The image of the scarab beetle (Scarabeus sacer) is prominent in the royal funerary decoration of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC). After laying its eggs in a ball of dung, the scarab beetle rolls the ball before it wherever it goes. When the young beetles hatch they appear, apparently miraculously, from the dung. Thus to the ancient Egyptians the scarab beetle was a symbol of rebirth and represents the god Khepri, who was thought to push the sun disc through the morning sky, as a scarab beetle pushes its ball of dung.
The scarab beetle was also an important amulet. It first appeared during the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), and was often used as a seal, mounted on a ring, with an inscription on the flat underside. This use was extended to a funerary context during the Middle Kingdom and later, in the form of the 'heart scarab': a stone amulet in the shape of a scarab placed over the heart of the mummy.
Length: 1.500 inches
Diameter: 1.000 inches
Faience scarab bearing the name Amenhotep III
Egyptian, 1390-1352 BC
Found at Ialysos (modern Triánda), Rhodes, Aegean Sea
This seal is made in the form of a sacred scarab beetle, which was a manifestation of Khepri, an Egyptian sun-god associated with resurrection. The flat underside of this scarab is decorated with the name of the Egyptian king Amenhotep III (1390-1353 BC).
This scarab was one of the earliest finds in the Aegean that provided a fixed point in time from Egypt (that is, Amenhotep's reign) which allows us to date the Mycenaean material with which it was found. Links like this, between the Aegean and Egypt, have allowed archaeologists to establish an absolute chronology for the Aegean Bronze Age.