring.


Meanwhile, underground, a tiny larva hatches - from the egg and begins to grow, taking care not to breach the wall of the pear-shaped lump. By the time the dung is devoured, only a thin crust remains, and the larva, now fully grown, strengthens the crust with a glue secreted from the body and reaches pupa stage, at which a new scarab will eventually hatch.


Since the ancient Egyptians did not know of the underground transformation from egg to larva to pupa - and finally to fully formed beetle - it must have seemed that new scarabs were suddenly created out of nothing - as one Horapollon, writing on a papyrus some 2,500 years ago, indicated. "The scarab buries her ball in the ground, where it remains hidden for 28 days, a space of time equal to that of a revolution of the moon, during which period the offspring of the scarab quickens. On the 28th day, which the insect knows to be that of the conjunction of the sun and the moon and the birth of the world, it opens the ball and throws it into the water. From this ball issue animals that are scarabs." Horapollon was right on at least one count: when conditions are suitable, the whole development from egg to adult takes about a month - one revolution of the moon.


In Egyptian mythology, meanwhile, one of the most important gods in the multifaceted Pantheon is "Ra" (or Re) - god and creator of the sun, often depicted as a man with the head of a hawk. That a sophisticated civilization like Egypt's should have chosen the sun as the basis for a deity is hardly surprising; the daily rise of the sun, its passage over the blue skies of Egypt and its subsequent disappearance certainly suggested divine power. But how, struggling in dung, does the scarab come to symbolize the magnificence of the sun?


Apparently, the scarab rolling its ball with grim determination in the face of all adversely seemed to ancient Egyptians to be similar to the relentless movement of the sun - as burial of its ball resembles the sun sinking into western deserts. More to miraculously from the ground every turn of the moon; thus mythology embraced the concept of a giant insect carrying the ball of the sun across the sky every day, a stand-in for Ra, its creator. Through the god Khephri, every morning, there was a rebirth of the sun. Soon the scarab evolved into a symbol of rebirth in general.


The emergence of the scarab in Egyptian mythology dates back to the Old Kingdom more than 4,000 years ago, but it was during the New Kingdom (1570-1085 B.C.) and later that it proliferated in an increasing number of roles. Nowhere is the scarab more beautifully depicted than in the funerary artifacts of the boy-king Tutankhamen - "King Tut." For example, the royal cartouche of Tut's "throne-name," Nebkheperura, includes a scarab illustrating phonetically the khepr component of the name, derived, of course, from Khephri.


Many of the scarab images produced in this period were done with such precision and attention to detail that they can almost be identified to species level by beetle specialists. Special attention is paid to the six bulges on the head and to the claws of the forelegs, both special adaptations to assist in digging; they are, in effect, shovels. It is clear that in many cases artists must have used real models and observed proportions accurately.


During the New Kingdom and later, Khephri began to assume a broader symbolic role. Because it symbolized rebirth, it was used in tombs and liberally placed in the shrouds of mummies; many mummies from this period have a particularly large scarab placed in the position of the heart, with an inscription containing a spell designed to ensure that the heart would not bear false witness when the soul of the deceased faced the divine judges.


Scarabs were also used as seals by senior religjous and bureaucratic officials. In the Egyptian museum in Cairo, for instance, there are boxes of funerary statuettes sealed with the scarab seals of the priests


Various forms of commemorative scarabs also became popular and were sometimes produced in quantity - much as the British upper classes record their doings through advertisement in The Times. One such scarab commemorates the marriage of Pharaoh Amenophis III to Queen Tyi - when the Pharaoh slaughtered 102 lions - and another says: "Memphis city is mighty forever," rather like graffiti in favor of a football club. Another expresses hope - "May thy name endure and a son be born unto thee" - and still another extends good wishes: "May Bubastis grant you a good year." Since many scarabs contain the names of personalities, gaps in genealogy have been often filled by this type of data.


From such use of the sacred scarab, it was an easy step down to good luck charms, simply expressing health, luck, happiness and advancement without a specific message. Some late scarabs of this sort have been copied and re-copied so many times by illiterate craftsmen that the seemingly correct hieroglyphs no longer make sense. Eventually, too, scarabs came to be used for purely ornamental purposes, many of outstanding beauty.


Scarabs may be found in virtually all the materials used in ancient Egypt. They are found as bas-relief in granite and in the plaster walls of funerary chambers. They figure in many of the remarkably fresh frescoes that adorn the walls of tombs. They are integrated into the splendid jewelry of Tutankhamen, where they sometimes have, as an extra, the wings of the vulture of Upper Egypt.


Most scarabs, however, are small, single portable charms made of blue or green faience - a brilliantly glazed pottery - and there must be tens of thousands in Egyptian Museum in Cairo, for example, there are two displays of scarabs, one, a selection collected by King Fouad I, containing scarabs in colors and materials too numerous to list.


Such is the story of the lowly scarab. Although animals figure prominently in Egyptian art and mythology, the only other references to insects are the inclusion of the mosquitoes - symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt when they were united - and locusts, an ever present threat to agriculture. Among the insects of ancient Egypt only the scarab - the beetle of the gods - rose to prominence.


Torben B. Larsen, who writes regularly for Aramco World magazine on Middle East entomology, is finishing a book on insect life on the Arabian Peninsula.




This article appeared on pages 20-21 of the January/February 1984 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

See Also: ANIMALS,  EGYPT, ANCIENT,  SCARABS
« Last Edit: June 18, 2007, 09:24:01 am by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2008, 08:57:26 am »



Scarab-headed god Khepri







                                                 Khepri and the pyramids





The Egyptian civilization was formed from meeting and melding of wandering, cattle-bearing nomads, from the prehistoric green Sahara, with sedentary farmers from the Nile Valley. It is possible to speculate about these peoples' beliefs, and to suggest that both of them share shamanic ideologies. They would have noticed large bright metallic beetles; Buprestids on the Acacia trees, and a golden-green scarab which made large balls of cattle dung. We know of a number of hard stone pendants dating back from prehistoric Egypt that are often in the shape of Buprestid beetles. Although prehistoric Egypt does not show the use of the scarab beetles, early 1st dynasty (ca. 3000 B.C.) Egyptian culture produced a small alabaster case in the shape of a scarab. According to the British egyptologist Flinders Petrie, the case was designed to be attached to a necklace and might have been made to contain a true beetle.

In Egypt, the primary symbolism associated with scarab was solar. The first scarab worshiped, was probably the bright metallic Kheper aegyptiorum. The decisive symbolism came from the association of the dung ball to the sun: the scarab rolling his dung ball provided an explanation of the sun's movement in the sky. However, this solution was neither "logical" (where is the scarab in the sky?) nor exclusive: Egyptian culture embraced their old and new beliefs with an equal and non conflicting faith.
 
 
  The capital of the solar religion was the city of On, which Greeks called Heliopolis ("the City of the Sun"). It was probably at On that Khepri, a scarab god of the sun, appeared in the predynastic epoch. Khepri might have been associated with the brilliant Kheper aegyptiorum, (whose name was coined by André Janssens, in 1940) or to the black Scarabaeus sacer, which was more often figured later. Nowadays, only the latter occurs in this region; the former being a more southern species probably due to significant climactic changes since Egyptian civilization.

The name Khepri (or Kheperi, or Khepera) means "The Being, The Extant." The name Khepri is related to other words of the same root, e.g. kheper "to exist, to come to existence" andkhepru "transformations, metamorphoses."

Originally, Khepri represented the sun from sunrise to sunset, although the oldest texts describe him setting in the western horizon at dusk. He quickly lost some importance, and became confined to the associative role with the rising sun, which he maintained throughout the entire Egyptian civilization. He is represented as a man with a scarab topping or replacing his head (right).

Khepri lost his association with the "dying" evening sun, to the god Atum, who is often figured with a ram head. For this reason, the ram-headed scarab represents the sun in the double aspects of rising/setting, or birth/death.

To Khepri and Atum is often added Re, "The Sun," who subsumes them.
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2008, 08:58:42 am »












During the entire Old Kingdom (ca. 2650-2200 B.C.), and to a lesser extent until the end of New Kingdom (ca.1050 B.C.), Khepri retained various titles: the great god of the morning sun; the self-created; the creator of the universe; and the father of the gods.

The Great Sphinx, also known as "the great statue of Khepri," is facing eastward to hail the rising sun. This statue is close to the Gizeh Pyramids and was probably made during the same epoch (4th dynasty, ca. 2575-2465 B.C.).

In 1987, I remarked, if the Great Sphinx represents a dung beetle [god], it is to be asked whether the Pyramids represent anything other than a giant dung pat; namely a cattle dung pat, since cattle were very important within Egyptian religion.

If we cannot be sure about the Sphinx association with a scarab, we possess a few colossal statues of indisputable scarabs. The term colossal is relative, since the statues barely exceeds one meter in length.

The largest one is in the British Museum, probably brought from Alexandria.

The most famous (above), is made from red granite and still stands on a two meters high pedestal in its original location at the great temple of Karnak, inspiring tourists take a second look and wish that someday they might return.

Maybe this habit is as old as the colossal scarab itself!
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2008, 09:00:23 am »









                                              The scarab and the mummy





Understanding the daily rebirth of the sun has always been of interest to the Egyptians. What happens to the sun between the moment it sinks into the earth in the western horizon, (where it dies and is buried) and the moment it emerges in the eastern horizon, (where it born again?) Some indications suggest that Egyptian scholars, i.e. priests, got the idea to examine what happened to the beetle's dung ball when it was buried beneath the ground. They probably made the entomological observation of metamorphoses; predating those of the French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre by about 5000 years.

However, the conclusions of Egyptian priests were rather different from Fabre's. They appear to have concluded that the scarab ball was something like the beetle's egg. Making their eggs from dung, scarabs did not need females; therefore, they were all males. By the way, let us remark here that the Egyptians also believed that vultures were all females (below). The Egyptian understanding was that old male scarabs buried their balls/eggs into the ground. In the ball, the beetle experienced vital changes, passed through various worm-like stages (the larvae), became a motionless, dead-like corpse (the pupa), and ultimately was born anew from the ball.

Egyptian priests thought that what happened to the sun in the ground was not essentially different from scarab metamorphoses. At the end of the day, the sun enters into the ground as does the scarab and his ball (let us observe here again that the sun alone can be represented by the scarab and/or his ball; a vision rather hard for contemporary cultures to believe). The sun travels underground from west to east, undergoing a mysterious metamorphoses, or khepru, resulting in regeneration. The next morning, the sun rises from the ground rejuvenated, as the scarab god Khepri.

Now, Egyptian scholars or priests further developed their beliefs. If the humble scarab and the glorious sun can be reborn from the ground, after suffering death and undergoing mysterious transformations, why should not this be possible for human beings? Even though men are not as glorious as the sun, they are not as humble as the scarab.

The recipe for rebirth, or resurrection, was then to imitate as closely as possible what happened to the scarab while it entered the ground (for it is more difficult to observe what happens to the sun).

Most crucial was the last stage (the pupa) which inspired the invention of the complicated process of mummification. In all probability, the mummy is nothing other that the imitation of scarab pupa; A temporary condition intended to protect the dead body, and the transformations (the khepru) it must endure before its resurrection. 
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2008, 09:06:20 am »



The first hour of the book Amduat








                                                The auspicious scarab
 


 
 
  The Egyptians made a distinction between the "old" scarab, who sinks into the ground, and the "young" scarab, who rises up to the sky with, or rather as, the sun. Osiris, king/god of the dead, was identified to the "old" scarab.

His son Horus, the falcon god, was identified primarily with the midday sun, whereas Khepri remained associated with the morning sun. However, according to a Pyramid Text inscribed on the inside walls of the royal pyramids in the 5th and 6th dynasties (ca. 2465-2150 B.C.), the two animals were sometimes combined to produce the surprising hybrid of a scarab body, with falcon wings, legs, and tail:



"I fly up as a bird and alight as a beetle;

I fly up as a bird and alight as a beetle on the empty throne which is on your bark, O Re!"



From this time on, the scarab became the most powerful symbol of the victory life wins over death. The "Funeral Books" of the New Kingdom consecrates this role. An excerpt of the most important of them, the "Book of What is in the Underworld", or Amduat, is painted on the wall of Tutankhamun's tomb, behind the pharaoh's head (above right). It shows the ark of the sun sailing on nocturnal waters. The sun is represented as a beetle, a promise of his next morning rebirth, as well as of the young pharaoh's resurrection.

Later on when the idea appeared on a post-mortem judgement, before Osiris' tribunal, the scarab had a new role to play.
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« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2008, 09:08:26 am »









A large (3-10cm) "heart scarab" (above) was suspended from the mummy's neck with a gold wire or chain, not only as a token of resurrection, but as an advocate to help the deceased to present his defense before the tribunal. These scarabs were often made with green stone (basalt, schist, jade, etc.), for green was an auspicious color.

On their flat basis is inscribed in hieroglyphs a particular chapter from the Book of the Dead which invokes the "heart of [one's] mother", and this expression probably designates the heart scarab.


The scarab has remained a favorite amulet throughout history, and hundreds of thousands of these tiny figures have been found in the Egyptian soil. Most often, their flat base is engraved with a beneficial inscription, which enhances their auspicious power.

The most famous of these formulae is the "praenomen" of pharaoh Thutmosis III: Men Kheper Re, although extremely difficult to translate, is something deciphered



                                           "Re stays and becomes, Hidden and Manifested."

 

The combination of hieroglyphs can also be read "Amun," name of the Great God of Thebes. In this particular mode of reading, the hieroglyph of the sun was read aten instead of re, and only the first letter was retained:

A; the hieroglyph men was read M, and the hieroglyph of the scarab was read neter "divine," instead of kheper.
It became A-M-N, (Amun!)

Some of these well carved amulets, served as seals to mark properties. Kings and commoners used such small scarabs alike; The rich had them mounted in gold rings, while the poor simply attached them to a rope.


In addition to the small scarab seals, we know of much larger (5-12 cm) scarabs that were made for the kings. The best known are those of Amenophis III (1391-1353 B.C.), which have been issued to commemorate important events of his reign, e.g. his marriage with Queen Tiye.  (Below)




                                           


http://www.insects.org/ced2/beetles_rel_sym.html








"...The name of her father is Yuya. The name of her mother is Tuyu..."





Commemorative scarab announcing the marriage of Tiye to Neb-Maat-Re
Amenhotep III, which emphatically proclaims the names of her parents.

Photo Credit:
Scarab from  Alexandre Herrero Pardo's
Los Nobles de Egypto website
(Los documentos Yuya y Tuya)
« Last Edit: April 18, 2008, 10:01:50 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2008, 08:29:26 am »



Here is a wonderful example of a scarab "pushing" the lunar disk and crescent

(from National Geographic,
issue of January 2003 :
from Tutankhamen's tomb).

 






With the wonderful pun-system of the AE :

just below the scarab are the 3 signs of the plural, posed on the basket;

the 3 signs together give the lecture of Tut's name = neb-kheperu-Re
 
Even if in this pectoral, the sun disk is replaced by the lunar disk and crescent,
the lecture of the name is evident;

all this reinforces the "interchangeability" of the sun and the lunar disks
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2008, 08:33:05 am »



Pectoral found in a box (Carter nr : 267q – JE 61884):

 

This pectoral unites the solar and lunar emblems.
The scarab pushes the barque-uia;
above the udjat-eye is the lunar disk and crescent
presenting both Thot and Re-Horakhthy flanking
Tutankhamen



FROM:

"Le Trésor de Toutankhamon; la tombe dans la Vallée des Rois"

(The Treasure of Tutankhamun; the tomb in the Kings' Valley);
M.V/ Seton-Williams; Edition Princesse;
ISBN 2-85961-063-4
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2008, 08:34:35 am »



Pectoral found in a box (Carter nr : 267L – JE 61885):

 

The uas sceptres hold the sign of the sky under which
are 2 green baboons flanking the solar scarab.

The scarab pushes the solar disk, while the 2 baboons
wear the lunar disk and crescent.



FROM

"Le Trésor de Toutankhamon; la tombe dans la Vallée des Rois"

(The Treasure of Tutankhamun; the tomb in the Kings' Valley);
M.V/ Seton-Williams; Edition Princesse;
ISBN 2-85961-063-4
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2008, 08:36:17 am »



Pectoral found on the mummy (Carter nr :
 256 ooo - JE 61900):

 

The name of the king is represented by the 3 scarabs
(standing for the plural for kheperu) + the basket sign
"neb" and the solar disk, which, again, is associated
to the lunar disk and crescent pushed by
the central scarab.



FROM

"Le Trésor de Toutankhamon; la tombe dans la Vallée des Rois"

(The Treasure of Tutankhamun; the tomb in the Kings' Valley);
M.V/ Seton-Williams; Edition Princesse;
ISBN 2-85961-063-4
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2008, 08:40:15 am »



Here's a picture of the pectoral right after it
had been cleaned by Howard CARTER :

 






The moon now is silvery white as it should be, the sun a golden yellow !

The moon is a "dead" celestial body, yet one which manages to continually regenerate, and indeed -with corn- a potent regeneration symbol.

Silver is a metal which is the same white color.

But its oxyde is black.

In Egypt black is the color of the life-giving earth which regenerates corn. I wonder whether this had been noticed, and may have been considered relevant (and not a coincidence, as we'd say) ? In other words, it would have shown that silver had a lunar, regenerating quality, oozing out of its surface, as it were.

This is the kind of reasoning found with Greek philosophers, who acknowledged an Egyptian influence.



Jean CAPART

"Tout-Ankh-Amon"
Vromant, Brussels,
1944, fig. 37.
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2008, 08:42:09 am »










Tutankhamun's Throne Name





Egyptian kings, when they ascended the throne, assumed four names and titles besides the name that they already possessed and to which the title "Son of Ra" was added.

In formal documents, particularly those carved on monuments to record historical events and personal achievements, all five names and titles might be written, but the usual practice was to employ only the throne and personal names, both of which were written, as a rule, within cartouches. If space was too restricted to allow room for more than one name, it was generally the throne name that was chosen.

Several pieces among Tutankhamun's jewelry bear only the throne name, Nebkheperura, without a title.
It was spelled with three signs, representing a basket (neb), a beetle, to which three vertical strokes were added to indicate the plural (kheperu), and the sun's disk (ra). The name of the sun-god Ra was written first for honorific reasons and the basket was written last because, when the name was written
in an upright cartouche, the sign filled the rounded base of the cartouche. In one respect only does the name show any variation: the beetle may or may not have wings, but the reading is unaffected by their presence or absence.

The pendant illustrated here is an example of the writing of the throne name without the addition of the title "king of Upper and Lower Egypt."

In common with other pendants of its kind among Tutankhamun's jewelry, the scarab is disproportionately large. It is made of very heavy gold plate, finely chased on both the upper and the lower surfaces. The sun's disk, inlaid with carnelian and flanked by pendent uraei, is held in the front claws (one broken) of
the scarab, thus reproducing the action of the beetle in nature.

Beneath the scarab, and separated from it by the three strokes indicating the plural, is the basket, made of gold and inlaid with blue glass.

Fragments of what seem to have been the beaded borders of wings remain attached to the left side
of the basket and the right-hand edge of the sun's disk. The surviving traces do not appear to fit a cartouche or, at the base, an additional band of gold, as suggested by Carter.

A gold eyelet for suspension is soldered to the back of the plate bearing the sun's disk. Two rows of
small gold beads, found on the neck of the scarab, are not shown in the photograph, but some blue
and gold beads can be seen between the left-hand uraeus and the head.


http://touregypt.net/museum/thronenamepage.htm
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« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2008, 08:44:06 am »



Andreas F. Voegelin
Tutankhamun's heart scarab lies in the center
of this stone and glass pectoral, a type of
large necklace worn on the chest.


www.post-gazette.com/images4/20060611ho_TutPJ04_450.jpg
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« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2008, 08:45:25 am »



SCARABS AND URAEUS SNAKES

Pendant with necklace of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian,
turquoise and feldspar.

EGYPT - NEW EMPIRE
1345 BC

Egypt Museum
CAIRO
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« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2008, 08:46:48 am »



Hand-carved stone scarab
Found near Aswan,
Upper Egypt around the turn of the century.

Dates to Egypt's 26th Dynasty
(664 - 535 BC).
26 mm (over 1 inch) long.
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