Scarab with hieroglyphic inscription: extracts from The Book of the Dead.
Egyptian, New Kingdom, 1550 BC-1069 BC
Serpentine, gilding. 5,7 x 4,1 cm
Inventory number: H406
In the collection of Egyptian antiquities there are many amulets in the form of a special kind of beetle, a so-called scarab. For the ancient Egyptians the scarab was a symbol of the progress of the sun across the sky, its death in the evening and its rebirth every morning. This conception was inspired by the beetle’s behaviour when it rolls balls of dung across the earth to an underground cavity where it lays its eggs in the ball. When the eggs hatch, the new beetles then appear from the earth as if born from nothing. As an amulet the scarab offered hope of rebirth and was therefore a popular burial amulet. Particularly large amulets, so-called ‘heart scarabs’ were laid over the heart of the deceased during embalming. They were supposed to prevent the heart from revealing the misdeeds of the deceased during the weighing of the heart in the realm of the dead, where it was determined whether the deceased was to be granted rebirth and eternal life.