by Isaac Myer
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- Transcriber's Note: The author of this ebook makes unusual use of commas and asterisks. The character a with a straight line (macron) above is represented as ā. Greek has been transliterated and marked with + marks. -

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Member of the American Oriental Society. The American Numismatic and Archaeological Society. The Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. La Societe Royale de Numismatique de Belgique. The Oriental Club of Philadelphia. The New York Historical Society Historical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, etc.





EMILE BOUILLON, No. 67, Rue de Richelieu, PARIS.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1894, by ISAAC MYER, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



The following work is taken in part, from an address delivered by me before, The American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, at its Hall in the City of New York, on March 30th, 1893. Since that time I have been led into a train of thought, having as its basis a more philosophical treatment of the meaning of the scarabaeus as a symbol, in the religious metaphysic conception of it by the Ancient Egyptians, and have added much new matter. I am convinced that at the period when we first meet with the symbol of the scarabaeus in Egypt, it was already the symbol and tangible expression of an elevated religious idea, embracing that of a future life of the human soul, a resurrection of it from the dead, and most likely, of a reward or punishment to it in the future life, based on its conduct when in the terrestrial life.

We know from the inscription on the lid of the coffin of Men-kau-Ra, king of the IVth, the Memphite Dynasty, (circa 3633-3600 B.C.,) and builder of the Third Pyramid at Gizeh; that some of the most elevated conceptions of the Per-em-hru, i.e., the so-called, Book of the Dead, were at that time in existence as accepted facts. The dead one at this early period became an Osiris, living eternally. We have every reason to think, that the use of the models of the scarabaeus as the symbol of the resurrection or new-birth, and the future eternal life of the triumphant or justified dead, existed as an accepted dogma, before the earliest historical knowledge we have thus far been able to acquire of the Ancient Egyptians.

It most probably ante-dated the epoch of Mena, the first historical Egyptian king. How long before his period it existed, in the present condition of our knowledge of the ancient history and thought of Egypt, it is impossible to surmise. Of the aborigines of the land of Egypt we do not know nor are we very likely to know, anything. Of the race known to us as the Egyptian we can now assert with much certainty, that it was a Caucasian people, and likely came from an original home in Asia. When the invader arrived in the valley of the Nile, he appears to have been highly civilized and to have had an elevated form of religious belief.

The oldest stelae known, one of which is now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, England, and the other in the Museum at Gizeh, Egypt; were made for the tomb of Shera, who is called on them, "a prophet" and "a royal relative." He was a priest of the period of Sent, the fifth king of the IInd Dynasty, who was living about 4000 B.C. The stele is shown by Lepsius in his Auswahl, Plate 9, and is the earliest example of a hieroglyphic inscription known. These stelae are in the form of a false door.

Upon these stelae of Shera, is inscribed the Egyptian prayer for the soul of the dead called, the Suten-hotep-ta, from its first words. The Suten-hotep-ta was supposed to have been delivered by divine revelation. An old text speaks of, a "Suten-hotep-ta exactly corresponding to the texts of sacrificial offerings, handed down by the ancients as proceeding from the mouth of God."[1] This prayer inscribed on the steles mentioned, asks that there may be granted the deceased in the other world, funeral oblations, "thousands of oxen, linen bandages, cakes, vessels of wine, incense, etc." This shows that at this very early period there was a belief in Egypt of the future life of the Ba, the responsible soul, and of the Ka, the vital soul, of the deceased. The word Ka enters into the names of kings Ka-kau, Nefer-ka-Ra, and Nefer-ka-seker of the IInd Dynasty (4133-3966 B.C.) In the same Dynasty the word Ba, the name of the responsible soul, and Baiu its plural, enter into the names Neter-Baiu and Ba-en-neter. Ab, i.e., the heart, also enters into the name of Per-ab-sen of this Dynasty. We also have Ba in the name of Mer-ba-pen, sixth king of the Ist Dynasty.

It was during the reign of king Sent, that a medical papyrus was edited which shows it was the result of years of experience. From what we have just said it is extremely likely, that the body was mummified in Egypt from the earliest period of which we have knowledge.

Manetho says that Teta, the second king of the 1st Dynasty, circa 4366 B.C., wrote a book on anatomy, and experimented with drugs or chemicals. Shesh, the mother of this king, invented a hair wash.[2]

We can from the foregoing assume with some certainty, that before the historical period in Ancient Egypt, a religious belief existed, funeral ceremonies, and an expectation of an eternal life of the soul after the death of the body of man on this earth; whether a belief in rewards or punishments to be suffered or enjoyed by the soul after such death, for actions done by man in this earthly life, existed at that time, we cannot as yet, with certainty, affirm; but it is quite likely it did. In this connection a study of the "Pyramid Texts" published by Maspero in his Recueil de Travaux, is of great value to the student.

An element of great value to the student of religions is, that the scarabaeus symbol, is the earliest expression of the most ancient idea of the immortality of the soul after death that has reached our day, taking us back however to a period which may be considered as civilized and enlightened and yet, so encompassed with the mists of the past, that the mental eye of to-day cannot grasp that past with much tangibility, and giving us almost cause to think, that the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul was a remnant of an early divine revelation, or at least, an advanced instinct of early humanity; for it is a curious phase of archaic Egyptian thought, that the further we go back in our investigations of the origins of its religious ideas, the more ideal and elevated they appear as to the spiritual powers and the unseen world. Idolatry made its greatest advance subsequent to the epoch of the Ancient Empire, and progressed until it finally merged itself into the animalism of the New Empire and the gross paganism of the Greeks and Romans.

We have not yet many religious texts of the Ancient Empire that have been fully studied and made known, but those that have been, exhibit an idealism as to the Supreme Deity and a belief in the immortality of the soul, based on the pious, ethical and charitable conduct of man, which speak highly for an early very elevated thought in religious ideas.

There is however one thought which must strike the student of religions forcibly, that is the fact, that the idea of the re-birth and future eternal life of the pious and moral dead, existed among the Ancient Egyptians as an accepted dogma, long before the period in which Moses is said to have lived. Moses has been asserted both in the New Testament (Acts VII., 22), and by the so-called profane writers Philo and Josephus, to have been learned in all the wisdom and knowledge of the Egyptians of his time, yet we have not in the pages of the Pentateuch, which is usually by the theologians ascribed to him, any direct assertion of the doctrine of a future life or of an immortality of the human soul, or of a future reward or punishment in a future state of the soul. Ideas are therein set forth however, of a separation of the spiritual part of man into different divisions.

It may be, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not accepted as a religious dogma, by the Hyksos or Shepherd Kings, an apparently Asiatic race, probably Semitic, of which we have not as yet very much knowledge. It is likely that it was under the Hyksos that the Hebrew, Joseph, was advanced to high honors in Egypt, and under their kings, that the influx and increase of the Hebrew population in Egypt began and prospered.

It may be advanced with much certainty, that the Hebrew people residing in Ancient Egypt, must have been acquainted with many of the Egyptian ideas on the subject of the eternal future life of the soul of the dead, and the reward or punishment of it in that future life, for these ideas were undoubtedly widely and generally known by the Egyptian people, and were too thoroughly formulated in the active and daily life of the Ancient Egyptian population, not to have been known by the Hebrews living in daily contact with them, but the Hebrews may not have accepted them as a verity.

It may have been, that as the idea of the future existence of the soul in its perfection, was based upon the mummification and preservation of the body of the dead, so that the Ka might remain with it, and go out and revisit it in the tomb; and also, on inscriptions either on the walls of the tomb or the papyri deposited with the body; that Moses, knowing that in his wanderings and journeyings, it would be impossible to have performed those ceremonies and preliminaries necessary under the Egyptian system, for the proper burial of the corpse; its mummification and the preparation of the funeral inscriptions or papyri, considered as necessary to be inscribed on the walls of the tomb, or on the papyri, to be buried with the corpse, so as to assist the soul against the perils it was supposed it would encounter in its journey through the Underworld;[3] was therefore compelled to abandon a dogma based on preliminaries and preparations he could not, during such wanderings, have performed. This would be partly an explanation of a subject which has for many years caused much dispute among very erudite theologians.

In order to get some knowledge of the religious philosophical ideas of the Ancient Egyptians, a thorough study of the collection of papyri called, the Per-em-hru or Book of the Dead, is absolutely necessary, also the texts on the walls of the tombs of the Ancient Empire especially those found at Saqqarah. The work of M. Edouard Naville on the Per-em-hru lately published, although it refers more especially to the Theban period, is of great value in this investigation, and when it has been translated into a modern language by a thoroughly competent scholar, will be a key to open many of the now hidden but elevated ideas in the religious philosophy of the Ancient Egyptians.

The edition of the Book of the Dead which I have quoted from is that of M. Paul Pierret, conservateur of the Egyptian Museum of the Louvre, Paris, France.[4] This is founded on the Papyrus of Turin, which is of about the XXVIth Dynasty, the Saitic period; the translator has also used in his work, the Egyptian manuscripts of the Louvre to assist in the elucidation of his readings of the Papyrus of Turin. His work is an advance on that of Dr. Samuel Birch, given in 1867, in the Vth volume of Baron von Bunsen's work on Egypt's Place in Universal History. A new translation of the Book of the Dead is now passing through the English press, by P. Le Page Renouf, Esq., but only a few chapters thus far have been printed. Mr. Renouf's work as an Egyptologist, deserves much more attention and credit from the learned of both his own and other countries, than it has so far received.

The following among Greek and other ancient writers have mentioned the scarabaeus, mostly in connection with Egypt. Orpheus, Theophrastus, Aristophanes, Pliny, Plutarch, AElian, Clement of Alexandria, Porphyry, Horapollon, Diogenes Laertius, who cites as works in which it was mentioned, the Natural Philosophy by Manetho (circa 286-247 B.C.,) the History of the Philosophy of the Egyptians, by Hecataeus (of Abdera? circa 331 B.C.,) and the writings of Aristagoras (circa 325-300 B.C.,) Eusebius, Arnobius, Epiphanius and Ausonius.

The subject has been somewhat neglected in modern times. Two small brochures on the subject were published by Johann Joachim Bellermann, under the title of; Ueber die Scarabaeen-Gemmen, nebst Versuchen die darauf befindlichen Hieroglyphen zu erklaeren, one in 1820, the other 1821. Another very small catalogue entitled; Scarabees Egyptiens, figures du Musee des Antiquea de sa majeste l'Empereur, Vienne, de l'Imprimerie d'Antoine Strauss, 1824, was published in that year in Vienna. None of the above contain information of importance on the subject.

Dr. Samuel Birch published the first classified collection in his; Catalogue of the collection of Egyptian Antiquities at Alnwick Castle,[5] in which he describes 565 scarabs, signets, etc. In 1884 the Rev. W.J. Loftie published his; An Essay of Scarabs, London, small 4to, no date, 125 numbered copies printed. It contained a brief essay, pp. V-XXXII., on scarabs, and a short description of 192. His collection was purchased in 1890 by the Trustees of the British Museum. In the summer of 1876, I published in, The Evening Telegraph, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Centennial Exhibition; two Essays on Scarabaei and Cicadae, and on those exhibited, especially those in the Egyptian Section and those in the Castellani Collection. In 1887, Dr. E.A. Wallis Budge, F.S.A., gave a description of 150 scarabs in his, Catalogue of the Egyptian Collection of the Harrow School Museum, with translations of most of the inscriptions upon them. In 1888, Dr. A.S. Murray and Mr. Hamilton Smith in their, Catalogue of Gems, gave a list of scarabs and scaraboids. In 1889 Mr. Flinders Petrie published, Historical Scarabs: A series of Drawings from the Principal Collections, Arranged Chronologically. This book has only nine small pages of description but they are valuable. In his, History of Egypt, Prof. Wiedemann has catalogued a great many scarabs. I have not seen any of the above works except that by Bellermann, that published in Vienna, and those by Loftie and Petrie, all of which I have in my Library. Since my book was printed, I have had my attention called to, The Mummy, Chapters on Egyptian Funeral Archaeology, by E.A. Wallis Budge, Litt. D., F.S.A., Cambridge. At the University Press, 1893. In this p. 231 et seq., the learned author has a very interesting chapter on Scarabs.


[1] Lepsius, Denkmal III., pl. 13.

[2] Papyrus Ebers, Bd. II., Glossarium Hieroglyphicum, by Stern, p. 47. The Mummy, etc., by E.A. Wallis Budge, Litt. D., F.S.A., etc. Cambridge, 1893, pp. 176, 219, 353. Egypt Under the Pharaohs. London, 1891, pp. 27, 28. An interesting but condensed account of Ancient Egyptian medical knowledge, with references to the papyri, is given by M. Maspero in his, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient, Paris, 1886, pp. 73-77.

[3] We use the word Underworld advisedly, it may be that the meaning of the word so translated, is that of a higher or opposite world to our terrestrial world.

[4] Le Livre des Morts, des Anciens Egyptiens, traduction complete d'apres le Papyrus de Turin et les manuscrits du Louvre, accompagnee de Notes et suivie d'un Index analytique. Paris, Ernest Leroux, 1882.

[5] Privately printed by the Duke of Northumberland. London, 1880.





Forms of the Word Scarabaeus. Veneration of the Ancient Egyptians for the scarabaeus. Entomology of the insect. Symbolism of according to Plutarch, Pliny and Horapollo. Its astronomical value. Worship of insects by other peoples. Symbolism, with the Egyptians, of the scarabaeus. Uses of it with them 1-17


Manufacture of the Scarabaei. Materials. Inscriptions on. Different periods of manufacture and the peculiarities of. How to judge of the epoch. 18-29


Method, period and antiquity, of engraving the scarab and other forms. Use of rings. Mention of, and of engraving and sealing, in the Old Testament. Use of cylinder signets by the Egyptians. Relations with Mesopotamia. Carving of diorite and other hard stone. The Egyptians did not borrow their engraving and the scarab, from Mesopotamia. Disuse of scarabs 30-45


The oldest scarabs. Classification and value of the scarab to the scholar of to-day. Large inscribed historical scarabs 46-56


Where usually found and the mode of wearing scarabs by the Egyptians, Book of the Dead. Egyptian scarabs found in Mesopotamia. The scarab in Christianity 57-64


The position of the scarab in Ancient Egyptian religion and the Book of the Dead. Egyptian philosophy. Advanced intellectuality of Egypt six thousand years ago. Deities of libraries and learning. Ancient librarians and books. The division of learned men into different branches of study. The statements of Greek writers on Egyptian thought not to be depended upon. Quotations from the Book of the Dead on the symbolism of the scarabaeus deity. The symbolism of the Great Sphinx. Further quotations from the Book of the Dead, on the symbolism of the scarab deity 65-90


Importance of the heart in the Ancient Egyptian religion. Immortality of the soul according to that religion. Symbolism of the scarab in their doctrine of such immortality. No thing in this universe absolutely destroyed, only changed. The idea of metempsychosis in Ancient Egypt. Elevated ideas as to the deity. Hymn to Ammon-Ra cited. Quotations as to Egyptian philosophy, evolution of the universe and kosmogony. Of Khepra and of Tum or Atmu. Egyptian psychology and its divisions 91-122


Forgery of scarabs in modern times. Difficulty of detecting such. Other Egyptian antiquities also counterfeited by the present inhabitants of Egypt 123-127


Phoenician scarabs. Manufactured mostly as article of trade. Used inscribed scarabs as seals in commercial and other transactions. Many scarabs found in Sardinia 128-133


Etruscan scarabs. Origin of and where found. Copied from Egyptian but with changes in subjects, size and ornamentation. The engraving of. Where usually found. Uses by the Etruscans. Greek and Roman scarabs. Gnostic, of the Basilidians 134-143

APPENDIX A 145-154

INDEX 155-177



Among the many animals, insects and creatures, held in veneration as symbols by the Ancient Egyptians; the one universally in use as a symbol from a most remote period, were insects of the family of the scarabaeidae.

The Greek name of the models of these was Skarabaios, Skarabos, Karabos, Karabis; the Sanskrit, Carabha, which like the Latin Locusta, designated both the lobster and the grasshopper. The Latin name derived from the Greek, was, Scarabaeus, the French, Scarabee. To the people of our day, the high position enjoyed in the religion of Ancient Egypt by this insect, appears very strange, for to us, there is nothing attractive about it. With that people however it held, for some fifty centuries; the position in their religion which the Latin cross now holds with us as Christians, and if we consider for an instant, our own veneration for the latter; it would doubtless have been considered, by those unfamiliar with our religion, as also based on a veneration for a very strange emblem; for the cross was the instrument used by the Romans for punishing with death, murderers and criminals of the lowest type; and what would be thought to-day, of a man worshipping the gallows or the guillotine, or carrying copies modeled from the same, suspended from his neck. However we of to-day all understand the emblem of the cross, and the Ancient Egyptians in their time, all understood the emblem of the scarab.

"Men are rarely conscious of the prejudices, which really incapacitate them, from forming impartial and true judgments on systems alien to their own habits of thought. And philosophers who may pride themselves on their freedom from prejudice, may yet fail to understand; whole classes of psychological phenomena which are the result of religious practice, and are familiar to those alone to whom such practice is habitual."[6] Said Thespesion to Apollonius Tyanaeus, according to the biography of the latter, by Philostratus; "The Egyptians do not venture to give form to their deities, they only give them in symbols which have an occult meaning."

The family of the Scarabaeidae or Coprophagi is quite large, the type of the family is the genus Ateuchus, the members of this genus are more frequently found in the old world than the new, and of its forty species, thirty belong to Africa.

The sacred scarab of the Egyptians was termed by Linnaeus, the Scarabaeus sacer, but later writers have named it, Ateuchus sacer. This insect is found throughout Egypt, the southern part of Europe, in China, the East Indies, in Barbary and at the Cape of Good Hope, Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is black and about one inch in length.

There was also another species of the scarabaeus valued by the Ancient Egyptians, that termed by Cuvier, the Ateuchus sacer AEgyptiorum, which is larger and wider than the others of its family; it is of green golden tints, and is now found principally in Egypt and Nubia. Pliny, in his Natural History says: "The green scarabaeus has the property of rendering the sight more piercing, (i.e., curing fatigue of the eye from its green color,) of those who gaze upon it; hence it is, that the engravers of precious stones use these insects to steady their sight."[7] M. Latreille thinks; the species he named Ateuchus AEgyptiorum, or heliokantharos, and which is of a green color, was that which especially engaged the attention of the Ancient Egyptians.

The Egyptian also held in estimation, the species Buprestis and the Cantharis and Copris, and used them as he did the members of the true family of the scarabaeidae, and S. Passalacqua found a species of Buprestis, embalmed in a tomb at Thebes.

At least four species of beetles appear to have been held in veneration and were distinguished, by the absence or presence, of striated elytra. The Ateuchus sacer is the one commonly represented on the monuments. The number of the toes, thirty, symbolized the days of the month, and the movement of the ball, which it manufactured and in which was deposited its egg, symbolized among other things, the action of Ra, the Egyptian sun-deity, at midday.

The Egyptian soldier wore the scarab as a charm or amulet, to increase bravery;[8] the women, to increase fertility. The Greeks called it, Helio-cantharus, and, not understanding its significance, were disposed to ridicule it, as is apparent from the travesty upon it by Aristophanes in his comedy of Peace. Pliny also again speaks of it in his Natural History, saying:

"The scarabaeus also, that forms pellets and rolls them along. It is on account of this kind of scarabaeus that the people of a great part of Egypt worship those insects as divinities, an usage for which Apion gives a curious reason, asserting, as he does, by way of justifying the rites of his nation, that the insect in its operations portrays the revolution of the sun. There is also another kind of scarabaeus, which the magicians recommend to be worn as an amulet—the one that has small horns[9] thrown backwards—it must be taken up, when used for this purpose, with the left hand. A third kind also, known by the name of 'fullo' and covered with white spots, they recommend to be cut asunder and attached to either arm, the other kinds being worn upon the left arm."[10]

In the work on Egyptian hieroglyphics attributed to a writer called Horapollo, sometimes incorrectly called, Horus Apollo, the first part of which shows, that it was written by a person who was well acquainted with the Egyptian monuments and had studied them carefully, we find: "To denote an only begotten, or, generation, or, a father, or, the world, or, a man, they delineate a scarabaeus. And they symbolize by this, an only begotten; because the scarabaeus is a creature self-produced, being unconceived by a female; for the propagation of it is unique and after this manner:—when the male is desirous of procreating, he takes the dung of an ox, and shapes it into a spherical form like the world; he then rolls it from him by the hinder parts from East to West, looking himself towards the East, that he may impart to it the figure of the world (for that is borne from East to West, while the course of the stars is from West to East;) then having dug a hole, the scarabaeus deposits this ball in the earth for the space of twenty-eight days, (for in so many days the moon passes through the twelve signs of the zodiac.) By thus remaining under the moon, the race of scarabaei is endued with life; and upon the nine and twentieth day after, having opened the ball, it casts it into the water, for it is aware, that upon that day the conjunction of the moon and sun takes place, as well as the generation of the world. From the ball thus opened in the water, the animals, that is the scarabaei, issue forth. The scarabaeus also symbolizes generation, for the reason before mentioned;—and a father, because the scarabaeus is engendered by a father only;—and the world because in its generation it is fashioned in the form of the world;—and a man, because there is not any female race among them. Moreover there are three species of scarabaei, the first like a cat,[11] and irradiated, which species they have consecrated to the sun from this similarity; for they say that the male cat changes the shape of the pupils of his eyes according to the course of the sun; for in the morning at the rising of the god, they are dilated, and in the middle of the day become round, and about sunset, appear less brilliant; whence also, the statue of the god in the city of the sun[12] is of the form of a cat. Every scarabaeus also has thirty toes, corresponding to the thirty days duration of the month, during which the rising sun performs his course. The second species is the two-horned and bull-formed; which are consecrated to the moon; whence the children of the Egyptians say, that the bull in the heavens is the exaltation of this goddess. The third species is, the one-horned and Ibis-formed, which they regard as sacred to Hermes (i.e., Thoth.) in like manner as the bird."[13][14]

Horapollo also says: "To denote Hephaestos (Ptah,) they delineate a scarabaeus and a vulture, and to denote Athena (Neith,) a vulture and a scarabaeus."[15]

The scarabaeus also had an astronomical value and is placed on some zodiacs in place of the crab. It may be found on the outside, or square planisphere, of the zodiac of the Temple of Denderah. Some archaeologists think it preceded the crab, as the emblem of the division of the zodiac called by us, Cancer. Its emblem, as shown on the Hindu zodiac, looks more like a beetle or other insect than it does like a crab.[16]

The religious feeling for it, most probably existed among the early Ethiopians, before the migration of the ancient race who were the originators of the Egyptians, into the land on the banks of the Nile. The cult is shown in more modern times by the veneration of the Hottentot for the same insect, and from the worship of the Holy Cricket by the natives of Madagascar. The Egyptians held the scarabaeus especially sacred to Amen-Ra, i.e., the mystery of the sun-god. It was their symbol of the creative and fertilizing power, of the re-birth, resurrection and immortality of the soul, and was, through this, connected with their astronomical and funeral rites and knowledge. It was, as the living insect, the first living creature seen coming to life from the fertilizing mud of the Nile, under the influence of the hot rays of the sun, after the subsidence of the inundating waters of that river. The royal cartouches of their kings is in an oval taken from the form of its under side. And this oval form has existed from the most remote times that we have any knowledge of the cartouch.

It is often found portrayed, as if a passenger in a boat, with extended wings; holding in its claws the globe of the sun, or elevated in the firmament, as the type of the creating power of the sun-god Ra, in the meridian. Other deities are sometimes shown praying to it.[17]

Ptah the Creative Power, and also Khepera, a kosmogonic deity of the highest type, had the scarab assigned to them as an emblem. It was one of the forms symbolic of the Demiurge or Maker of our universe. It was also the emblem of Ptah Tore, of Memphis, another symbolic form of the creative power. It was assigned as an emblem of Ptah-Sokari-Osiris, the pigmy deity of Memphis, being placed on his head, and this deity was sometimes represented under the form of a scarab. It was also an emblem of Ra, the sun deity; also, an emblem of the world or universe; and was, as I have said, connected with astronomy and with funeral rites, and the second birth or re-birth, of the soul.

Another use of the scarabaeus by the Egyptians was as an amulet and talisman, both for the living and the dead; and for that reason, images, symbols or words; supposed to be agreeable to the deity, or to the evil spirit sought to be conciliated; were incised, or engraved in intaglio, upon the under side. It was also used as a signet to impress on wax, clay or other material, so as to fasten up doors, boxes, etc., containing valuable things, so they could not be opened without breaking the impression. The engraving on the under surface of the scarab was also impressed on wax, etc., to verify the execution of, or to keep secret, written documents; and in some instances, the papyrus or linen, was written upon, then rolled up, and a string used to fasten it; an impression of the signet, made on wax or other material, was then placed on it and the string, so that it could not be opened without breaking the impression.

In very ancient paintings especially those in the tombs of the kings of Thebes, the scarabaeus plays a most remarkable part, as an emblem of the creating first source of life, which passes from it to the embryo, through the intermediary of a celestial generator, who is intended to represent the Makrokosm or great Ideal Man, as the demiurgos. We find the idea of the Makrokosm or great Ideal Man, permeating those writings termed, the Books of Hermes Trismegistos, which have reached our day, and which, with some more recent matter, contain much very old, Egyptian philosophy.[18] Statements as to the Ideal Prototype and the Primordial Man, are apparently, set forth in many of the Ancient Egyptian writings.


[6] P. Le Page Renouf in: The Origin and Growth of Religion, as illustrated by the Religion of Ancient Egypt. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 6.

[7] Pliny's Natural History. Bk. XXIX., ch. 38 end. Bohn ed. by John Bostock and H.T. Riley. London, 1856, Vol. V., p. 416.

[8] Plutarch says: "The Egyptian warriors had a beetle carved upon their signets, because there is no such thing as a female beetle; for they are all males," etc.—Of Isis and Osiris Sec.Sec. 10, 74, in Plutarch's Morals. Wm. W. Goodwin's English edition. Boston, 1878, Vol. IV., pp. 73, 132. Comp. AElian X., 15.

[9] Probably the "lucanus" mentioned in Bk. XI., ch. 34, supposed to be the same as, the stag beetle.

[10] Bk. XXX., ch. 30. Bohn ed., Vol. V., p. 454. See also Vol. III., p. 34; Bk. XI, ch. 34.

[11] There is likely the word eye omitted here, it shining like a cat's eye. Myer.

[12] Heliopolis. Myer.

[13] The Ibis which was sacred to Thoth. Myer.

[14] The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo Nilous, by Alexander Turner Cory. London, 1840. See also, Horapollinis Niloi Hieroglyphica edidit, etc., Conradus Leemans, Amstelodami, 1835.

[15] Ptah Tore, the deformed pigmy god of Memphis, has a scarabaeus on his head, and sometimes, stands on the figure of a crocodile. Ibid., Cory's ed., p. 29.

[16] Religions de l'Antiquite, etc., du Dr. Fred. Creuzer, edition of J.D. Guigniaut. Paris, 1825, Vol. I., part 2, Hindu plates XVII., Egyptian plates XLIX.

[17] For such pictures see, Thomas J. Pettigrew's Hist. of Egyptian Mummies. London, 1834, Plate 8, Nos, 1, 2 and 3. Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, 2nd Series. London, 1841, Vol. II., p. 256. Scarabees Egyptiens, figures du Musee des Antiquea de sa majeste l'empereur, Vienne, 1824.

[18] Religions de l'Antiquite, etc., du Dr. Fred. Creuzer, refondu, etc., par J.D. Guigniaut, Vol. I., part 2, Note 6, p. 821 et seq., p. 948 et seq., Nos. 187 and 187a of Plate XLVIII. and pp. 80, 82. As to the Makrokosm see, The Qabbalah, etc., by Isaac Myer. Philadelphia, 1888. Also; Le Papyrus de Neb-Qed. (Exemplaire hieroglyphique du livre des morts) etc., by Theodule Deveria, translation by Paul Pierret. Paris, 1872, p. 9.



The representations of the insect are among the earliest sculpture of stones known, and were cut in various materials, steatite a species of soapstone being one of the earliest used. Some were perhaps first moulded in clay, dried, and then cut into shape.

Many of those in use in Egypt were carved out of opaque or semi-transparent stones, and those cut in hard stone were usually made of some one of the following varieties: green basalt, diorite, granite, haematite, lapis lazuli, jasper, serpentine, verde antique, smalt, root of emerald, which is the same as plasma or prase[19] cornelian, amethyst, sardonyx, agate and onyx. Those of soft material were cut out of steatite, a soft limestone similar to chalk, but usually they were of a white or grayish slaty stone easily cut and which stood fire. After having been cut into the correct shape, these were glazed in the fire, with enamels of different colors, usually of a light bluish green. Those found now of a brownish or dirty white color, have lost the original color of the glaze from the ravages of time. Some were of clay only sun-dried, others of clay burned into pottery. They were also made of porcelain, and also, but rarely, of colored glass. They have also been found made of gold, ivory and even of wood. Champollion thinks, that certain signets found made of wood or pottery bearing the figure of the scarabaeus in intaglio, were used to mark the victims which had been examined and passed as proper for the sacrifice. The scarabs, as we have remarked, were usually engraved with incised hieroglyphic symbols on the under side, frequently with those used on one of his cartouches by the reigning pharaoh, and were then worn by their owners to show veneration for him, as the representative of the deity upon earth, or from national pride. The names of deities, officials, private persons, and even only monograms or devices, at later periods, were engraved on the bases. The best class were usually made of a fine, hard, green basalt; sometimes they were joined to the representation of the human heart on which was inscribed "Life, Stability and Protection." This was evidently talismanic.

The principal period of their manufacture in large quantities, was in the reign of Tehuti-mes, or Thotmes IIIrd, of the XVIIIth Dynasty (circa 1600-1566 B.C.) Other times were the XIXth and XXth Dynasties.

The large and small scarabs form two classes. Those two to three inches in length belong to the larger, and were usually for use inside of the mummies in place of the heart. There are also some of very large size; one made of basalt now in the British Museum, is five feet high.

The making of the shape of the scarab in cameo, in soft material was easily done, and the incising of its flat under surface with the hieroglyphics not difficult; the artist most likely used, one or more instruments of different sizes, formed at the end like a very small chisel or bradawl, and gouged or punched out the figures and inscriptions desired, before the glazing or enameling was put on, this gave a flat appearance at the depth or bottom of the incised work. On those of hard stone they used hand-drills or the lathe.

I condense the following remarks, adding however some of my own, from a very valuable little book recently published by the learned egyptologist Mr. W.M. Flinders Petrie, entitled: Historical Scarabs.[20]

I regret Mr. Petrie's lithographic drawings are so blurred that they are difficult to read, and hope that he will, in the near future, get out a more artistic and complete book on this important subject.[21]

He shows 2,220 examples of incised historical scarabs. The first genuine historical scarabs he gives copies of, are those of Neb-ka of the IIIrd Dynasty; (circa 3933-3900 B.C.) He also shows some of the period of Nefer-ka-Ra or Huni, mentioned in Brugsch's History of the Pharaohs, pages 27 and 32; who lived 3800 B.C. The name Ra, forming part of the king's name at this period, is very unusual. It was not used, as a portion of his name, by any other Egyptian king from the Ist Dynasty to the second king of the IVth or Great Pyramid Dynasty, named Tatf-Ra. The next king to him was Khaf-Ra. The reign of Tatf-Ra was preceded by that of Khufu, the Kheops of the Greek writers, builder of the Great Pyramid; (circa 3733-3700 B.C.)

The scarabs of the time of Khufu are all small and of fine work but without elaboration, and the colors are delicate, beautiful and permanent. Under Khaf-Ra or Khefren, there was a deterioration; the work is inferior and the glazing has often perished, indeed good glazes are rare after this period until the XIth Dynasty; (circa 2500 B.C.) The glazes of this latter period are hard, unalterable and of fine colors, some under the XIIth are fine but often they are decomposed. Blue is a special color of this time and it is also used in the sculpture. Under Pepi, IVth Dynasty, (circa 3233 B.C.,) the scroll pattern first arises as a system, but is not found continuously in the scarabs of his period. In the XIIth Dynasty, (2466-2266 B.C.,) the continuous scroll pattern was developed, it became general in the XIIIth, (circa 2233 B.C.,)and XIVth Dynasties, and lingered as far as the XIXth (1400 B.C.)

Brown scarabs were originally green glazed but have faded, white were originally blue, excepting possibly some of Amen-hotep IIIrd. There are also white and gray, without any glaze remaining, which were originally blue or green.

The cowroids, with a rope border on the back, are of the Hyksos period.

The XVIIIth Dynasty (1700-1400 B.C.,) begins with some of a poor style but it soon disappeared. The peculiarity of the first part of this Dynasty is the dark green glaze—rather greyish—this was followed by those of brilliant tints in the time of Amen-hotep IIIrd, (1500-1433 B.C.,) those of red, yellow, violet, chocolate and other colors. They are never met with later.

At the end of the XVIIIth Dynasty, pottery rings came into general use and are more frequently met with than scarabs. Their range is from Amen-hotep IIIrd to Rameses IInd.

In the XVIIIth Dynasty the art of glazing deteriorated, and most of the scarabs of this period have now lost their original colors, and are at present only browns and greys.

Under Rameses IInd and his successors the work is poorly done.

In the XXIVth (the Saitic Period, circa 733 B.C.,) and in the XXVth Dynasties, there was a revival and better work and glaze and there remain of this time some fine examples.

The XXVIth (666-528 B.C. Saitic,) was poor in results but the work neat. The scarab form had nearly run its course and continued, in a debased style, until the close of the native monarchy with the XXXth Dynasty (circa 378 B.C.)

Place had much to do with the difference between scarabs, local styles of manufacture made more differences than various Dynasties. This is a subject very difficult to investigate; we have but few sources of information on this subject. At ancient Tanis (now called by the Arabs, San,) they are all of schist, rough and small, the glaze nearly always gone; within a short distance from there, at Nebesheh, they are usually of pottery with bright apple-green glazes; at Naukratis, the Ancient Egyptian name of which was Am and which was a city in the time of the XIIth Dynasty, they are mostly of soft glazed pottery, or, of a blue paste, and nearly all are small; in the ruins of this city was found a factory for making Greek scarabs in imitation of the Egyptian style.[22] It is said, that those with scroll border, are from the ancient city of Abydos.

A curious thing is, the re-issue of those of an earlier king by a later monarch, examples of these are, re-issues under queen Hatshepsu (circa 1600 B.C.,) and Tehuti-mes IIIrd (circa 1600-1566 B.C.,) of the XVIIIth Dynasty. The earlier and later names are often on one scarab. We cannot therefore be sure of the age of a scarab, even from the inscription, as it may be of a period subsequent to the king named on it. However these re-issues were only in a few special periods. One point to be noted is, we find similar work and color in the majority of those made under each pharaoh, and such style is different from that of any earlier or later age; through this we have a guide as to the original dating of most scarabs from the IVth Dynasty to the end. No subsequent period shows us similarities to the majority of the scarabs of any one king.

To the unlearned probably all scarabs look alike, but to an eye educated on the subject, the peculiarities of each Dynasty, and even of separate reigns, become evident. The value of scarabs to the historian is therefore great, as the study of scarabs will reveal, the names of kings unknown heretofore from any of the other monuments so far discovered.


[19] This is chalcedony penetrated by minute green fibres of hornblende. It is now found principally in India and China. The color is frequently equal to that of the finest emerald, but the yellow patches or black spots running through it, distinguish its species. Ancient specimens have been found free of these marks and very transparent. They may have had a method in ancient times of freeing the stone from these spots.

[20] Historical Scarabs. A series of Drawings from the Principal Collections. Arranged chronologically, by W.M. Flinders Petrie, author of, Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, etc. London, D. Nutt, 1889.

[21] I have generally used in this work the ordinary well known forms of the Egyptian proper names, such as Rameses, Thotmes, Amen-hotep, etc., instead of the more unusual, but more correct and learned, names: Ra-messu, Tehuti-mes, Amen-hetep, etc. The dates are based on those of Dr. Heinrich Brugsch-Bey.

[22] Ten Years Digging in Egypt, etc., by W.M. Flinders Petrie. London, 1892, p. 45.



The art of the lapidary is asserted in the Book of Enoch, to have been taught to mankind by the angel Azazel,[23] chief of the angels who took to themselves wives from among the daughters of men. The most ancient method consisted, in obtaining a flat surface by rubbing or scraping, with corundum or other hard and wearing stone, the stone to be engraved. If a very hard stone, the incising or cutting was done by drilling, wearing and polishing, through attrition, by means of a wooden or metal point, kept in connection with a silicious sand or corundum, by the medium of oil or water; and also, by the use of the punch and of the wheel. The Greek artists likely used powdered emery and copper drills. Bronze and iron drills, and those of other metals may have been used at a very early period. Pliny says, corundum was used in the form of a splinter fixed in an iron style. The ancients also appear at a very early period, to have used diamond dust and oil, and diamond splinters, framed in iron.

It has been shown by recent investigations, that the Ancient Egyptians, before the building of the Great Pyramid; cut diorite, syenite and other very hard stone, by means of saws, some of them nine feet long, having jeweled teeth inserted; and that they excavated the centre of large blocks of hard stones for use as sarcophagi, etc., by means of tubular or circular hollow drills, the cutting surface of which was armed with jewels. They then took out the core and broke down the partitions between the drilled holes, with the chisel and hammer, and thus made large excavations in the block of hard stone. They also used lathes at a most archaic period in cutting diorite and other hard stones.[24] They also used the bow-drill,[25] They also may have known and used boort.

As early as the first Theban Dynasty, the XIIth Egyptian (2466-2266 B.C.,) the Dynasty in which lived the Amen-em-hats and the Usertsens, the great early art period of the Egyptian empire,[26] the Egyptians engraved on amethyst, jasper and rock crystal, and at that early period did some of the most beautiful work remaining to us of their glyptography. The signets however were not always in scarab form, they were sometimes squares or parallelograms.[27]

There is now in the Museum of the Louvre in Paris, France, the finest old cameo in the world. It is of the reign of Amen-em-hat IIIrd of the XIIth Dynasty, (2300 B.C.) This was the first Theban Dynasty and is a very rare period for Egyptian cameo work, as they then usually incised their engraving on precious stones and did not engrave them in relief.[28] The stone is a square sardonyx and is engraved in relief, with great fineness on one side, with a figure the name of which can be read Ha-ro-bes, the other side is incised and has the figure of a pharaoh killing a prisoner, whom he holds by the beard, with a mace; the cartouch reads, Ra-en-ma, i.e., Amen-em-hat IIIrd. The intaglio work on this side is not equal to that in cameo, on the other.

There is yet in existence the signet ring of the celebrated Queen Hatshepsu (circa 1600-1566 B.C.) It is made of fine turquoise, cut in the form of a scarab, perforated longitudinally and hung on a swivel. On the under side is engraved the family name of the Queen.[29] There also exists the signet ring of Amen-hotep IInd, (1566-1533 B.C.,) having inserted in it a fine green glazed scarab.[30]

The description of the working and engraving of precious stones in the VIIth century before our era, is given in Ezekiel[31] where addressing the king of Tyre, he says: "Thou art covered with precious stones of all kinds, with the ruby, emerald, diamond, hyacinth, onyx, jasper, sapphire, carbuncle, sardonyx and gold. The wheels and drills of the lapidaries, were prepared in thy service for the day in which thou wert created."

The use of the signet ring is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament.[32] There, are also the phrases, "Sealed up in a bag;"[33] "A book that is sealed;"[34] "Written evidence sealed;"[35] "Sealed with clay;"[36] "Sealing with the signet of the king."[37] There are also many places referring to the use of seals in the New Testament.

In Genesis, we find Thamar asking from Judah, his seal, seal string and staff; in pledge.[38] In the same book, but referring to a much later period,[39] Pharaoh takes his signet ring, in which was likely set a scarab, from his hand and puts it on the hand of Joseph, so as to confer sovereign authority upon him.[40]

In Exodus,[41] mention is made of the engraving of Shoham stones as a signet, i.e., in intaglio, as done by Betzaleel for the ephod of the High Priest, and for his breastplate, engraved in the same way; these were hard precious stones. We do not know with certainty the names of these stones in English. The Hebrew names of those on the first row of the ephod, are; odem, piteda, bareketh; second row, nophesh, saphir, yahlome; third row, lesheme, shevo, a'halama; fourth and last row, tarshish, shokam, yoshphe.

Some archaeologists argue, that the original form of the Egyptian seal was that of a cylinder, and from thence would deduce, that the Egyptians, or at the least Egyptian art, came from Mesopotamia. I would now say, that I do not believe that fact can be correctly deduced, from the cylindrical form sometimes used in Egypt. The cylinder perforated is only a form of the bead, and beads were one of the earliest forms of decoration and ornament, used by primitive man. The earliest shape of genuine seals known and used in Egypt, is that in the scarab form and that form is peculiarly Egyptian; cylinders however were sometimes used by that people in early times. The Egyptians at a time, to us beyond all positive history, took advantage of and used the intaglio seal, so as to secure, by its impression, the authenticity of personal acts whether done by the sovereign, his chancellor, or his treasurer, or by private individuals; and they sometimes made use of signets of a cylindrical form, which they applied upon clay or wax, but such were not frequently used in Egypt. The cartouch of the earliest known king, Mena, (4400 B.C.,) is in the form of the outline of the under side of the scarab.

It was because of its shape, the oval, ellipse, or ring form of the line around the cartouch, it not having an end; that the pharaohs, always having in mind immortality, have placed their names within that form. The incised oval capable of producing millions of impressions, would also be thought of as an emblem of reproduction, renewment and eternity.

Indeed in all the different epochs of its greatness, we will find used in Egypt, a few cylinders of hard stone upon which are well engraved cartouches. There is one in serpentine in the National Library of Paris bearing the name of Khufu or Kheops, of the IVth Dynasty, (3733 B.C.,) builder of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh. They have been found of soapstone made in the period of the IVth Dynasty, and of schist enameled green, of the periods of Amen-em-hat Ist, Amen-em-hat IInd and of Sovkhotpu IIIrd, pharaohs of the XIIth and XIIIth Dynasties. These were royal cylinders. After the XVIIIth Dynasty such are very rare in that form.

"The cylinders," says a very learned writer upon Oriental Glyptic Art; "whatever may be their material, have never shown the mark of a foreign influence upon the soil of Egypt. Nevertheless the relations of Egypt and Chaldea date from the very highest antiquity."[42] Scarabs became unfashionable in Egypt in the XIIth Dynasty and cylinders were largely used. They were used by the Usertsens and the Amen-em-has, but after the XIIth Dynasty cylinders are rare in Egypt. The shape of the cartouch does not appear to have been changed.

Rings came into fashion with Amen-hotep IIIrd and died out under Rameses IInd, the last king whose name we find on a bezel. I do not deny that relations existed from the most archaic periods between the people of Mesopotamia and those of Egypt, the discoveries of the magnificent sculpture in and beautifully incised writing on, green diorite; one of the hardest, toughest, and heaviest, stones known; found at Telloh by M. de Sarzec, which had to be brought in large blocks from the quarries of Sinai; take us back to the most remote period, in which we have any knowledge of the inhabitants of Lower Mesopotamia. One of the most wonderful ancient statues in existence is that of king Khaf-Ra of the IVth Dynasty, the Khephren of the Greek writers, builder of the second Great Pyramid of Gizeh, (circa 3666 B.C.,) now in the Museum of Gizeh, Egypt. This statue, a full sized portrait-statue, is made of green diorite highly polished and is a magnificent work of Egyptian art. Its base is inscribed: "Image of the Golden Horus, Khephren, beautiful god, lord of diadems."[43] This shows, that the Egyptians worked the quarries of diorite at Sinai and sculptured in it, about 4000 B.C.[44] The figures found at Telloh are in a seated position, are sculptured in archaic Egyptian style, and are covered with beautifully incised writing.[45]

I also know from the cuneiform inscriptions, that relations existed between the First Empire of Chaldea and the pharaohs of the Great Pyramids of Gizeh, as early as the reign of the Chaldean king Naram-Sin; (circa 3755 B.C.) Subsequent to the periods cited, there exist a number of historical facts showing the knowledge of each other, possessed by the inhabitants of the valley of the Nile and the people of Mesopotamia.[46]

The same specialist in Oriental glyptics, says: "The efforts of some learned men to discover traces of a reciprocal influence have been fruitless. The pyramids of Egypt have no affinity with those of Chaldea, the sculpture of Egypt does not resemble in anything that of Nineveh or Caleh; would the glyptic art have escaped that individual development which characterizes the two peoples? I think not; at least we have no proof of it."[47]

And a very erudite archaeologist of our day, Hodder M. Westropp, holds; that the Assyrian cylinders came into that country from Egypt and did not come from Assyria into Egypt.[48]

Scarabs went out of use under the so-called Heretic kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty. Some fine enamel work on other subjects was made in this period, showing that art had not degenerated, indeed the discoveries made in the ruins of Khuaten, the present town called Tell-el-Amarna, show remains of magnificent monuments sculptured in the period of the Heretic kings of Egypt, (circa 1466-1400 B.C.)

The scarab became again in use in the time of Hor-em-heb and Sethi I., and rings again became fashionable in Egypt.

After the fall of the Ramessidian kings, the priestly Dynasty of Her-hor does not appear to have made use of them very largely. In the recent great discovery at Dayr-el-Baharee very few were found, and none bearing the name of Her-hor or his immediate family.


[23] The Book of Enoch, etc., by Rev. George H. Schodde, Ph.D. Andover, 1882, pp. 67, 68.

[24] Ten Years Digging in Egypt, 1881-1891, by W.M. Flinders Petrie, etc. The Religious Tract Soc. London, 1892, pp. 19, 20, 26 et seq., 119.

[25] Ibid., p. 119.

[26] Egypt Under the Pharaohs, etc., by Heinrich Bragsch-Bey. London, 1891, p. 80 et seq.

[27] M. Menant in, Les Pierres Gravees de la Haute-Asie. Paris, 1886, Part II., p. 193 et seq.

[28] Ibid., p. 194.

[29] Recueil de Travaux Relatifs a la Philol. et a l'Archeol. Egypt, etc., publie sous la direction de G. Maspero. Paris, 1888, Vol. X., p. 126.

[30] Ibid.

[31] XXVIII., 13. Comp. De Luynes, Numismatique des Satrapies, p. 71. G. Perrot and C. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art Phenicie, Vol. III., p. 632.

[32] I Kings, XXI., 8; Deut. XXXII., 34; Neh. IX., 38, XI., 1; Esth. VIII., 8, 10.

[33] Job XIV., 17.

[34] Isa. XXIX., 11; Dan. IX., 24, XII., 49.

[35] Jer. XII., 10, XXXII., 11, 14, 44.

[36] Job XXXVIII., 14; Isa. VIII., 16.

[37] Dan. VI., 17; Esth. III., 12, VIII., 8, 10; I Kings, XXI., 8.

[38] Gen. XXXVIII., 18, 25, 26.

[39] Ibid. XLL, 42.

[40] Brugsch-Bey says: "The immigration of Joseph into Egypt was about 1730 B.C., near the time of the reign of the Hyksos King, Nub." Egypt Under the Pharaohs. London, 1891, p. 120 et seq.

[41] XXXIX., 6, 7, 10, 14.

[42] M. Joachim Menant, Les Pierres Gravees de la Haute-Asie. Recherches sur la Glyptique Orientale. Paris, 1886, Part II., p. 197.

[43] Bragsch-Bey in his, Egypt Under the Pharaohs. London, 1891, p. 36 et seq.

[44] M. Auguste Mariette, Outlines of Ancient Egyptian History, makes the IVth Dynasty begin at 4235 B.C.

[45] Decouvertes en Chaldee par M. Ernest de Sarzec, etc. Ouvrage accompagne de planches, etc. Paris, 1884, et seq. See also, Article in Harper's Magazine, January, 1894, and Qabbalah, etc., by Isaac Myer. Philadelphia, 1888, p. 237 et seq.

[46] See the instances given by M. Menant in his Les Pierres Gravees de la Haute-Asie. Recherches sur la Glyptique Orientale, etc. Paris, 1886, p. 197 et seq.

[47] Ibid., p. 200.

[48] Hand-book of Archaeology. London, 1867, pp. 253, 289. Recently Dr. Fritz Hommel, in his, Der babylonische Ursprung der aegyptischen Kultur, Muenchen, 1892, has endeavored to prove the contrary.



The oldest scarabs, as to which one can feel any certainty of their being genuine, are those I have mentioned bearing the name of Neb-Ka incised on the under surface. This pharaoh was of the IIIrd Dynasty and was living according to Brugsch-Bey, (3933-3900 B.C.)[49] That would make 5,826 years past according to Brugsch. Auguste Mariette would make it much more ancient.

These scarabs were made of pottery and glazed a pale green. It has been stated by some archaeologists that the oldest scarabs were not engraved, the under part being made to represent the legs of the beetle folded under its body, but this is only a supposition, as the age can only be determined with any certainty, by the inscriptions incised on the under part and those not so inscribed, may be of different periods, some of very late times.

The forms usually met with in the tombs are, first; those with the lower part as a flat level surface for the purpose of having an inscription incised upon it; those having the engraving incised upon such a surface; and those with the legs inserted under them in imitation of nature. Sometimes the head and thorax are replaced by a human face, and occasionally the body or the elytra have the form of the Egyptian royal cap.

They often hold between the fore-legs representations of the sun.

The smaller scarabs have as subjects engraved upon them, representations of the Egyptian deities, the names of the reigning pharaohs, of queens, animals, religious symbols, sacred, civil and funeral emblems, names of priests, nobles, officers of state and private individuals, ornaments, plants, and sometimes dates and numbers written in ciphers. Some have upon them mottoes, such as: "Good Luck," "A Happy Life," etc., being used for sealing letters, etc., and as presents. The larger sized have frequently texts and parts of chapters from the Book of the Dead.

We can therefore make a general classification of scarabs into:

I. Mythological or Religious, containing subjects, figures or inscriptions, connected with kosmogony, kosmology, or, religion.

II. Historical, containing royal cartouches and names of men, and figures relating to civil customs.

III. Physiographical, containing animals or plants connected with consecrated symbols.

IV. Funereal, connected with the Ka or life of the mummy in this world, and with the journey of his Ba or responsible soul, through the under-world.

V. Talisman or Amulets, to preserve the wearer from injury in this world, by men or by evil spirits.

VI. Signets or Seals for official use, to verify documents or evidence, protect property and correspondence, etc.

VII. And others, which have upon them only ornamental designs, as to which we cannot, up to this time, ascertain the meaning.

The Historical scarabs are of great value in ascertaining or displaying, in chronological series, the cartouches or shield names, if I may be permitted thus to term them, of the monarchs of Egypt; going from the most remote antiquity of the Egyptian kingdom, to A.D. 200.

"The Ancient Egyptians," remarks the Rev. Mr. Loftie, in his admirable little book; Of Scarabs, p. 30 et seq., "happy people, had no money on which to stamp the image and superscription of their Pharaohs. A collection of scarabs, inscribed with the names of kings, stands therefore to Egyptian history as a collection of coins stands to the history of the younger nations of the earth. The day must come when our Universities and other bodies of learned folk, will study the beginnings of things as they are presented in Egyptian history, and some knowledge of these curious little objects will become indispensable to an educated man * * * * The collection now arranged in the British Museum is second to none."

I would also say, those in the Louvre at Paris, are now arranged chronologically. A good collection is also in the Egyptian Museum at Gizeh, collected by M. Mariette; formerly it was very fine. Mr. W.M. Flinders Petrie asserts[50] that most have been stolen, and further says: "I hear that they were mainly sold to General Cesnola for New York." If these are in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of New York City, it possesses a genuine and rare collection of scarabs.

A large number of scarabs bear the names of the pharaonic kings; this is not strange when we remember that the pharaoh was Horus, Khepera, and also a son of Ra and of Osiris. These cartouches are those of kings of orthodox Egyptian descent, we do not find the names of the Greek Ptolemies upon them, the Roman Emperors, as conquerors, sometimes used them but that does not prove their abstract right to do so.

The latest, in the collection belonging to France, is of Nectanebo the last native pharaoh, (circa 300 B.C.)

Some of them, as did those of Thotmes IIIrd, bear the inscription, Ra-men-kheper, i.e., Ra, the sun-god establishes the future resurrection. This is found on fully one-half of the specimens from the XVIIIth Dynasty down.

The art of making the scarabs as I have said before, varies with the epochs. The most elegantly finished are those of the time of the IVth Dynasty (3733-3600 B.C.,) that of the Great Pyramids; in the XIIth Dynasty (2466-2266 B.C.,) fine work again appears, then comes inartistic work. Again with the XVIIIth Dynasty (1700-1433 B.C.,) arises another period of splendor, and the art after again deteriorating revived under the XXVIth, the Saitic Dynasty, (666-528 B.C.)

Amenophis (or Amen-hotep) IIIrd of the XVIIIth Dynasty, the Memnon of the Greeks,[51] (circa 1500-1466 B.C.,) had a number of large scarabs made, their object was not sepulchral nor were they to be used as talisman, but they apparently were made for the incising upon them, of purely historical inscriptions; such monuments are exceedingly rare and are almost limited to the time of this Pharaoh. In the great building erected by him, now known as the Temple of Luxor, were found four of these great inscribed scarabs. Rosellini has given copies and explanations of two of them. Dr. Samuel Birch has given a translation of them, which I think is subject to revision.[52] One relates to the marriage of Amen-hotep IIIrd in the tenth year of his reign, with his queen Thya, (Taia, or Thai;) a second relates to the same subject and to the arrival of Thya and Gilukipa in Egypt, with 317 women; a third, now in the Vatican, mentions a tank or sacred lake, made for the queen Thya, in the eleventh year and third month of his reign, to celebrate the Festival of the Waters, on which occasion he entered it, in a boat of "the most gracious Disk of Ra," i.e., the sun-god. This substitution of the boat of the "Disk of Ra" for the usual boat of Amen-Ra, is the first indication of a new, or heretical, sun worship.[53]

One in the Museum of the Louvre (No. 580-747, Vitrine N.) reads: "The living Horus, the bull strong through the Ma, the sovereign of the two regions, supporter of the laws and preserver of the land (country,) the Horus triumphant and great by his valor, vanquisher of the Asiatics, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-ma-neb (the prenomen of the king,) son of the sun, Amenophis III., giving life. The queen Taia living.

Account of the lions brought from Asia by his Majesty, namely: from the first year to the tenth, savage lions 102."

Another in the same Museum (582-787, Vitrine N.) This begins, as the preceding, with an eulogy of Amenophis III. and follows with: "The principal consort Taia, living, the name of her father (is) Auaa. The name of her mother (is) Tuaa, She is the consort of the victorious king whose frontiers (extend) to the south as far as Ka ro (or, Karai, perhaps Soudan,) to the north as far as Naharina," i.e., Mesopotamia. There are many other historical scarabs in this Museum but these have the longest and most important inscriptions.

Another scarab of this Pharaoh is in the collection of the Rev. W.J. Loftie, of London, England. It is large, 3-1/2 inches long by 2-1/4 inches wide, it is made of steatite and glazed; it tells: "The number of fierce lions brought in by his majesty, and killed by him, from the beginning of his first (year) to the tenth year of his reign, were 102."[54]


[49] Egypt Under the Pharaohs, etc. London, 1891, p. 20.

[50] Historical Scarabs, etc., by W.M. Flinders Petrie. London, 1889, p. 14.

[51] Egypt Under the Pharaohs, by Brugsch-Bey. London, 1891, pp. 205, 206, 208.

[52] Records of the Past, Vol. XII., p. 37 et seq.

[53] Bunsen. Egypt's Place in Hist., etc., III., p. 142, etc.; also Records of Past, above cited.

[54] An Essay of Scarabs, by W.J. Loftie, B.A., F.S.A. London, (125 copies printed,) pp. 37, 38.



The small sized scarabs were usually incised with hieroglyphics and perforated longitudinally; they are generally found on the breasts of mummies next the skin or suspended from the neck, by a wire of gold or other metal, or a string going through them, or worn like a ring stone on the forefinger of the left hand; and sometimes, grasped inside of the closed left hand. The inscriptions on them usually run from right to left. One method of wearing them by the living, a very ancient one, was by stringing them on a cord or a wire, so that they could be worn as a bracelet on the wrist, a necklace around the throat, or as a pendant to a necklace. The engraved base serving not only as an amulet but also as the private signet of the owner. Soldiers wore them suspended around the neck, as a talisman when going into battle and also to instil courage in them during the fray. But the most usual mode of mounting them by the living, was as a stone for a finger ring on a swivel, or a wire, passing through the longitudinal perforation and then curved into a ring shape; this was usually worn on the forefinger of the left hand, as that finger was thought by the Egyptians, to contain a nerve leading directly to the heart; the engraved part was turned next to the flesh. M. Mariette says, that the mummies of the XIth Dynasty nearly always have a scarab on the little finger of the left hand.[55]

Sometimes they were made of baked clay or cut in steatite, with the head of a hawk, cow, ram, dog, cat, lion, or even of a man, and such have been found buried with the mummies. Those found on the breasts of mummies embalmed most carefully and expensively, and in immediate contact with the flesh, have sometimes bodies of stone with extended wings, as if flying; these wings sometimes having been made of metal, frequently of gold, and at other times of cut stone.[56] Those found made of stone with extended wings, also had the latter often made of lead or silver; when of blue pottery, the wings were generally made of the same material.

On the lids of the outer cases of many coffins, especially of the finest; the position over the breast of the mummy was occupied by a large winged scarabaeus, moulded apparently, of pasteboard or of successive layers of gummed linen, and then beautifully painted in colors. This was to act as the protector Khepra, of the ka or immaterial vitality of the sahu or mummy. The Egyptians had a complicated psychology which we will refer to more fully hereafter.

Those within the coverings were most probably put inside of the mummy wrappings to act as talisman, like the writing upon the linen wrappings, and the bandelettes inscribed with texts from the Book of the Dead, or, the Shait an Sensen, i.e., Book of the Breathings of Life, and as also were enclosed, copies of entire chapters and parts, of the Book of the Dead, written upon papyrus or linen; or inscribed on the large stone scarabs, which were put in the body of the corpse, to take the place of the heart, the last having been deposited with the lungs, in the jar of Tuamautef, one of the four Canopic jars. The idea being to drive away evil spirits, supposed to be injurious to the passage of the soul of the dead, upon its journey through the under-world to the new birth and power of transformation, in the eternal heaven of the Egyptians.

There appears to have been two divisions of that eternal heaven, one called Aar and Aanru, the place in which agricultural labors were performed, and the other Hotep, the place of repose. Both are mentioned in the Book of the Dead.

Indeed some chapters of the Book of the Dead were only inscribed on the linen winding sheet of the mummy, and the texts of the CLIVth chapter were only recovered recently, upon the unrolling of the mummy of Tehuti-mes, or Thotmes, IIIrd (1600 B.C.,) of the XVIIIth Dynasty, the great warrior king of Egypt, found a few years past at Dayr-el-Baharee; inscribed upon his linen winding sheet. As the winding sheet was the only proper place for this text, and as it is unique, it likely would not ever have been known, if this Pharaoh's mummy had not been discovered unmutilated.

The small scarabs were usually placed upon the eyes or the breast, sometimes over the stomach. They were strung into a net to cover the corpse and were sewed on the wrappings. As many as three thousand have been found in one tomb.

Egyptian scarabs were found by Mr. Layard, in his explorations on the banks of the Khabour in Mesopotamia, at Arban; and he gives plates of the same.[57] Three are of the reigns of the Egyptian kings Thotmes IIIrd, and one of Amenophis IIIrd. They are mostly of steachist, and of the XVIIIth Dynasty. He found one of hard stone, an agate, engraved with an Assyrian emblem.[58] He also found at Nimrud; cubes of bronze upon which were scarabs with outstretched wings, inlaid in gold,[59] and bronze bowls with conventional forms of the scarab, rather Phoenician than Egyptian, in the centre of the inside.[60]

After the Christian era the influence of cult of the scarab was still felt. St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, calls Jesus: "The good Scarabaeus, who rolled up before him the hitherto unshapen mud of our bodies."[61] St. Epiphanius has been quoted as saying of Christ: "He is the scarabaeus of God," and indeed it appears likely that what may be called, Christian forms of the scarab, yet exist. One has been described as representing the crucifixion of Jesus; it is white and the engraving is in green, on the back are two palm branches; many others have been found apparently engraved with the Latin cross.[62]


[55] Cat. of the Museum of Boulak, p. 34.

[56] Pettigrew, Hist. of Mummies, p. 220.

[57] Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, etc., by Austen H. Layard, M.P. New York, 1853, p. 280 et seq.

[58] Ibid., p. 595.

[59] Ibid., p. 196.

[60] Ibid., p. 186.

[61] Works, Paris, 1686, Vol. I., col. 1528, No. 113. Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity, etc., by Samuel Sharpe. London, 1863, p. 3.

[62] An Essay of Scarabs, by W.J. Loftie, B.A., F.S.A., pp. 58, 59.



As I have already said: the larger scarabs are usually found in the body of the mummy in place of the heart, which was always taken out of the corpse and placed in one of the visceral vases, that of Tuamautef. The scarab was a symbol of the re-birth, resurrection and the eternal life of the soul, pronounced pure at the psychostasia; and we know from the Book of the Dead, that at the moment of resurrection, in analogy to the beginning of terrestrial life, it was the heart that was asserted to be given to the dead so as to receive the first vitality of the second birth, it was through the heart that the mummy would revive, thence the inscribed scarab was placed in the mummy in the place formerly occupied by its heart when in terrestrial life. Sometimes the representation of a human heart was engraved on the scarabaeus. The small scarabs are not often found inside of the mummy. But frequently large stone scarabs have been found in it in the place of the heart, on which, incised in very small characters, are portions of the Book of the Dead. Those usually inscribed are, the XXXth chapter or those parts of the LXIVth, line 34, or of the XXVIIth chapters, which relate to the heart of a man. They begin usually with the formula: "My heart which comes from my mother, my heart which is necessary for my transformations," etc. They are, following the commands in the Book of the Dead, frequently set in gold, sometimes in bronze, and sometimes are incised with the shape of the hieroglyph for the heart.

At some very remote period, so remote that we cannot even surmise its date, the scarabaeus symbol was considered as embodying not only the idea of the creator but also, the idea of the life beyond the grave in eternal futurity. Some scholars assert that the Egyptians rejected every abstraction and did not have any philosophy. This I do not and cannot believe from my investigations of their learning, but I do think, that we have not yet grasped nor understood that philosophy in its fullness, from the few remnants of it which have reached our day. The oldest texts and monuments show, a high condition of culture and thought as well as artistic feeling; the unknown deity was idealized and never represented to the eye on the monuments of early times; the Great Sphinx, itself a philosophical abstraction, was made long before the historical period; and the Book of the Dead, shows beneath its pages, a hidden religious metaphysical philosophy not yet unraveled. This was, likely, secretly taught by word of mouth as Qabbalah or Oral Tradition to the initiates, and was never put into writing. Some of these ideas we have just grasped, for instance, we now have some knowledge of the Egyptian divisions of the spiritual or immaterial part of man, of his psychology, and upon studying these divisions one can readily imagine, a secret religious philosophy accompanying those separations of the spiritual in man. We are also obtaining some knowledge, of their idea of God and of their kosmology and kosmogony.

Six thousand years ago Egypt had attained great advancement. "Its religion was established. It possessed a language and writing. Art under the IVth and Vth Dynasties had reached a height which the following Dynasties[63] never surpassed. It had an especially complicated administration, the result of many years. The Egyptians had civil grades and religious grades, bishops as well as prefects. Registration of land surveys existed. The pharaoh had his organized court, and a large number of functionaries, powerfully and wisely arranged, gravitated around him. Literature was honored and books were composed on morals, some of which have reached our day. This was under the Ancient Empire during which existed the builders of the Pyramids."[64] The deities of literature and of libraries already existed, they were Thoth, the Greek Hermes; Atmu, of Thebes; Ma or Maat, goddess of the harmony of the entire universe, or its law of existence, and of righteousness; Pacht, the mistress of thoughts; Safekh, goddess of books, who presided over the foundations of monuments and who was venerated at Memphis as early as the IVth Dynasty; Selk, who was also the goddess of libraries.

"In one of the tombs at Gizeh, a great functionary of the first period of the VIth Dynasty (circa 3300 B.C.,) takes the title of: 'Governor of the House of Books.' This simple mention incidentally occurring between two titles, more exalted, would suffice, in the absence of others, to show us the extraordinary development which had been reached in the civilization of Egypt at that time. Not only had that people a literature, but that literature was sufficiently large to fill libraries; and its importance was so great, that one of the functionaries of the court was especially attached to the care and preservation of the royal library. He had, without doubt, in his keeping with the contemporaneous works, the books written under the first Dynasties, books of the time of Mena and perhaps of kings anterior to Mena. The works in the library would be composed of religious works; chapters of the Book of the Dead, copied after authentic texts preserved in the Temples; scientific treatises on geometry, medicine and astronomy; historic books in which were preserved the sayings and doings of the ancient kings, together with the number of the years of their lives and the exact duration of their reigns; manuals of philosophy and practical morals and perhaps some romances," etc.[65]

The learned of that ancient people followed special lines of study and thought. There was a division of them known as the Herseshta, or Teachers of Mysteries. These were subdivided, among other divisions into: "The Mystery Teachers of Heaven," or, the astronomers and astrologers; "The Mystery Teachers of All Lands," or, the geographers and those who studied other peoples and countries; "The Mystery Teachers of the Depth," likely, the possessors of a knowledge of minerals, mining, varieties of rocks, etc.; "Mystery Teachers of the Secret Word," doubtless those interested in abstract thought, religious metaphysics and philosophy; "Mystery Teachers of the Sacred Language," men who devoted themselves to grammar and the form of writing; "Mystery Teachers of Pharaoh, or, 'of all the commands of Pharaoh,'" wise men, likely private scribes and secretaries of the king; "Mystery Teachers who examine Words," likely learned men who sat as judges to hear complaints, and sift the opposing statements of litigants and witnesses. The learned writers known as scribes were also divided into many branches.[66]

We cannot accept the statements of most of the Greek authors upon this subject, for the study of the last few years of the Ancient Egyptian papyri and other remains, shows that they either did not know or they willfully misrepresented, Egyptian abstract thought; about the only works, outside of the papyri and the monuments, from which we can gather as to it with any sureness, meagre details; are the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistos; the Osiris and Isis, of Plutarch; the work ascribed to Horapollon, and the book of Iamblichus, entitled: A Treatise on the Mysteries. The Greek writers upon Ancient Egypt, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Thales, Plato, Pythagoras, Solon, and others, of less note; give but little assistance, indeed in many cases their statements are misleading. It is a question yet to be solved, as to how much of the foundations of the philosophy of Pythagoras, Plato, Solon and other Greek writers, were obtained from the learned men of Egypt or their writings.[67]

Chapter XXX. of the Per-em-hru, or, Book of the Dead, has frequently in the papyrus copies, a picture of the soul of the dead in adoration before a scarabaeus set upright upon a support. This chapter is entitled: "Chapter of not allowing the heart of a man to have opposition made to it in the divine inferior region." It says towards the end: "This chapter is to be said over a scarabaeus of hard stone, formed and set in gold, which should be placed in the breast of the man, after the opening of the mouth has been made and the head anointed with oil; then the following words shall be said over him in right of a magical charm: 'My heart which comes to me from my mother, my heart which is necessary to me for my transformations.'" See, Appendix A.

The whole of this chapter was frequently engraved upon the large scarabs, which were placed in the breasts of the mummies in place of the heart.

The LXIVth chapter of the Book of the Dead, is one of the oldest of the entire collection and line 34 et seq., uses the same language as to the heart, and says: "Put it on a scarabaeus of hard stone set in gold, in the breast of the mummy, having engraved on it: 'My heart is my mother,'" etc. This chapter is fuller than the other just cited.

The CLXIIIrd chapter, lines 9, 10, says: "O Amen bull-scarabaeus, master of the eyes: 'Terrible with the pupil of the eye' is thy name. The Osiris * * * (here the name of the deceased was inserted,) is the emanation of thy two eyes." That is, Amen is here invoked as the bull-symbol of generation and also as the scarabaeus, that is, as the creator who has engendered himself.

Chapter CLXV. of the same book, has as a vignette or picture: The god Khem, ithyphallic, with the body of a scarab, etc., line 11 reads: "I do all thy words. Saying (them) over the image of the god raising the arm, having the double plume upon his head, the legs separated and the body of the scarabaeus."

The rising sun or Horus, in whose arms it was asserted, the dead arose into the upper life, was represented by the scarabaeus under the name of Khepra, Khepera, or Khepri, this name among its other meanings signifying: "The itself transforming," and this is hieroglyphically written by the use of the scarabaeus. The body of Khepera as a deity is surmounted in some of the representations, by a scarab in place of a human head.

In chapter XXIV. of the Book of the Dead, we read: "Khepra transforms itself, (or, gives itself a form to itself,) on high, from the thigh of its mother." This is more fully developed in a papyrus in the Louvre which reads: "The majesty of this great god attains that reign (the twelfth division of the subterranean world, responding to the twelfth hour of the night,) which is the end of absolute darkness. The birth of this great god, when it became Khepra, took place in that region * * * It went out from the inferior region. It joined the boat mad. It raised itself above the thighs of Nut."

"O Khepra who created itself on high, from the thigh of its mother, i.e., Nu, or Nut."[68]

Nut was the goddess personifying the vault of heaven, the sky, and the space, in which the sun was supposed to have been born. The scarab it must be remembered was in the Egyptian thought, an androgyne.

In a papyrus now in Turin, Italy, we may read: "I am Khepera, the morning; Ra, the midday; Tum, the evening." It is said of Khepra as of Horus, that it produced the Ma, i.e., the law or harmony which uphold the universe, and it is merged with a form of Horus, under the name of: "Harmakhis-Khepra who gives itself its form." One of the parts played by Khepra in Ancient Egyptian thought, is condensed in that figure which we find on the top of some of the Osirian naos's or arks, the scarab in the middle of the disk emerging from the horizon.

The perpetuity of the transformations or the power to become, whenever it pleased, the form it desired; was everywhere recalled to the mind of the people of Ancient Egypt, by the symbolic figure of the scarab, the hieroglyph of the words: To become, to be, to be existing, as also creator, an amulet of power above all others. "Khepra in its bark is Har-em-Khu (or, Harmakhis) himself," (chapter XVII. Book of the Dead, line 79.) The latter is the sun re-born every day at sunrise in the East under the name of Horus, it is: "Horus in the horizon," the conqueror of darkness. The scarab as Tum-Ra-Khepra is the, "illuminator of the double earth at its going out of the under-world, great god, and master of the Ma:" that is, of the Harmony and Law, whereby the universe came into being and exists.

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