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Joe Sermarini
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« on: February 22, 2009, 06:42:59 am »

Scarabs
Adapted with permission from "Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations" and "Egyptian Scarabs"
by Alex G. Malloy and Peter Sharrer, expanded and updated by Joseph Sermarini
Illustrations by Irene Fraley.

   


Along with the pyramids, sphinxes, and mummies, the scarabs are one of the most familiar objects representing Egypt.  Scarabs have been collected for centuries and were particularly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Popularity decreased during the Great Depression and they have never regained their status as a hobby collectible of the elite.  The benefit of diminished popularity for collectors today is that very rare and interesting scarabs are far more affordable than might be expected for such important historical pieces.   

Scarabaeus sacer is the Latin name for the dung beetle.  Today most people do not have great appreciation for this insect, but this variety and several other members of the family Scarabaeidae, were sacred to the ancient Egyptians.  They connected the beetles' habits of rolling balls of dung around their eggs with the concept of eternal life in the after-world.  The meaning of Kheper or Scarab was "becoming, being, metamorphosing, generation, new life, virility, and resurrection." Representations of the beetle were an essential symbol in Egyptian art and a whole class of seals and amulets were made in its image.

These little amulets of beetle form often bear hieroglyphic designs on their base including good luck wishes, the names gods, and the names of individuals both noble and common.  The most obviously interesting scarabs are those with names of kings, of the royal family, and of officials.  Pharaohs were worshiped as gods, and the names of the current pharaoh or a popular deceased pharaohs, such as Thothemes III, were used to bring good luck to the bearer. 


Scarabs were manufactured in a wide variety of materials including steatite, faience, stone, glass, and bone, from the Old Kingdom through the Roman period.  The most common material used was Steatite.  Scarabs are always to be understood to be steatite or schist unless otherwise described.  Steatite is also known as soapstone, a medium for carving for thousands of years.  Steatite also denotes a glassy ceramic material made from soapstone, used by ancient civilizations to make beads, amulets, seals and scarabs.  To make the ceramic-like material, steatite was sometimes mixed with additives, it was either carved or molded into the desired shape, and was then heated to a temperature between 1000 and 1200 °C.  At that temperature the surface of steatite will vitrify, fusing into the glassy substances enstatite and cristobalite.  On the Mohs scale, the change increases hardness from 1 to between 5.5 and 6.5.

To the novice, all styles of scarabs probably look much alike; but to an accustomed eye the specialities of each dynasty, and even of separate reigns, are very clear.  The distinction of the styles of scarabs is as much a special subject as the discrimination of the manner of painters, and as invisible to those who are unfamiliar with the study. 

All the brown scarabs (which are a majority) were originally green glazed; while most of the white ones (excepting possibly some of Amenhotep III) were originally blue. There are also the white and grey ones without any glaze remaining, which were either blue or green.  The evidences for these transformations are innumerable in the half-way stages, not only scarabs, but also ushabtis.  Where the color has changed and the original can be still see, it is usually noted; as green gone brown or blue gone white, for example. 

Heart scarabs functioned as a replacement of the heart organ of a mummy, and represented the person or spirit of the deceased individual.  The earliest heart scarabs appeared during the second intermediate period (c. 1700 B.C.) and became relatively more common during the New Kingdom.  If inscribed, heart scarabs, usually include text from chapter XXXb of the Book of the Dead...


My heart, my mother; my heart, my mother.
My heart whereby I come into being.
May there be nothing to withstand me at my judgement;
may there be no resistance against me by the Tchatcha;
may there be not parting of thee from me
in the presence of him who keepeth the Scales!
Thou are my ka within my body, which knitteth and
strengtheneth my limbs. Mayest thou come forth in
the place of happiness to which I advance.
May the Shenit, who make men to stand fast,
not cause my name to stink.

Scarabs serve an extremely important role in the discovery of Egyptian history, much as coins serve in the discovery of Western history.  The names of most known pharaohs have been found on scarabs.  Although the most popular pharaohs' names were revived and used on commemorative scarabs hundreds of years after their death, most scarabs were made during the lifetime of the individuals named.  Some pharaohs and officials are known to us only from scarabs and the dates of their reigns were determined only by the archaeological context of scarab finds and by the art and fabric of the scarabs that name them.  Scarabs not only have identified the names and dated the reigns of the pharaohs, changes in the style and manufacture of scarabs serves as an index to changes in the civilization.  Without the study of scarabs, a large part of our knowledge of ancient Egypt would have been lost. 

The major criteria for pricing scarabs are:  quality, condition, rarity, historical interest and size.  Quality, perhaps even better called eye-appeal, is an overall appraisal of the beauty of the scarab and is often the most important price factor.  Fine naturalistic style increases value.  Beautiful glaze colors, vivid glass, and intense semi-precious stone hues increase value.  Larger size increases value.  Rarity increases value.  Attractive, historically important (royal) or interesting hieroglyphics increase value.   

Of the literature available on scarabs, the majority was published between the last quarter of the 19th century through the period just before the Second World War.  As a general introduction, one could select from any of a number of works from this period, but W.M.F. Petrie’s classic work Scarabs and Cylinders with Names, published in 1917, serves this purpose admirably and is included here, online in its entirety.

NumisWiki has a large selection of articles and references related to scarabs. 

In NumisWiki See Also:

scaraboid
Historical Scarabs
Malloy Scarabs
Lahun II 
Scarab Veneration
Scarabs and Cylinders
Religious Aspects of the Scarab
Varieties of Scarabs
Dating Scarabs
Making of Scarabs
Old Kingdom Scarabs
Earliest Age of Scarabs
Middle Kingdom Scarabs
New Kingdom Scarabs
Late Period to Roman Period Scarabs

Scarab References

Blankenburg, C. and Van Delden.  The Large Commemorative Scarabs of Amenhotep III.  (Leiden, 1969)
Budge, E. A. Wallis.  The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (The Papyrus of Ani), Egyptian Text, Transliteration, and Translation (1895)
Fraser, George.  A Catalog of the Scarabs belonging George Fraser. (London, 1900)
Gorton, Andree F.  Egyptian and Egyptianizing Scarabs, A typology of steatite, faience and paste scarabs from Punic and other Mediterranean sites.  (Oxford, 1996)
Hall, Harry Reginald.  Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs, etc., in the British Museum. (1913)
Hall, Harry Reginald.  Scarabs.  (London, 1929)
Martin, Geoffrey Thorndike. Egyptian Administrative and Private-Name seals, Prinipally of the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period.  (Oxford, 1971)*
Matouk, Fouad S.  Corpus du scarabee egyptien, Tome premier. (Beyrouth, 1971)*
Mayer, Isaac.  Scarabs (1894)
Newberry, Percy E.  Scarabs: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian Seals and Signet Rings. (London, 1906)
Newberry, Percy E.  The Timins Collection of Ancient Egyptian Scarabs and Cylinder Seals. (London, 1907)
Petrie, W. M. Flinders.  Historical Scarabs Chronologically Arranged: A series of drawings from the principal collections. (London, 1889, reprint 1976)
Petrie, W. M. Flinders.  Scarabs and cylinders with names: illustrated by the Egyptian collection in University College, London (London, 1917)
Petrie, W. M. Flinders.  Buttons and Design Scarabs Illustrated by the Egyptian Collection in University College. (London, 1925)*
Sharrer, PeterEgyptian Scarabs, Alex G. Malloy Fixed Price Catalog, Spring 1974.   
Robard, Simon. "The Heart Scarab of the Ancient Egyptians," in American Heart Journal. (1953)*
Rowe, Alan.  A Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs, Scaraboids, Seals and Amulets in the Palestine Archaeological Museum. (1936)*
Ward, John.  The Sacred Beetle, A Popular Treatise on Egyptian Scarabs in Art and History. (New York, 1902)*

*Reference not held by Forum
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Joseph Sermarini
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2009, 12:25:25 pm »

A couple of other references:

Alan ROWE: A Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs Scaraboids, Seals and Amulets in the Palestine Archeological Museum. Cairo 1936 (I believe there is also an inexpensive reprint by Ares)

w. M. Flinders PETRIE: Buttons and Design Scarabs Illustrated by the Egyptian Collection in University College, London  1925 (A reprint is also available)

Both volumes illustrate the more commonly sold non-royal design scarabs


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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2009, 09:14:43 pm »

Thanks, I actually had those two refs on the NumisWiki Scarabs page reference list.  I just updated the post above to match the latest on the NumisWiki page.  The latest Scarab related addition to NumisWiki is is Malloy Scarabs, which I think is worth a look (click the blue text).
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« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2009, 04:15:18 am »

For anyone seriously collecting scarabs, a book on reading hieroglyphics can be useful. Two books I have consulted are:
Egyptian Grammar by Alan H. Gardiner
How to read Egyptian Hieroglyphics by Mark Collier and Bill Manley
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Peter, London

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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2009, 10:19:44 am »

It is fun and interesting to try to read them but it is not at all easy.  I managed to read my first scarab after many hours: 

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?param=31266q00.jpg&vpar=1698&zpg=36663&fld=http://www.forumancientcoins.com/Coins2/

I also read the name on an ushabti for the first time.  This one was quicker because I saw one from the same tomb on two other dealer websites.  (They had the same source).   One had a reading on their site but I corrected it.  They had one character wrong.  Smiley 

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?param=31072q00.jpg&vpar=1624&zpg=36486&fld=http://www.forumancientcoins.com/Coins2/

The interpretation of the possible meaning other than just a name is mine. 


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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 05:10:48 am »

Very interesting.
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 12:42:53 pm »

archive.org has pdfs of a number of the scarab books (8 or more from the list above, including another one not mentioned). Search for "scarabs".

I do not like pdfs in general as books are a lot easier to use. There are also print to order versions available.

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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2012, 05:04:50 pm »

Dear Friends,
     I am in the process of cataloging my ancient Egyptian scarab and amulet collection. My current bibliography consists of over 150 publications. Many of the world's great books on scarabs were written in German, French and Italian and they are all beautiful and important contributions to archaeology and Egyptology. Even some auction catalogues are useful as are the catalogues of bye gone collections. Here are a few:

1.     Ben-Tor, Daphna.   The Scarab: A Reflection of Ancient Egypt. Trans, Inna Pommerantz. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1989. Text is in English.

2.     Beste, Irmtraut     Skarabaen, Corpus Antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum,  Kestner-Museum, 3 volumes, Hannover/Mainz, 1978/79. Text is in German.

3.     Jaeger, Bertrand   Essai de Classification et Dation des Scarabees Menkheperre, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis Series Archaeologica 2, Fribourg/Gottingen, 1982. Text is in French. Just about everything you wanted to know about "Thutmose III scarabs".
     One day, I was researching one of my plaques in the British Museum and an assistant curator indicated to me that my plaque was published. She brought me Jaeger's book, and sure enough my plaque was illustrated and described - not to my liking, but that is another story. He even mentioned me in the Preface!

     If anyone would like a few more, I'll post them. It is not my intention to bore anyone to death.
Thanks.
Russ
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2012, 05:04:04 am »

You are not going to bore me!  I hope you create a member's gallery for your scarabs and ammulets.
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2012, 07:46:31 am »

Dear Friends,
     I noticed that some members are located in different parts of the world, so here are a few more reference books that might be of use.

     Eastern Europe produced some great Egyptologists. The late Svetlana Hodjash (I heard she died recently) and Joachim Sliwa are two in particular who come to mind. Svetlana was an international scholar and one of her works was published by Switzerland's Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis. I tried to purchase a copy of her book on scarabs when it first came out but was unable to do so. For her book on scarabs, see:
     Hodjash, Svetlana. Ancient Egyptian Scarabs, A Catalogue of Seals and Scarabs from Museums in Russia, Ukraine, the Caucus and the Baltic States, Moscow, 1999.

     Joachim Sliwa is a great Egyptologist working in Poland. I tried to purchase his books when they first were published but had no luck. They include:
     Sliwa, Joachim.  Egyptian Scarabs, Scaraboids and Plaques from the Cracow Collections. Warsaw/Crakow: Universitas Iagelloonias, 1985.
     ---     Egyptian Scarabs and Magical Gems from the Collection of Constantine Schmidt-Ciazynski, Krakow, 1989.
     ---     Egyptian Scarabs and Seal Amulets from the Collection of Sigmund Freud, Krakow, 1999.

     The great British scholar, John Boardman, wrote a book about scarabs that was published in Spanish, see:
     Boardman, John. Escarabeos de piedra procedentes de Ibiza. Madrid, 1984.

     For anyone interested in non-Egyptian scarabs - phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, etc. see Oxford University's Beazley Archive. It's online.
     For other rare books that seem impossible to access, see:
     The Hathi Trust Digital Library
     The Campbell Bonner Magical Gems Database.

     I hope this helps,
Russ



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Jakub Sliwa
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2013, 05:59:23 am »

Hello,

I would like to inform everybody that the books by Joachim Sliwa mentioned by Russ are available here:

http://www.archeobooks.com/products/egyptian-scarabs-scaraboids-and-plaques-from-the-cracow-collections
http://www.archeobooks.com/products/egyptian-scarabs-and-magical-gems-from-the-collection-of-constantine-schmidt-ciazynski
http://www.archeobooks.com/products/egyptian-scarabs-and-seal-amulets-from-the-collection-of-sigmund-freud


I am not sure this is the place to inform about books etc. but I hope this will help you.

Jakub

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