Ancient Egyptian Six (or nine) scarab amulet
Measurement: 2.2 x 1.6 x 1 cm
Material/colour: faience / brown.
Technique: moulded and glazed ceramic.
Condition: worn with minor damage to the scarabs.
Date: New Kingdom.
Provenance: Golden Chariot; original collection of Gustav Jecquier, reportedly from Sakkara.
Identification and Interpretation:
Recto: Three in Ancient Egypt was the number of completion, double that is a powerful reinforcement of the idea of rebirth and renewal.
The scarab beetle can be read as the word kheper, ‘to come into existence, to transform’. Six scarabs offer powerful protection for life itself, and the rebirth into the Afterlife that was the dream of every Ancient Egyptian.
Between the two rows of beetles are three small features which are badly worn and difficult to interpret. If the small features between the two main rows of scarabs are also to be read as kheperu, the image becomes that of the Ennead, the Nine Great Gods of Egypt: Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Sutekh.
Verso: In a cartouche is the symbol nefer which means ‘beautiful’ but also ‘perfection.’ On either side of the cartouche, the sign for shemsu bodyguard, protects the perfect life of the owner. Beneath the cartouche an ankh offers eternal life guarded by mirror images of the Red Crown, deshret, help to imbue the owner with the power of a king. This crown also represents the goddess Neith, who was at once a Creatrix, warrior, and the goddess who provided linen for the dead.
Between the two wishes are two eyes - not wedjet eyes of protection, but unadorned human eyes. These, rare in the New Kingdom, though common in the Roman period, protect the vision of the deceased in the Next World.
Workmanship: Very good.
Function and Meaning: This piece was strung to be worn. The amuletic functions of the signs would be equally valuable for the living or the dead. The wear and tear on the scarabs would suggest that the amulet was worn in life.
Parallels: see Carol Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, figure 55, page 54.