Heart Scarab of Hatnefer

The heart scarab of Hatnefer is an exceptionally fine example of this type of funerary equipment and is comparable to those made for contemporary royalty. Every feature of the scarab beetle is carefully rendered. The exquisite chain is made of gold wire, plaited in a quadruple-link pattern.

The scarab’s base is engraved with a version of Book of the Dead chapter 30A, in which the deceased addresses her own heart, exhorting it not to bear witness against Hatnefer during the final judgment in the afterlife. In the top line, Hatnefer’s name was inserted over an erased text, indicating that the scarab was not originally made for her.

Heart Scarab of Hatnefer
Heart Scarab of Hatnefer

Heart scarabs were very popular amulets. For the ancient Egyptians the heart was not only the center of life, but also of thinking, memory, and moral values. In the final judgement the heart was thought to be weighed against Maat – the principle of order and justice. Only if the deceased had lived a righteous life was he or she allowed to live on in the afterlife.

Scarabs, which were amulets shaped like beetles, were typically made from various materials such as stone, faience, or precious metals like gold or silver. These scarabs often featured intricate engravings or inscriptions and held symbolic significance in ancient Egyptian culture.

Understandably, the Egyptians feared a negative outcome and special amulets were used to ensure a positive judgment. The flat underside of a heart scarab is usually inscribed with chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead, the so-called heart scarab spell, or with its less common version, chapter 30A, which was used here.

Heart scarabs were amulets that were commonly used in the early New Kingdom of Egypt. These scarabs were placed on the chest of the deceased during the mummification process. They were believed to protect the heart of the deceased during the journey to the afterlife and were inscribed with spells from the Book of the Dead.

The heart scarabs typically had a flat base with a rounded top and were often made of stone or faience. They were an important part of the funerary rituals and beliefs of ancient Egyptians during this time period.

The tomb of Hatnefer was discovered by the Metropolitan Museum’s Egyptian Expedition in 1936. Hatnefer’s heart scarab, mummy mask, canopic box, two rings, and two scarabs came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the division of finds.

New Kingdom, early 18th Dynasty, reign of Thutmose II, ca. 1492-1473 BC. Scarab: L. 6.6 cm (2 5/8 in.); W. 5.3 cm (2 1/16 in.); H. 2.8 cm (1 1/8 in.); Chain: L. 77.5 cm (30.1/2 in.). Serpentinite and gold. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 36.3.2