The ancient Egyptians maintained that the sun was
propelled across the heavens by means of a scarab,
or sacred beetle. With the passing of time, the
Egyptians created a series of amulets in the form of
this beetle in a great variety of materials, and these
were routinely provided with inscriptions in
hieroglyphs conveniently accommodated to their
stylized flat bottoms. Such scarabs were generally
incorporated into finger rings, as here, where they
served as bezels.
Our scarab is just such a variation with a remarkable
degree of ornamentation on its upper side. The
head with its eyes, the plate, and the clypeus are
well articulated as are the thorax and elytra, or wing
case, which are articulated with a double T-shaped
set of incisions. The thorax is additionally
ornamented with two curls, asymmetrically
The bottom of our scarab is ornamented with a
complex, interlocking pattern of coiled cords,
dotted in the center. Although such patterns are a
common decorative element on scarabs of the
period, scholars have yet to convincingly identify
their meaning. Nevertheless, such motifs, which
may have originally been imbued with magical
properties, were first introduced in the Middle
Kingdom and were repeatedly encountered on
scarabs of later periods. The curl design on the
thorax is likewise attested during the period to
which our scarab is assigned.
Scarab finger-rings, mounted in settings with swivel
bezels, as seen here in our finger ring, are attested
from the time of the Middle Kingdom and become
particularly popular in the New Kingdom.
For a discussion of these designs, see, Daphna Ben-
Tor, The Scarab. A Reflection of Ancient Egypt
(Jerusalem 1993, page 31; and Carol Andrews,
Ancient Egyptian Jewellery (London 1990), page
164, for a discussion of these finger rings.
Translation and interpretation kindly provided by
Prof Robert S. Bianchi.