Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Cooney, Kathlyn M
- et al.
The ancient Egyptian scarab is an artistic depiction of the indigenous Egyptian dung beetle. Mythologically, the scarab represented the ability of the sun god to bring about his own rebirth. There are a number of different kinds of scarabs, including heart scarabs, commemorative scarabs, and scarab amulets, indicating their different functions within varying social contexts—from apotropaic to amuletic, socioeconomic, and propagandistic. The blank oval underside of the scarab amulet was an excellent location for the inscription of personal names, kings’ names, apotropaic sayings, or geometric or figural designs. Scarabs are extremely difficult to date; very few are found in archaeological context and most are unprovenanced in private and museum collections.