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XXI

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THE VARIETIES OF SCARABS

W. M. Flinders Petrie. Scarabs and cylinders with names: illustrated by the Egyptian collection in University College, London (London, 1917)

View Scarabs and Cylinders PDF Online

CHAPTER II THE VARIETIES OF SCARABS

8. Varieties of treatment

9. Five genera copied

10. Classification of backs

11. Range of types

12. Range of small details

13. Locality of smooth backs

14. System of using the types


8. Varieties of treatment

We have already seen that the Egyptian fully recognised several varieties of beetle, all included in the sacred class. Both among the animals preserved, and among the different kinds described by authors, the variation is unquestionable. When we turn to the artificial figures of scarabs, we find a similar variety. Not only are there great differences in the workmanship, and in the attempt at imitating nature, but the models that were followed were clearly quite distinct.

Having started from many varying models the conventional types naturally tended to become confused and parts copied from different genera were mixed together. In the same way the Egyptians mixed elements of the papyrus and lotus together in their architectural forms. To gain any rational classification of the various types, it is necessary to follow the various genera separately. Yet this must not be done slavishly; as, owing to the mixture of forms, it is often needful to follow some one detail as a means of clear classification, even though it may run across two or three genera.

The designs of scarabs are generally unique. Common as may be the scarabs of any one king, yet it is very seldom that an exact duplicate can be found of the name and titles. The backs are equally varied, and seldom will a drawing of one scarab represent a second specimen efficiently. It is only when endeavouring to make a set of type drawings for reference, that the extreme variety of detail can be realised. One of the first considerations in arranging any scheme of classification of types for reference, is that the critical points shall be clear and quickly settled, so as to be able to run down any type to its right place for identification as soon as possible. For this purpose all distinctly different elements must be brought forward, while keeping the natural differences of genera as much as possible in use.

9. Five genera copied

In order to clear up the questions, it proved needful to work over the scarabaei and allied beetles in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, and to draw from those for the frontispiece, as there is no efficient publication of these genera. Not only the form but also the distribution must be taken into account; it is useless to compare forms that are unknown in the Old World, but South and Central-African genera may well have been known in Egypt, looking at the great zoological recession from North Africa in historic times.

FIVE GENERA OF BEETLES IMITATED IN HISTORIC TIMES

The first figure is the natural form, adapted to an oval outline. The second figure is the artificial form

It appeared that the varieties of form could not be accounted for without recognizing five genera (see Frontispiece [above]). The main genus is the generally recognized scarabaeus — classes E to N — with a serrated clypeus, and a usually lunate head. The species Scarabaeus venerabilis is marked by ribbed elytra, see pl. lxxiii, 13, 16. A definitely square head seems to belong to Catharsius, classes S, T, the next most common genus. Occasionally the clypeus extends far back in a pointed form over the head, apparently imitated from the horn of the Copris, U. The presence of marked side notches, turning in above the elytra and then downwards, is characteristic of Gymnopleurus, V, W; and probably the deep collar where the head joins the pro-thorax, belongs to the same. Lastly, a long beak is probably copied from Hypselogenia, classes X, Y.

10. Classification of backs

The details of workmanship which may also serve for distinctions are: (1) the feather pattern on the edge to imitate the hairy legs; (2) the head of lunate form, or (3) deep form, or (4) merging into the clypeus; (5) notched clypeus; (6) smooth clypeus; (7) V-shaped marks at the top of the elytra; (8) curling lines on back.

On the basis of these various distinctions twenty-three classes may be formed, which can almost always be quickly distinguished so as to find any given type. (See plates lix to lxxi, where all the varieties of form are drawn.) The types classified as follows :

 

Description
  
Dynasties
Type
With legs on underside (not in catalogue)

-

-

N/AA,B
Feathered legs
Fore and aft

-

X—XIIIC

"

One way only

-

X—XVD
ScarabaeusV notches on elytraLunate headXVIII—XXVIE

"

"

Deep headXVIII—XXVF

"

"

Merging headXVIII—XXVG

"

Notched clypeusLunate headV—XIXH

"

"

Deep headXI—XIIIJ

"

"

Merging headXI—XXVIK

"

Smooth clypeusLunate headIII—XXVL

"

"

Deep headIX—XVIIIM

"

"

Merging headIV—XXVN
Scarabaeus venerabilis, ribbed elytra

-

-

XIX, XXO
Scarabaeus? ribbed head

-

-

XXV, XXVIP
Curl on back

-

-

XII—XXVQ
Quadruped heads, and peculiarities

-

-

XIX—XXVR
CatharsiusSquare head

-

XII—XIIIS

"

A head

-

XIII—XVIT
Copris

-

-

XIII—XVIU
GymnopleurusSide notch

-

XVIII—XXVV

"

Collar

-

V—XXVIW
HypselogeniaRegular

-

XII—XVIIIX

"

Modified

-

VI—XVIIIY
Scaraboids

-

 N/AZ

11. Range of types

It may seem surprising that such a variety of types should have had so long a range of use. We might have expected that only a few types would have been fashionable in one age, and would not have recurred later. Yet there can be no question that six of these types were usual from the xiith to the xxvth dynasties at least; while on good grounds some of them, as we shall see, go back to the Old Kingdom. With such ranges of date commonly over thirteen dynasties, it is evident that vague statements of resemblance between a given scarab and others of a known date are of no value. The only way to reach results for discriminating dates, is to look for any characteristics of workmanship—often quite trivial—which are only found over a short range of time. The general type is not a question of date but of locality.

Some types with a short range are already clear. The scarabaeus with feathered sides for the legs belongs only to the xth to xiiith dynasties; limited to the front or to the back legs, it was in use till the xvth dynasty. The Catharsius head begins in the middle of the xiith, and extends down to the xiiith and xvith dynasties respectively. Another of short range is the Copris, which only belongs to the Hyksos age, xiiith to xvith dynasties. The Hypselogenia is rare in the xiith dynasty, and is not found later than Rameses II. Minor details may also have but a brief range; the deep Y outline of the elytra is only found on scarabs of Khofra and Zedra (? Dad-ef-ra); the nearest approach to it is at the close of the xiith, and the xiiith dynasties, but that is less deep, and the form of the head and clypeus is then different. The palm-branch pattern on the back, in Class J, is only known from late xith to xivth dynasties, and in a one-sided form in the xvith. The curling lines on the back, Class Q, begin at the end of the xiith dynasty, and end in the xxvth. It is in tracing the limits of such distinctions as these that progress may be made in dating scarabs, and hence in fixing the age of burials which have no kings' names.

12. Range of small details

On examining the various small differences statistically, some strong preferences for certain types are found in some periods, though not exclusively of one age. The notch marks on classes E, F, G, vary in form. The V or I line from the girdle line (as E 7, E 28) is early and continues late. The V from the girdle to the side line (as E 9) begins in the xiith dynasty. The diagonal line from the girdle to the side (as E 4) begins under Thothmes III. The loop on the girdle (as E 17 and F 20) does not begin till Rameses II.

The number of lines in the girdle, or in the division of the wing cases, is not exclusively characteristic of age; but certain types prevail at different times. One girdle line and two or three vertical, and two girdle with two vertical lines, prevail in the Middle Kingdom. Two girdle lines with one vertical is chiefly of Old Kingdom and Saite ages. The double girdle with three vertical lines is mainly of xxist to xxvth dynasties.

13. Locality of smooth backs

The local sources of smooth and lined backs may be examined by various tests. On separating the bati khetm from the deshert khetm, there is presumably a local separation of Upper and Lower Egyptian scarabs. The numbers are:

Total                         Smooth  Percent
8         bati khetm             1          13
22       deshert khetm     16          73

These percentages—as we shall see below—are the same as 13 per cent, of smooth backs in the xviii-xixth dynasties, mainly Theban, and 77 per cent, smooth backs in the Hyksos period, mainly Delta. Another test is the use of names compounded with Sebek, that god belonging to the Fayum, Manfalut, Silsileh, Ombos, and Syene, but not prominently to the Delta. Of such scarabs, presumably of Upper Egypt, there are—

Total                         Smooth  Percent 
13       Sebek names         1           8

Another test is that of Amen names, also presumably Upper Egyptian, there are—

Total                         Smooth  Percent 
7        Amen names          0           0

Taking now the general review of the numbers of smooth backs in each of the main periods, there are in—

It is obvious that the xv to xvii dynasties were the special period of Delta scarabs, there being practically none then of Upper Egyptian rulers, and most or all of the scarabs coming from the Delta.  This is the period when smooth backs are far commoner than at any other time. On the other hand the period of special Theban importance, the xviiith and xixth dynasties, has a smaller number of smooth backs than any other age. It seems, however, that smooth backs decrease in the later periods, regardless of locality, as the Ethiopian period at Thebes and the Saite in the Delta hardly differ in the proportion.

As a whole we must conclude that until the late times the smooth back was the product of the Delta, and the lined back that of Upper Egypt.

Another feature is the crescent line on the head, usually on about one in thirty of all periods; but on one in eight of scarabs in the Ethiopian and Saite age.

The ribbed head, P, is very rare in the xviiith and xixth dynasties, about 1 percent; the only other age of it is in the xxvth and xxvith, when it appears on one-quarter and one-third of the scarabs, and is the commonest type of all. The square Catharsius head, S, is the commonest type in the xiith and xiiith dynasties, appearing on one-fifth of all. The pointed Catharsius is scarcely found outside of the xiiith to xvith dynasties; it is on one-sixth of the xiiith dynasty and on two-thirds of the xvith. Type U, which is similar, is only found in the xiiith and xvith, with a stray example in the xviiith.

The form of the girdle line, and its junction with the vertical, has many varieties, but they seem to have been used more or less through all periods. On the whole there was a far more continual usage of varied types than might have been expected. General impressions are only of use as suggestions for research; the conclusions here are from tabulating every well-marked difference throughout the whole collection. 

14. System of using the types

For the sake of ready comparison of scarabs with the plates lix to lxxi, the system of arrangement should be here explained. From the preceding table it will be seen that the points on a scarab back to be successively noted are as follows :

(1) If legs are feathered at side. If so, then C on the whole length, or D on the back legs only. If not feathered, then

(2) By the head distinguish scarabaeus E-N, S. venerabilis with ribbed elytra O, ribbed head P, curl lines on back Q ; wide legs or mammalian heads R, square heads, A-head T ; Copris U; Gymnopleurus side notch V, or collar W ; Hypselogenia X, or modified Y ; Scaraboids without animal pattern Z.

(3) If scarabaeus, then with V notches on girdle (E-G), or with clypeus notched (H-K) or smooth (L-N) : and each class divided into three according as the head is lunate, or parallel-sided, or merging into the clypeus.

After thus discriminating the class, each class is subdivided into sections as follow:

C and D, being small classes, are grouped by the form of the head, in the order of the different genera. E is divided by inner crescent on head 2-29, A on head 32-40, double lines for eye 42-49, single line for eye 52-64, plain deep head 67-78, lunate head 80-98. F is divided by inner crescent on head, 1-9 double eye, single, or none ; angular head 11-19—eye, or none; slope-sided head 20-30—eye, or none; square head 31-53—double lines for eye, single, or none; barred head 55-67— double lines, single, or none; long head 69-99 double, single, or no eye, and in order of length. G in order from widest base to narrowest base for head. H in order of inner crescent on head ; double line eye; single line ; plain curved head from deep to shallow. J in order of inner crescent; double line eye, single line, on sloping head ; double hne, single, or no line, on square head; barred squared ; long head with double, single, or no eye lines. K hour-glass head, wide below, equal, round eyes with straight clypeus, sides sloping more to end with narrow base. L in order of E. M sloping- sided head; square head; long head with square eyes, round eyes, or no eyes. N hour-glass head, wide below, rounded eye, equally divided, round clypeus, head proceeding to narrower base. P back lines increasing in number. T, U, complex forms, see key at the foot of the plates.

By following the regular order of discrimination an example can be run down to the nearest drawing in much less than a minute. The range of date of each type is marked by giving the reference to the examples in the form of dynasty number, king number, figure number; thus 18-6-47 means xviiith dynasty, 6th king (Thothmes III), 47th scarab of the king. This mode of numbering serves to show at once the date of the example. In the case of private scarabs, or kings that are undated, they are grouped together in periods and designated by the dynasty number and a letter as, 12 R, or 30 AM. If the reign is approximately known (as by style in the xviiith dynasty) the king's number is also included, as, 18-6-c. Thus the numbers give an indication of the age, and the letter distinguishes the example, and shows that it is not precisely dated.

 

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