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 I feel it would be useful to submit for the attention of readers here who are possible owners of similar objects, this small group of interesting, even if not particularly fine, egyptianizing scarabs.


 It's difficult to find parallels of them in well-known or available catalogues. The state of doubt of the writer about the nature, place of origin, date and genuineness of these scarabs lasted for a long time.

I could finally overcome any doubt I had only when I learned that they were the product of some Greek colonies settled on the Northern coast of the Black Sea, at Panticapeum and Bakhchisarai, in Crimea, starting from the VI century B.C.


 Features which characterise  these scarabs is the rather coarse moulding, typical of a mass production, faience, prevalently in many shades of green-blue, but even, less commonly , in yellow and blue. Lengths vary from 16mm to 18 mm. The oval is irregular probably owing to a relatively inaccurate working of the mould, but the colours are almost always bright. The shape of back is very convex. The prothorax is smooth but elytra show multiple grooves1. At times the division between prothorax and elytra is underlined by a line of hemispheric protuberances. The legs are almost always shaped in a naturalistic way and the longitudinal perforation is always present.

Motifs on the belly are often impressed quite shallow making them hardly recognizable. The repertoire of designs is fairly narrow and they are not referable to the classic Egyptian iconography: sinuous traces vaguely like snakes prevail (items a-b), but also human crouched figures (items d-e),  lines and nb signs (items e-b). Infrequently sitting cats or walking animals.

The single documentary comparison concerns a relatively recent Russian catalogue, compiled by the chief of the oriental departement of the Pushkin Museum at Moscow, professor Svetlana Hodjash2.

The volume describes important collections from museums in Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Baltic States, among which is the celebrated collection of the eminent orientalist Golenishcev3 which stands out.

These are scarabs dating to the period between the first century B.C. and the second century A.D., coming from factories of Greek emigrants, very likely from Mileto4, who settled on the  northern coasts of The Black Sea, finds of which have been made:

in the area of Tanais on the Sea  of Azov (n. 1636, p. 197 and 310: Museum of Taganrog),

at Urbnisi in Georgia

in a Sarmatian grave at Grozny in Cecenia (n. 1654, 1655, 1656, p. 198 and 311),

in a Meothian-Schiite grave at Ustlabinskaia in Krasnodar Krai,

in a Sarmatian grave of Novo-Filippovka in Ukraina.

at Panticapeum on The Black Sea

at Bakhchisarai in Crimea (n. 1638-1645, p. 197 and 310).

In Armenia and in the region of Rostov (1629-1636, p. 196 and 310).

In Northern Caucasus (n. 1646-1653, p. 197 and 311) 5.

We conclude with some brief considerations.


It is now well rescognised  that the popularity of Egyptian scarabs in antiquity was not restricted to the Mediterranean basin, but took root and spread beyond the limits of the influence of Egyptian civilization. The popularity was initially cosequent upon the diffusion of Egyptian scarabs by Phoenician traders and then later in consequence of  making  their own Egyptianizing scarabs.


Finds of imported Egyptian scarabs and Phoenician Egyptianizing scarabs are widely documented at  Carthage6.  They are also found in Libya, on the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal, in France, in Sardinia, in Sicily and on the Italian mainland, in Malta, in the Greek islands and the hinterland, in Cyprus and on Rhodes7.


Later the Greeks were the ones who widened this diffusion of scarabs which reached, at the current state of knowledge, even to  Russia. At the city of Naucratis, a Greek settlement in the Nile Delta up to the 6th century B.C., there were imitations of Egyptian scarabs, and soon with the development of  the techniques of mass-production to meet the growing demand for these objects, the style departed increasingly from the original style and content. Also probably some scarab craftsmen went back to their own countries of origin as well as starting production in newly founded colonies in the Near East.


The second consideration concerns the period of time of this fashion, spread originaly from Egypt.


This fashion for scarabs spread from Egypt and encompasses the time from the Saite dynsasty (26th) up to the 2nd century AD and probably even later. During this time original symbolic iconography and the mytho-magical meaning of Egyptian culture was diluted and disappeared from the scarabs.. The content of the designs became merely ornamental, considering scarabs as simple coloured elements for necklaces, bracelets or rings.



1 Likely to imitate the Scarabeus venerabilis




This extraordinary scarab deserves being submitted to the attention of readers for two reasons: the unusual writing in the oval and the absolutely sides of a type not previously published.


It's made in reddish-brown steatite without traces of glazing and measures 25 x 17 x 8 mm. Unfortunately, an significant loss of material on the back prevents determining the details of the back ; only the start  of the double line dividing prothorax from elytra and part of  bordered prothorax remains visible.



Vertically arranged, the motif on the belly shows a rope-border within which an oval has inscribed the prenomen of Thuthmose III, Menkheperre. On both sides of the oval two pairs of urge arranged   head against head one upside-down as regards the other. Top and bottom two nb signs, the upper one is upside-down too.



The engraving is shallow with some detail more deeply cut. Some interesting features characterize this item. First of all, the rare writing of the name1: it's upside-down in respect of the head. In this way it's suitable for being also read horizontally or turning thepiece.  It's evidences a deternmined pursuit of symmetry: cobras and nb baskets.Additionally, the complementary n sign is arranged over the mn sign rather than beneath.



But the most extraordinary point of view of this scarab resides on sides. Personally, I've never seen something like this and I don't know of parallels: two crocodiles are in the place of the legs!  The positive meaning of regeneration and re-birth plus a negative one of aggressiveness can attributed to this reptile and strengthen in a spectacular way the symbolism of this scarab. Especially the protective action to the pharaoh, then to the owner.




As to dating, we deem the scarab not contemporary to the king the name of whom it shows. We observe, in fact: the writing with the complementary  n and the oval instead of the cartouche are characteristics almost always of later scarabs. Also cobras flanking the oval and the kheper



This article was first published in Italian on archaeogate.


This scarab raises an interesting question: was the rhinoceros known to the ancient Egyptians?


Although in Gardiner's list of signs1 (1927) and in that of Mercer2 (1926) this animal doesn't appears on the contrary, it is in the older list of Wallis Budge3 (1910):  rhinoceros is quoted with the phonetic rendering: xb. As the sign has been catalogued by Budge we must assume that some text exists which shows it and that this mammal was therefore known by ancient Egyptians.          


Obviously, we cannot discard the hypothesis that it's a badly  drawn  hippopotamus, but, first of all, the quality of the execution seems good, so much so that it tends exclude the possibility of an unintentional mistakes such as this. Secondly, hippopotamuses  depicted on scarabs often show two lines on the back representing two stuck harpoons.


The hippopotamus was considered a manifestation of the wicked god Seth, the enemy of Horus, and thus of the pharaoh also, who used to  hunt this animal with the harpoon.  


In our example here there are no harpoons. (In the other example showing a hippo, there are in this case, no harpoons either)


In the parallels in JAEGER4, HORNUNG5 e HALL6 we find an animal defined as a hippopotamus, but resembling this one: it seems to have a horn at the top of its muzzle, even if less emphatic.

Unfortunately also the top sign is not intelligible and doesn't allow the transliteration.


The item is made in ochre steatite with traces of green glazing; it measures 15x11,5x7 mm. and has Tufnell classification B8/vIv/d57.


The prothorax is divided from the elytra by a T-trace the horizontal line of which is fairly convex toward the hind part. The wing-cases are marked with linear notches (only that one on the right is visible) and the tail is represented by an half-moon shaped sign. Legs are low, deeply carved with hollow between fore and middle legs. The engraving is sharp and mid-deep. Some chips at the fore edge and widespread worn.

   Vertical arranged from the bottom, the motif shows a crosswise arranged oval with the prenomen of Thuthmose III: Mn-kheper-Ra (usual writing). In the centre an hippopotamus (?) facing right with a solar disc over its muzzle; at the top an unintelligible sign. It seems a reversed fish (maybe Tilapia nilotica with prolonged dorsal fin) having a lotus bud in its mouth.   One can think the item dated to the 18th


A similar question arises with this scarab; is it a hippo (with rather slender legs!) or is is a boar?



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