Egyptian scarab as a protective amulet
Amulet seal in the shape of a scarab with schematic top side and pseudo hieroglyphs at the underside. Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt.
Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt,
13th to 17th dynasty,
circa 1648 BC to 1550 BC.
Seal in the shape of a scarab with schematic top side. A drill hole along the long axis could be used to string the piece as an amulet.
The underside is engraved and the impression shows a set of pseudo hieroglyphs: there is a protective sign, parts of the papyrus plant and probably a palace sign. The amulet had a protective function according to the ancient Egyptian beliefs.
Scarab amulets have their origin in ancient Egypt and are shaped after the "Sacred scarab" beetle (Scarabaeus sacer). The animal was a symbol for the sun god and its representations were used in rituals already during the 1st dynasty (cf. Wilkinson, Egyptian Scarabs, Shire Egyptology, p. 7ff).
In the 2000 year span from the Old Kingdom to the ptolemaic and roman period the small amulets became extremely popular. And not only in Egypt, but in the whole Mediterranean. Their appearance changed with the centuries between naturalistic and stylized.
The beetle shaped amulet seals regained their ancient popularity in the academic collections of modern Europe. They are among the most important objects for collectors, curators and researchers. The seals show symbols or hieroglyphs that provide deep insights into the culture of ancient Egypt.
Apart from small chips and minor wear of the surface the scarab is in very good condition.
Acquired by us in 2019 on the Paris art market. Previously in the swiss collection Bouvier which was formed over 2 generations. Acquired for the collection by its founder Prof. Maurice Bouvier between 1929 and 1959 in Egypt.
Maurice Bouvier (1901 - 1981) studied law in Neuchatel and was appointed as a professor by the government of Egypt in 1929. First he taught at the University of Assiut and later at the University of Cairo where he discovered his passion for the history of Ancient Egypt. In 1943, Bouvier moved to Alexandria where he taught law until 1959. After ending his professional career, he moved to the village of Gruyeres in Switzerland in 1959, where he spent his retirement.
During the 30 years in Egypt between 1929 and 1959, Prof. Bouvier built a comprehensive collection of Egyptian art with artefacts from Prehistoric Egypt, the Pharaonic and Roman era as well as many Coptic and Islamic antiquities. In 1959, he brought his collection to Switzerland. Prof. Bouvier's collection was recognized in professional circles, many objects including the gold jewellery offered here were on exhibition in important European museums. After Mr. Bouvier passed away in 1981, his son and heir took over the vast collection, thoroughly taking care of the artefacts until they were released into the art market again in 2019 in a series of auctions.
Richard H. Wilkinson, Egyptian Scarabs, Shire Egyptology (2008).
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