Unique Scarab Seal from Egyptian Thirteenth Dynasty Discovered in Israel

Unique Scarab Seal from Egyptian Thirteenth Dynasty Discovered in Israel

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A rare scarab seal has been found in Tel Dor on the Carmel Coast of Israel, south of Haifa. It is dated back to the 18th - 17th centuries BC and belonged to the period of Egypt’s Thirteenth Dynasty.

According to the Jewish Press , Alexander Ternopolsky, a birdwatcher, discovered the artifact. As soon as he made the find, he brought it to the archaeological team working at the site. Professor Ayelet Gilboa from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who is heading the excavations at Tel Dor together with Professor Ilan Sharon from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, believes that the scarab belonged to a high-ranking figure in the Egyptian kingdom, perhaps a viceroy who was responsible for the royal treasury.

The reverse of the scarab seal found in Tel Dor, Israel.

The reverse of the scarab sea l found in Tel Dor, Israel. (Tel Dor Excavations )

Exacavations started at the site in the mid-twentieth century. Since 2002, the work has been led by Professors Gilboa and Sharon. They discovered a settlement related to the Canaanite period (Late Bronze Age, the 2nd millennium BC), a Phoenician settlement, and two centers related to the Iron Age history of the Assyrians and Israelites. They also uncovered remarkable mosaics from the Hellenistic period, and remains from the Roman Period, including the ruins of a temple of Poseidon (aka. Neptune). However, the scarab is the first ancient Egyptian artifact found at the site.

“We have not yet reached the settlement of the 17th century BC, and this is why this finding is particularly important. The rains this past winter must have eroded the soil on the southern slope of the site, and thanks to Mr. Ternopolsky’s keen eyesight, the scarab was discovered and handed over to us.” Professor Gilboa explained to the Jewish Press .

People excavating at Tel Dor, Israel in 2006.

People excavating at Tel Dor, Israel in 2006. ( Public Domain )

Scarabs were very popular objects in ancient Egypt. What makes the one discovered recently in Israel more unique, is its size and quality. The artifact was discovered in an excellent state of preservation. After preliminary studies, the researchers confirmed that the stone scarab contains the engraved name of its owner, but they haven't deciphered it yet. The description of the owner’s position in society includes phrases like ''overseer of the treasury'', ''bearer of the seal'', etc. Apart from those descriptions, archaeologists also recognized the symbol of the ankh, which symbolized eternal life and meant resurrection and stability.

The city of Tel Dor, located near the coast of Isreal and at the foot of Mount Carmel, was a very important port for thousands of years. It is believed that this place may contain the necessary evidence to explain the difficult relationship between the Egyptians and Israelites. The city appears in Egyptian inscriptions dated back to the New Kingdom Period, but the recently discovered scarab from the Middle Kingdom is a very unique discovery.

Aerial view of the Tel Dor excavation site.

Aerial view of the Tel Dor excavation site. ( Sky View / Tel Dor expedition )

The researchers are trying to explain how the scarab of the viceroy reached the city of Tel Dor. One of the possible scenarios is that it arrived there by a representative of the viceroy, who came to the city for trade. Another explanation may be that it was brought there during the Roman period, when ancient artifacts were a precious souvenir. The scarab is currently being displayed at the Mizgaga Museum in Kibbutz Nahsholim. Excavations of the Tel Dor site will resume in July 2016.

Scarabs became popular during the First Intermediate Period (circa 2181 – 2055 BC), and continued to be an important part of religious symbolism until the fall of the ancient Egyptian civilization. They are related to the cult of the god Khepri .

A Scarab beetle in Tomb KV6, Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt.

A Scarab beetle in Tomb KV6, Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Egyptian artifacts discovered in Israel are a puzzle for researchers, who are still trying to put the pieces in the right order and create an image of the history of these two ancient nations. The famous Egyptologist David Rohl used the enigmatic artifacts to support his theory about the chronology of ancient Egypt.

By analyzing the Bible and other sources, he revised Egyptian chronology and asserted that the previous history of the country near the Nile is untrue. In his book Test of Time , he discussed the rulers from the 19th to the 25th dynasties. It is possible that the current, and future, discoveries in Egypt and Israel will allow researchers to better clarify, and if necessary re-date, other parts of ancient Egyptian history as well.

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