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The name of the god Amen, who became the national god of Egypt since Middle Kingdom, seems to derive from the verb imn, which means to hide, namely the Hidden, the Unknowable. It's probably

for this the reason why cryptographic (namely "hidden") writings of his name are so numerous and various. Nearly always the reading is possible by means of acrophony, the method according to which one assigns to a hieroglyphic value the initial sound of the word (for example: iTn  is worth i).


We have already discussed a number of these writings (see our article: CRYPTOGRAPHIC AMUNIAN FORMULAS) but we will also document these two examples which seem to us  particularly interesting because of their simple, symmetrical beauty.


The first scarab is made in a glazed steatite faded to orange-ochre and measures 16,5 x 12,5 x 7 mm. On the completely plain back, the division between prothorax and elytra is suggested by two small marks. The legs are two incisions running parallel to the base. Tufnell classification 1 B2/O/e11. Engraving and hollowing are mid-deep, levelled and well done. Vertically arranged, the motif shows a large Hs vase flanked by two cobras turned to the outside; the one on the right wears the Red Crown, the other, the White Crown. At the  bottom is a basket  nb sign.


From this elegant motif it's possible to draw some considerations. The first reading could concern a praise (Hsi = to praise, praise) to the serpent-goddesses Uadjet (with the Red Crown of Lower Egypt) and likely Renenutet, protectress of the harvest, or Merseger (so-called: She who loves the silence), protectress of the Theban necropolis. By extension, considering the two Crowns, it's not possible leave out a hint to the union of the Two Lands.


A second possible reading concerns the bilateral cryptography (from right to left and vice versa) of the Amen's name: I for acrophony from iart  = uraeus, m for acrophony from  mnsA = jar, n for acrophony from nTrt = goddess. The basket  nb keeps its value (= Lord) giving the total rendering: Imn nb = Amen the Lord.


As to the dating, we are inclined to the late Ramesside period or later.



This other  scarab is made in steatite  with the  glaze faded to ochre. It measures 15x10x6 mm. and has a Tufnell classification 1 D4/O/e11. On the whole, the body does not strike one as especially  good, but the cutting is well realized, not without elegance and reveals the same search for symmetry as the previous scarab. The vertically arranged motif shows two mAat feathers surmounted by the solar disc.


This combination is a cryptographic trigram of the name of Amen with bilateral reading (from right to left and vice versa): I from itn = solar disc, m from Maat of whom the feather is the symbol, n da nTrt = divine, always the goddess Maat, symbolized by the other feather.


As to the date, for this scarab also we point to  the period between the XXII and the XXVI dynasty, with all due reservations.




1  Tufnell O., "STUDIES ON SCARAB SEALS" vol. 2, part 1 Warminster, UK - 1984,  32-37 (we adopt this classification method because it seems to us the most appropriate to typological description, even if it has been conceived for Second Intermediate Period scarabs).





Sentences involving all sort of wishes which the owner would  want, are numerous.  They are frequently a wish to obtain general welfare and to be like a god. We propose that this is an example of one of these sentences but its translation is anything but unequivocal owing to an unclear sign.


This piece, belonging to the Fondazione Cariparma collection, is made  in a glazed steatite faded to whitish; it measures 16x12x7,5 mm. and has a Tufnell classification B6/vIv/d5 1.


The prothorax is divided from the elytra by a T-trace with a little triangle where the lines meet (representing the scutellum). The elytra are bordered and show V-notches; the legs are smooth and slightly jutting out from the body. The tail is marked by a protruding and bordered crescent. The engraving is mid-deep, well done, levelled and enriched by fine details inside the basked sign k.  A loss at the left of the base does not prevent a correct reading.  


Vertically arranged the signs :






In the opinion of these two authors it is the sentence




of which the translation is: May you celebrate the jubilee like Re. They evidently consider the vertical sign on the left of the basket like




(Gardiner W4).


As far as one can to see in the picture of the scarab they consider, there is also at the bottom the basin sign (Gardiner W3). On the contrary, with this scarab we consider here, there is no basin sign and the sign seems to look more the tie tit  (Gardiner V39) 3.


But here also, the sign at the top lacks the ring, probably omitted by the engraver. If it were a tit sign the rendering could be:

May you are living like Re (or May you live like Re).


With this particular sign there is even aresemblance with (Gardiner S15 and S16)




= sparkle, be dazzling and one could  propose the reading




The reading would then be May you are dazzling like Re.


A similar scarabis  kept in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 4 is translated: May you be in festival like Re , egyptian scarabs, cat. 86.313.41 [16.01.08].  



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