In Azor, Israel—which is roughly 7 kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv—a 3000 year old scarab was unexpectedly found on a school field trip. A local ruler’s legitimacy is most likely symbolized by the scene represented on the scarab.
“We were wandering around, when I saw something that looked like a small toy on the ground,” said Gilad Stern of the Israel Antiquity Authority Educational Center, who was leading the tour. “An inner voice said to me: ‘Pick it up and turn it over.’ I was astonished: it was a scarab with a clearly incised scene, the dream of every amateur archaeologist. The pupils were really excited!”
The eighth-grade students from Rabin Middle School took the trip as part of the third annual Tour-Guide Course, which was put on by the Israel Antiquity Authority. Through the training, students may impart their knowledge of local archeological history to Azor people.
According to the news of Israel National News, the common dung beetle was used as inspiration for the scarab’s design. The small beetle spins a ball of dung twice its size where it stores its future progeny, and the ancient Egyptians interpreted this as the representation of creation and regeneration just like the Creator God would do.
Dr. Amir Golani, a Bronze Age expert with the Israel Antiquities Authority, claims that: “The scarab was used as a seal and was a symbol of power and status. It may have been placed on a necklace or a ring. It is made of faience, a silicate material coated with a bluish-green glaze. It may have dropped from the hands of an important and figure of authority who passed through the area, or it may have been deliberately buried in the ground along with other objects, and after thousands of years it came to the surface. It’s difficult to determine the exact original context.”
“In the lower, flat part of the scarab seal, a figure is depicted sitting on a chair, and in front of it is a standing figure, whose arm is raised above that of the seated person. The standing figure has an elongated head, which appears to represent the crown of an Egyptian pharaoh, and it is possible that we can see here a snapshot of a scene wherein the Egyptian Pharaoh is conferring authority to a local Canaanite subject.”
“This scene basically reflects the geopolitical reality that prevailed in the land of Canaan during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1000 BCE), when the local Canaanite rulers lived (and sometimes rebelled) under Egyptian political and cultural hegemony. Therefore, it is very possible that the seal is indeed from the Late Bronze Age, when the local Canaanites were ruled by the Egyptian Empire.” he said.
Although scarab seals are unmistakably Egyptian, they are also widely distributed outside of Egypt. In the Land of Israel, hundreds of scarabs were found, mostly in burials but sometimes in settlement strata. While many of them were copied in Israel by local artists under Egyptian influence, many more were brought from Egypt.
The specific scarab that was discovered at this time has a degree of craftsmanship that is unusual for Egypt and could be the work of local artisans. The Israel Antiquity Authority, the Azor Municipality, its educational department, and its schools worked closely together to construct an excellent local museum that recently featured the ancient history of Azor.
According to Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquity Authority, “The find of the scarab in the framework of a field tour with pupils participating in the Tour-Guide course, is symbolic, in that the pupils were gaining archaeological knowledge, and at the same time contributing to our archaeological heritage. This cooperation is truly moving, as we are working towards connecting communities with their cultural heritage.”