Pectoral of Tutankhamun with Winged Scarab

In this exquisite pectoral of Tutankhamun, a winged, large scarab beetle riding on a sacred barque and flanked by the goddesses Isis and Nephthys with their arms outstretched as a sign of protection.

The scarab serves a double function: as a heart scarab and as the ba of the sun god lighting the way to the underworld. The pectoral made of gold inlaid with carnelian, rock crystal, feldspar and multicolored glass paste.

Pectoral of Tutankhamun with Winged Scarab. Photo: Sandro Vannini
Pectoral of Tutankhamun with Winged Scarab. Photo: Sandro Vannini

In Ancient Egypt, the scarab was a symbol of resurrection, therefore it was strictly connected to rebirth in the Afterlife.

The dung beetle is one of the most widespread symbols of Egyptian iconography and one of the most widely attested amulets from the First Intermediate Period (2118-1980 BC) to the Roman Period (30 BC-395 AD), in the most diverse materials.

Used either by the living as seals or as objects with celebratory value, or to accompany the deceased, scarab-shaped amulets can be as small as a few centimeters, or as large as 10 cm.

Pectoral of Tutankhamun with Winged Scarab
Pectoral of Tutankhamun with Winged Scarab. Photo: Sandro Vannini

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.

In the Egyptian hieroglyphs the words for the scarab and for existence were identical (kheper). The name of the sun god, on his first appearance every morning, was Khepri. In hieroglyphs the scarab sign was used for all three words.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 61948

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