Petite Scarab Beetle Carving

W: 1.25" D: 0.75" H: 0.75"
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Typically hand-carved or molded in the form of a dung beetle, scarabs were widely popular amulets and impression seals in ancient Egypt. Made of wood, ceramic, or stone, scarabs were often carved into the shape of a beetle because they were believed to symbolize the god Khepr, the divine manifestation of the morning sun. The Egyptians thought the reproductive process of beetles rolling large balls of dung to lay their eggs resembled the progression of the sun through the sky from east to west. The beetle’s offspring would then hatch from the dung ball, an event that was seen as an act of spontaneous self-creation, making the beetle a symbol of rebirth, resurrection, and growth.

Scarabs had a wide variety of functions for both the living and the dead. From the start of the Middle Kingdom (2040 – 1782 BC), scarabs were used by living individuals as seals. Scarabs were often carved with inscriptions on their flat bottoms and pressed into mud or clay. The most common inscription for these scarabs was the owner’s name to denote personal or administrative title. However, as shown with this object, the incised design could also bear a schematic combination of hieroglyphs and geometric patterning. By the New Kingdom (1550–1077 BC), scarabs were used to provide protection and good luck as a burial object or an accessory, with some even believing that they granted spiritual powers to their wearers.

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