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W. M. Flinders Petrie. Scarabs and cylinders with names: illustrated by the Egyptian collection in University College, London (London, 1917)

View Scarabs and Cylinders PDF Online


30. Little proof of re-issues

31. Characteristics of period

32. The Antec V group

33. The Ka-nefer-uah group

34. Fixtures between Xth - VIth dynasties

35. The Unas group

36. The Vth - IIIrd dynasty group

37. Summary

30. Little proof of re-issues

In the preceding description we have noticed various indications of the scarabs being contemporary,  with the kings named on them. This is however denied by some other writers on the subject. Prof. Newberry states" that scarabs were not employed in Egypt before the end of the Sixth Dynasty, and then only very rarely" (Newberry, Scarabs, p. 69).  Mr. Hall makes a greater reservation: "Blue glazed steatite scarabs, of rude form and with roughly geometrical designs upon their bases, occur contemporaneously with the Button-seals [that is vith to viiith dynasties]. But the manufacture of fine scarab-seals does not begin till the xith dynasty, to which period belongs the scarab of Aatshet. . . . No contemporary scarab bearing the name of Amenemhat I, the first king of the xiith dynasty, is known" (Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs, xiii). After such sweeping statements, made on the alleged ground of style, it is needful to bring together the various facts bearing upon the question, and so to see if scarabs were commonly made before the xiith dynasty.

First we may clear the ground of many of the supposed re-issues of scarabs in later times. Of the commonest of all names, Menkheperra, a large part have been supposed to be later than Tehutmes III. By far the greater part of those here published are clearly of his reign; but many are later, and not only the scarabs, but also the kings whose names they bear, are later. There were at least three Menkheperra kings after Tehutmes III. The high-priest of the xxist dynasty is named on one scarab with his daughter Astemkheb (Cairo 37426). Another Men-kheper-ra appears to be named Khmeny, on his stele in Paris (Stud. Hist. iii, 293). A third Menkheperra wasNekau I, father of Psemthek I (statuette pi. liv). With these in view it cannot be said that any posthumous scarabs of Tehutmes III were ever made, except those associated with the name of Sety I and Ramessu II (pi. xxxix, xl). When we see, besides the many kings who copied the name of Ramessu II, also Uasarken III copying Pasebkhanu I, Pefdabast and Shabaka copying Pepy II, Nekau I = Tehutmes III, Psemthek II =Nefer-ab-ra (xiiith), Psemthek I and Uah-ab'ra = Aoab (xiiith), Naifoarud = Merneptah, Nekhtherheb = Senusert I, and Ptolemy II = Sety II, it is impossible to ascribe any scarabs to re-issues of earlier kings on the ground of late style, however clearly proved. Among the multitude of petty kings of the xxvth dynasty there may have been some who took any name of earlier times. It is only when one scarab bears a double name, such as Senusert III and Hotshepsut, in an age clear of vassal kings, that any certainty of a re-issue can be settled. Such a group of uniform scarabs as those of Khofra, Kho-nefer-ra (Sebekhetep III) and Men"kheper-ra (Tehutmes III), all found together by Mr. Quibell (pi. Iii), is also a good evidence of re-issue. In looking, then, at the scarabs of kings before the xiith dynasty we must remember that proved re-issues are very rare, and were probably connected with historical events ; that of Senusert III, by Hotshepsut and Tehutmes III, refers to the worship of Senusert in the temple of Kummeh built by those later rulers. The onus probandi therefore lies in all cases upon the proof of re-issue, and it is at least 100 to 1 against such copying.

31. Characteristics of period

Before attributing scarabs to late periods, we should see what are the characters of the successive ages. Broadly speaking, there is a continued degradation of work from the xiith dynasty onward; none of the various revivals reach as high a point as the best of the period before. Circular spirals were in perfection under Senusert I (12-2-1), poor under Senusert II (12-4-2), and only appear once afterward in a clumsy form under Amenhetep II (Hist. Scar. 1097). The oval scrolls, which disappeared under Senusert III, were revived at the end of the xiiith in one case, Nehesi-ra, and by Khyan of the xvth and the earlier Hyksos kings. They occur in the xviiith dynasty and under Ramessu II; but after that not a single dated scroll-pattern scarab is known. In general style there is a poverty seen under Amenemhot II, worse under Senusert III, and clumsy, coarse work in nearly all of Amenemhot III. The xiiith dynasty continues increasing in coarseness down to the xivth. The earlier Hyksos reverted to the style of the middle of the xiith dynasty; but rapidly degraded to work even worse than the xivth. In the xviiith dynasty, Aohmes only occasionally shows some fine work. The best of Amenhetep I and Hotshepsut are good, but not comparable with the best work of the early xiith dynasty. After that, continued degradation went on till the xxvth dynasty revival. The best work of that age is under Shabaka, and that does not equal the early xviiith-dynasty style. Later, the degradation progresses, and the Saite period was noted for the small size and poor work of most of its scarabs. One of Nekau II (26-2-1) is the only scarab which could stand by those of Hotshepsut, and even that is inferior in the forms of the signs, and in the work of the back.

Thus, judging by the abundant material with positive dates, it is futile to ascribe fine work like that of the xiith dynasty to the later ages, or to assign fine circular spirals to the degradation of the xivth or later dynasties. Nor can any hard-stone scarabs be found dated between the xiith and xviiith dynasties, except under the Syrian kings Khenzer and Khondy. The detail and delicacy of the work on the back and head of the scarab goes with the work of the front, excepting for a naturalistic revival limited to a very few scarabs of Akhenaten. The certainly dated material—which is the only basis by which to judge—therefore firmly limits the possibility of ascriptions to later re-issues.

earliest scarabs

32. The Antec V group

The latest group of connected scarabs before the xiith dynasty is the Ra-kheper-nub series, of a king who used to be called Antef V, but whom some have recently shifted to an undefined place near the xviiith dynasty. On his scarabs there is an attention to details of signs, like the elaborate sculptured work of the xith dynasty, which is quite unknown in the xiiith or later dynasties. The legs of the kheper are notched, as seen on 11 A, 11-7-3, 4, 5, 6, 8; exactly the same detail is used under Senusert I, 12-2-1, 7, 8; a little under Senusert II, 12-4-3, 4; and only once later, under Tehutmes II, 18-4-6. Such detail is entirely foreign to the coarse work of the late xiith to xviith, and on the scarab of Mer-kheper-ra 13-36 the sign is quite simple. On referring to the backs, it will be seen that there are two general types, the elaborate head, often with branches on the back, and the plainer head (placed below). Those in the left half are of the Antef group, all of those in the right half are of Senusert I. It is evident that both types run across the two columns. Each type belongs doubtless to a different centre of work, but the scarabs of Antef V and Senusert I were obviously made in the same style at both places. It may be said that these styles were continued later, but the fine work of the fronts is quite unknown later, and bars our placing these in the xiiith to xviith dynasties. Another dating point is in the white quartz scarab ii-y-i, with rich peacock-blue glaze. The cutting of hard stone scarabs is practically unknown on any dated examples between the middle of the xiith dynasty and the xviiith ; I have none, nor any references to such in that period. The back of this scarab accords with the early date of it, as it is beautifully worked with curves at the junction of the elytra. There is nothing known at all approaching such work after the middle, or even the beginning, of the xiith dynasty.

Thus the external evidence of age of this group, is rather for its preceding and not succeeding the xiith dynasty. Dadames, whose scarab 11-D is like others here, 11-7-6, 11-7-7, placed his name amid graffiti of Pepy. The scarabs of Senusert I in this group indicate that Dadames was near his time, in the xith dynasty.

It might be supposed that the symmetric scarab 117-6 was evidence of a later date for Ra-khepernub. But the same system appears in the beautifully cut scarab of Senusert I, 12-2-11, the brilliant sky-blue color of which is characteristic of the early and middle xiith dynasty. Similar to that again is another symmetric scarab, 12-2-10, which has a double reading Ka-ra-kheper, Ra-khepernub, the names of Senusert I and of Nub-kheper-ra Antef united. The scarab 117-5 has unfortunately lost the head, so that the type of it cannot be settled ; but it has a fine feather pattern on the leg, which begins in the xith and is rare in the xiiith dynasty. It cannot be supposed to come in shortly before the xviiith, where Antef V has otherwise been placed.

Another scarab of this group, 11 B, reads Ra-nub-seshesh, with two hawks below wearing crowns of Lower Egypt. This recalls the Ra-seshesh-upmaot Antef-oa and Ra-seshesh-her her-maot of the xith dynasty.

It has long been generally recognized that Ra-nefer-zad Dadames is closely connected with Ra-zad-onkh Mentu-em-saf, whose name is found in the same place, at Gebeleyn. The scarab Razedui-onkh, he, is probably the same king. It has a very fine circular scroll round it, quite unknown after the middle of the xiith dynasty, and most closely like scarabs of Senusert I, 12-2-1, 2, and the high priest Antef, 10 K.

The name of Mentu belongs specially to the xith dynasty, and the form . . . em saf is like Mehtiem-saf of the vith dynasty. The probabilities from the name are therefore rather in favor of the xith than of later dynasties, and the evidence of the work may be allowed full force in favor of the xth or xith dynasty. There seems no reason why Mentu-emsaf and other kings may not have belonged to the xth dynasty, contemporary with the earlier part of the xith, before the forty-three years of supremacy of the xith which is stated by Manetho.

33. The Ka-nefer-uah group

Another considerable class which belongs to this same age is that of the Ka-nefer-uah scarabs. This epithet of private persons is not found on steles, and therefore probably belongs to an age when steles are rare. It appears to be parallel to the uahem onkh, "live again," which was used at this time; and it is also connected with the favourite name Uah-ka, of the Middle Kingdom. The ka and nefer are always more closely associated than either of them with uah. The ka nefer was therefore parallel to the ka aakhet, "illuminated or glorious ka" of the 1st dynasty steles. We must read it then as a prayer or assertion that the excellent ka is established or multiplied. The age of this class is shown by the names, as we have noticed, belonging to the viith to xith dynasties. Five of these, however, are of ruder work than the others, 10, N, O, P, Q, R ; and as the xith dynasty passed on into the fine work of the xiith, these cannot be put after the others. The rude ones probably precede the others, and may reasonably be placed in the xth dynasty. The ka-ncfer-uah precedes the name on these earlier examples (N, O, P, Q), but succeeds the name on the later and fuller scarabs.

The hard-stone scarabs of small size form a distinct class, merging into more elaborate scarabs of larger size. There does not seem to be a single hard-stone scarab which can be fixed between the middle of the xiith, and the xviiith dynasties. The names in this class, of Se-khenty-khati, Antef (twice), and Mentuemhot, are probably of the xitli dynasty. The backs of 10 D, 10 E are of very fine work, highly polished, indicating the close of the xith or early xiith dynasty. The other scarabs of this class are all ruder in cutting, and less elaborate, and must be placed before the xith rather than in the xiith. We may conclude then that these begin in the ixth or xth dynasty, and run on to the beginning of the xiith. Rude as the small examples are, yet the heads are well cut and natural.

34. Fixtures between Xth - VIth dynasties

Between the xth and vith dynasties a few pieces claim a place. Mer-ab-ra Khety of the ixth dynasty has a scarab of good work 9-1; the back of it is of the same type as the two little scarabs of Neb-taui-ra Mentuhetep of the xith dynasty, but is of better and earlier style. The Merabra scarab in Paris cannot be attributed to any later king, and points thus to the symmetric border beginning well before the xiith dynasty.

A cartouche plaque of Nefer-ka-ra (7-4-2) cannot be placed in the xxvth dynasty, as the loop ends to the ka were never used as late as that age. The Ra has a central mark, which is much more usual before than after the xiith dynasty. As no king of this name is known between the viiith and the xxvth dynasties, it seems that this should be put in the viith or viiith dynasties. The cartouche form of amulet is known under Senusert I, and on to the end of the history, so it may well occur in the viiith. The cartouche plaque of Ra-ne-ka may well be of the king of that name in the viith dynasty; the form is known, as we have just seen, and the rounded coarse work in pottery is much like the scarab of Merenra of the vith, which is agreed on by Prof. Newberry as being contemporary. The oval Ra-ka-enen may perhaps be also of the same king, as the form is closely like two already dated to the xith dynasty.

An important scarab is the large one with the names Senefer-onkh-ra Pepy. This name is like the viith to viiith dynasty king, Nefer-ka-ra Pepysenb. Pepy being the most celebrated king of the vith dynasty, was copied in the following dynasty, just as Amenemhot was copied in the xiiith dynasty. Here there seems to have been another king called after Pepy, and therefore probably of the viith dynasty.

A very remarkable scarab belonging to Mr. A. L. Payne of Manchester is shown here in drawing. The style might at first be put to the Hyksos age; but it is far too good for the work of Pepa-Shesha, beside being distinctly Pepy and not Pepa. The cutting is like that of Senusert I, 12-2-7 ; and in 12-2-11 there is a guarantee that a similar arrangement is as early as Senusert I. With the plain name of Pepy on it, we should give much weight to its being made under that king. Other scarabs of his differ from this, because of local workmanship; the present example, by its resemblance to Hyksos types, is evidently of the eastern Delta. There seems no reason why tliis should not be a Delta scarab of Pepy H, or possibly of some king of the viith dynasty called after him. Thus we see that three objects with symmetric borders claim place in the viith to ixth dynasties—No. 7-9-2, the Payne Pepy, and the Paris Merabra. They belong to three separate kings, and each is placed here independently by reason of the names, and the similarity to examples not far distant. Until other evidence may show that other kings of those names also recurred later, we ought to accept these in the only position legitimate for them.

In the stamp of Teruru, with a loop behind, we have a well-fixed point of comparison of style. This very obscure king, of whom nothing is known beyond the list of Abydos, cannot be supposed to have had re-issues of a stamp in later times. The reading Teruru Neferka clearly belongs to Neferka-ra Teruru. The use of seals with a loop behind belongs to this age, of the vith to ixth dynasties. We now reach the vith dynasty, where the small indigo-blue glazed scarab of Merenra (6-4) is so closely like other glazed work of that age, that the contemporary date of this scarab is accepted as likely by Prof. Newberry. Moreover the type of the back agrees with that of Atmuhetep (10 H), which we have seen belongs to the xth to xith dynasty; and the mer tiuned with the curve upward is seen on the scarab of Khety in the ixth dynasty, and Pepy I of the vith dynasty. The two scarabs here of Mery-ra Pepy are not distinctive in their type.

35. The Unas group

In the vth dynasty there is an important group of Unas and Shepseskaf, which are connected. The main feature is that two scarabs of Unas are of closely similar work, with the large hare, and must be of the same age. One (5-9-1) has Neter nefer neb taui Unas hotep, "The good god, lord of both lands, Unas is satisfied," and there can be no doubt of this referring to the king, and probably during liis life. The other (5-9-2) reads As-un, which is as good a form grammatically as Unas, or even better; it is a birth-exclamation,"Behold the being." Such an inversion would be quite likely while the name was fresh, but would never be started in later ages when the old royal name was fossilised in the lists. There seems, then, no chance of these being later re-issues. Turning to the Shepseskaf scarab (4-6) we see a finer edition of the same head as the Unas-hetep scarab; the detailed treatment of the head, the minute eyeball, and the curves of the elytra, are finer work than any scarab after the very best of the xith and early xiith dynasties. Such work would be a miracle amid the far ruder design and cutting of all later ages ; it stands almost alone for its perfection. Hence by its isolation of refinement, and its appearing the prototype of the Unas backs, it seems that there is no other conclusion except that it is of the age of the king whose name it bears.

Regarding the other Unas pieces, the flatbacked ovoid (5-9-3) is exactly the shape and size of one with the name Senusert (12-2-26), probably of Senusert I by the style. This therefore need not be after the xiith dynasty, and might well be of the vth. Another stands or falls with one of the Khofra types.

36. The Vth - IIIrd dynasty group

Coming to Zad-ka-ra Assa, the scarab cannot possibly be placed to Shabataka of the xxvth, nor after the early xviiith dynasty, as the ka arms end in loops. The back of it is of the same family as some of the Unas and Khofra scarabs, having a slightly curved girdle line, two lines between the elytra, and—as in Khofra— a border line round the elytra but not round the thorax. The head is practically the same; only as the notching is not visible on the broken clypeus, the Khofra is classed as L, while the others are in H. The decomposed glaze on scarabs of Khofra, Assa, and Unas, is of a peculiar bright ochreous red, not seen later until Psametek, to which age these cannot possibly belong, by the style and forms of hieroglyphs. This group, then, carries with it the small plain scarab of Unas 5-9-4. It has been objected that the spiral pattern on 5-8-4 is unknown so early as the vth dynasty. But finely developed spirals appear in the xith dynasty (Antef, 11 -7 -5, and Mentuemsaf, 11 E); a precisely similar spiral is on a scarab dated by pottery to the xth dynasty [Heliopolis, pl. xxvi, p. 32); and on the animal seals of the button seal class (certainly between the vith and xiith dynasties), there are not only spirals but degraded spirals of squared form, showing that the design was familiar. There is, then, no reason against a simple form of spiral being one or two dynasties earlier than these. Of the ivth or vth dynasty must be Hetep-hers (4-C), as the name is unknown in any othei period.

At the close of the ivth dynasty is the scarab of Shepseskaf, the work of which is finer and more detailed than any others, even of the best age of the xith to xiith dynasty. As we have noted, the Unas scarabs show the same type, but less detailed and perfect; and those are shown to be contemporary, by the title neter nefer, and the inverted spelling As-un. In default of any later scarabs comparable to this, it is the most probable that it belongs to the finest period of sculpture, the ivth to vth dynasties.

Among the Khofra scarabs are several signs of early date. The Ra sign is large (4 -3 -i, 4 -3 -3) with a central disc, a form very rarely seen after the early xiith dynasty, but frequent in the Old Kingdom ; one in the British Museum has the same form of centre. The / sign in 4 -3 -4, 7, 8, is thick and slug-like ; this is the original early form, but is not usual in late times.

The Khufu scarabs are not well represented here. The beautiful small bright blue ones of the Grant Collection (Aberdeen) are quite characteristic, and unlike anything of any other age ; the Urhemt- khet scarab here (3 -9 -a) and Nebkara (3-i-i) are of the same class. Details agree to the early dating of most of these; the chick upon 4 -2 -2 has the beak shghtly open ; a characteristic of the young chick, which might be copied in an early period, but never later. The Turin scarab has the short slug-like / sign; and in general the / signs agree closely with others of Khofra, so that the dating of each group supports the other. Of course some re-issues of Khufu, of a totally different kind, were made—as under Kashta; but there is no later age in which scarabs were made with the style of signs or of work which belongs to these Pyramid kings.

The iiird-dynasty scarabs hold together as a group. On the thorax of 3-9-2 there is a border line (Q 73) curving into a curl on each shoulder. It is present, though rather less curled, on 3-9-I (see J -20). The same, though more roughly done, is on the back of Nebkara 3-1 -1 (see L-24). Though such a curled line is found at various later periods (see Q), yet there are no scarabs in those periods at all like these in their fabric or inscription.

37. Summary

It seems, then, that from the xiith dynasty back to the iiird, we find in each group well-marked details which unite them, and point to contemporary manufacture, while no group can be paralleled in any later period. In most instances the workmanship is far better than in later ages; this is not likely to be the case with re-issues, those of the living king probably receiving the most attention. The theory of an extensive issue of scarabs by late kings in commemoration of kings who left none, seems to depart along with the theory of all statues of early kings being works of the Saite age. A sense of style will save us from all such fallacies.

When we turn to scarabs which are certainly late issues, such as the Khufu found with Amenardas, and the group found by Mr. Ouibell (here pl. lii, copied from Excavations at Saqqara, 1905-6, p. 31, pi. xxxvii) the styles are quite unlike those which we have considered above. The Khufu is of coarse pottery with indigo-blue glaze, and the Saqqara group is of the soft paste class, like the scarabs of Pama and others of the Delta.

It has been urged sometimes that no scarabs of the Old Kingdom are recorded as having been found in tombs. Looking at the scarcity of them, that is not to be expected. If we take dynasties in which they are equally scarce, say xviith, xxist, xxiiird, probably not a single scarab has been found in a tomb. The number of tombs is not the question here, but the number of scarabs dated to certain periods. Another way of looking at the matter is that cylinders and sealings are as usual as scarabs of early kings. Yet there is only one instance of a cylinder found with a burial of the ivth to vith dynasties, and therefore the scarabs are not to be expected in the range of recorded groups. There is at least one record of two scarabs, found with pottery which must be earlier than the xiith dynasty, and is probably of the xth dynasty. See Heliopolis, p. 32, pl. xxvi xxvii, and coffin of tomb 509, pl. XV.

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