Gold and enamel scarab amulet

This scarab amulet is made of gold, a metal strongly associated with the sun. The blue enamel symbolizes the life-giving waters of the Nile. Scarab amulets were frequently wound into a mummy’s bandages to protect the deceased and ensure rebirth.

The ancient Egyptians understood the sun god to manifest himself in multiple forms, chiefly those of Re during the day, the ram-headed Atum in the evening, and the scarab beetle Khepri at dawn. During the sun’s daily journey across the sky he grew old and weary, then was rejuvenated overnight and reborn-young and strong-at sunrise.

Gold and enamel scarab amulet
Gold and enamel scarab amulet

The fortune of the dung beetle in Egyptian iconography is due not only to its almost geometric shape – the flat base of the beetle provides an ideal oval space for the engraving of an inscription – but also to its natural behavior, which made it associated with the sun and the concept of regeneration and resurrection.

The insect, in fact, pushes a ball of animal dung, its food source, with its front legs to an underground hiding place. This habit, for the Egyptians, corresponded with the daily path of the sun in the sky. They also use a dung ball as a nest for their eggs: scarabs thus seem to spontaneously self-generate.

Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332-30 BC. Now in the RISD Museum. 32.242

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