Scarab of Piankhi, Dyn. 25

Scarab of Piankhi, Dyn. 25
Period:Egypt, 3rd Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25 and Contemporaries, Piankhy/Pye/Usermaatre
Dating:751 BC–716 BC
Origin:Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes
Material:Steatite/soap stone
Physical:1.6cm. (.6 in.) -

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Links to others from Dynasty 25 and Contemporaries

Amulet of Duamutef, Dyn. 25
Amulet of Imsety, Dyn. 25
Bronze Imhotep seated, Dyn. 25 (?)
Bronze Nefertem pendant amulet, Dyn. 25
Bronze of a queen nursing, Dyn. 25
Bronze of King Shabaka ? as Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze of Ptah, Memphis, Dyn. 25
Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze statuette of Ptah, Dyn. 25
Faience amulet of Qebhsenuef, Dyn. 25
Five Udjat eyes amulet, Dyn. 25
Horus-the-Child as Amun, 776-656 BC
Horus-the-Child, Dyn. 25, 776-656 BC
Mentuemhet, prince of Thebes, Dyn. 25
Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 25
Queen Aqaluqa as Isis nursing, Dyn. 25
Queen as Goddess Neith seated, Dyn. 25106

Queen as Isis nursing, Dyn. 25
Twenty-eight udjat eyes amulet, Dyn. 25
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 25
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 25

Links to others of type Scarab

Lady Meux’ Scarab Necklace, Dyn. 12-25
Scarab “begets the existence of Amun”
Scarab, decorative style, Dyn. 15
Scarab of protection, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Senusret I, Dyn. 12
Scarab of Sobekhotep, Dyn. 13, 1720 BC
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab of Thutmose III, Dyn. 18
Scarab with Amun-Re, solar discs, Dyn. 18
Scarab with ‘Ba’, Dyn. 18
Scarab with “faith in Justice,” Dyn. 18
Scarab with God Khonsu, Dyn. 18
Scarab with Goddess Hathor
Scarab with Goddess Hathor, 1070-656 BC
Scarab with Horus of the Horizon, Dyn. 18
Scarab with king and obelisk
Scarab with Lord Ptah, Dyn. 12
Scarab with “Master of the Two Lands”
Scarab with ‘nsw-bity’, Dyn. 18
Scarab with Ra and four cobras, Dyn. 12
Scarab with ‘sa’ singing birds, Dyn. 18
Scarab with Thot Ka Ra, Dyn. 12
  This glazed steatite (soapstone) scarab is inscribed with a word play on the throne name of King Piankhi (wsr-maat-re) of Dynasty 25 (751-716 BC).

“In Late Egypt and Saite Period, it was very usual to use the sphinx as a sign meaning ‘the master’ or ‘powerful’ and have it in the names of many kings, for example Ramses IV, Piankhi (Dyn. 25), Shabaka (Dyn. 25), Amasis (Dyn. 26). And here this title more probably refers to King Piankhi, whose complete name is wsr-maat-re. And we have the sphinx as wsr and the feather on his head as Maat and the sun-disc before him as Re, the good god, the master of the two lands, Dynasty 25” (Khalil 1976[3]77, #25).

This is the twenty-fifth scarab from the scarab necklace assembled for Lady Meux of Theobalds Park—a famed English collector of Egyptian antiquities from the end of the nineteenth century.

Few artifacts are as emblematic of a culture as scarabs are of the Egyptian civilization. Over thousands of years, Egyptian craftsmen turned out several hundred thousand representations of scarabs, of every size and every material imaginable, of every type and level of refinement thinkable, and put them to a wide variety of uses for a wide segment of society. Egyptians were irresistibly drawn to these peculiar beetles, and they rapidly became an integral part of their lives—and deaths.

“From the Egyptian inscriptions we now know that the beetle, which they called Khepera, was a symbol of the god, who was the ‘father of the gods’, and the creator of all things which exist in heaven and earth. He formed himself out of the matter which he himself produced, and he was identified with the night-sun at the moment when it was about to rise for a new day, and thus typified matter about to change its form of existence, or matter about to come into existence, and resurrection and new birth generally.” (Budge 1896:186)

Indeed, long before all the other trappings of Egyptian culture had been established, the people of the Nile valley already buried alongside their dead terracotta jars filled with these dung beetles. What was it about the behavior of the insect species Scarabaeus sacer that so irrevocably struck the imagination of these early Egyptians? Here was a creature that attracted attention by its relentless toil of rolling a large ball along, then buried itself deep underground with its loot. Eventually, what appeared to be the same ball resurfaced with a new beetle within, ready to burst forth. For a humanity in desperate need of tales of rebirth after burial, how could you ask for a more compelling symbol?

Once adopted, the beetle rewarded Egyptians with other potent symbolic meanings. The globe it pushed on the surface evoked the solar globe overhead, and Egyptians liked to imagine the sun as pushed along by an invisible cosmic scarab. The illusion that scarabs reproduced asexually by spontaneous generation satisfied the Egyptians’ longing for an explanation to the mystery of the beginning of the world, which they could only explain by such an act of spontaneous generation (i.e.: The scarab solved the vexing paradox of the chicken and the egg). As the god Khepri, the scarab became a creator god, as well as the agent of the daily rebirth of the sun.

But despite the privileged place of the scarab in the collective imagination of Egyptians, “it was not until two thousand years later, during the sixth dynasty of the Old Kingdom that crafted scarabs first appeared in ancient Egypt” (Redford 2001:180). Initially, these “artificial scarabs” were simply images imbued with the same aura of rebirth as the insect itself, and were used strictly as amulets. But once Egyptians realized that the underside of the scarab could become a vehicle for the expression of secondary symbolism, scarabs diversified into countless styles and uses.

The first obvious step was to supplement the power of the scarab by engraving an image or the name of another god, often that of the king—the living god of Egypt. One step removed was the inscription of an epithet referring to the god. Again, this was often a reference to the living god, such as Master of Upper and Lower Egypt. Alternately, Egyptians engraved a variety of auspicious messages with and without recourse to divinities. During the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period, there was a trend towards completely abstract, geometric decoration with increasingly complicated designs and borders. Scarabs inscribed with the name and title of their owner were used as seals, often worn as bezels on finger rings (Egyptians did not have locks on doors or coffers. The only security from theft was provided by tamper-evident clay seals). But, according to Andrews (1994:53), scarabs “soon lost their preeminence as seals to the solid-metal signet ring, which was far better able to withstand the pressure exerted during sealing.” Starting with the New Kingdom, scarabs found new uses as commemorative objects, used much like commemorative medals are today. Redford (2001:180) notes that Amenhotep III issued sixty kinds to commemorate his marriage to Queen Tye, six for his diplomatic marriage to the princess of Mittani Gilukherpa, a dozen to celebrate the completion of a pleasure lake in Thebes, and two more series to vaunt his prowess as big game hunter. It is also during the New Kingdom that scarabs were made in the honor of great pharaohs of the past (such as Thotmose III).

The vast majority of the production was fashioned out of material that was inexpensive and easy to work with: faience and soapstone. Soapstone (steatite) was particularly well suited to the manufacture of scarabs, as it is naturally soft and easy carved and polished, but can thereafter be hardened by the application of an attractive colored glaze. Consequently, soapstone scarab amulets worn on a simple cord were accessible to all layers of Egyptian society. People of means preferred to wear scarabs made of more valuable materials (gems, precious metals), within gold or silver settings.

Although most scarabs were intended to be worn by the living, a different type of scarab, the heart scarab, was developed after the Middle Kingdom specifically for mortuary use. Placed on or in the mummy, large as the palm of the hand, inscribed with Chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead, and almost invariably made of some green material, its “purpose was to ensure that the heart, regarded as the seat of intellect and conscience, would not bear false witness against the deceased in the Hall of Judgment as the opening lines ‘Oh my heart, oh my mother. . . stand not up against me as witness,’ reveal” (Redford 2001:180). Andrews (1994:56) takes a more cynical view of their intended purpose: “it would allow anyone who possessed it to live a totally reprehensible life and still enter the heaven.”

Scarabs were found to be such ideal conveyors of messages, that other creatures—cats, ducks, frogs, hedgehogs, etc.—were carved into objects analogous to scarabs, which are termed “scaraboids” by archeologists. The ‘diversification’ of scarabs would not end there, as scarabs quickly became a popular export for merchants, who spread them all over the ancient world, occasionally fostering local derivatives of the Egyptian tradition. Amusingly, two thousand years ago, Roman travelers in Egypt commonly brought back to their friends as curios the same handful of scarabs as modern tourists do today.

Bibliography (for this item)

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Sir
1896 Some Account of the Collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the Posession of Lady Meux, of Theobald’s Park. 2nd edition. Harrison & sons, London, United Kingdom.

Khalil, Hassan M.
1976 Preliminary Studies on the Sanusret Collection. Manuscript, Musée l’Egypte et le Monde Antique, Monaco-Ville, Monaco. ([3]77)

Bibliography (on Scarab)

Andrews, Carol
1994 Amulets of Ancient Egypt. University of Texas Press, Texas.

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Sir
1896 Some Account of the Collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the Posession of Lady Meux, of Theobald’s Park. 2nd edition. Harrison & sons, London, United Kingdom.

Hart, George
1986 A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom.

Redford, Donald B.
2001 Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, London.

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