3,000-Year-Old Scarab Seal Found During School Field Trip Was Mistaken For Toy

A school field trip to a small town outside of Tel Aviv has led to the discovery of a 3000-year-old scarab seal that was picked up off the ground after having at first been mistaken for a toy.

The scarab, which shows a seated figure on the right and a standing figure with a raised arm on the left, possibly symbolised the imparting of authority, experts said.

Photo shows the back of the scarab, incised in the form of a dung-beetle, undated photo. The 3,000-year-old Egyptian scarab seal was found during a middle school field trip in Azor, just outside Tel Aviv, Israel in November 2022. (Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

The 3,000-year-old scarab seal was found during a middle school field trip to the small town of Azor, just outside the city of Tel Aviv, in Israel’s Tel Aviv District, earlier this month (November 2022).

Newsflash obtained a statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), with Gilad Stern of the IAA Educational Center, who led the tour, saying: “At first, I thought it was a toy lying in the dirt, but an inner voice said to me: ‘Pick it up and turn it over!’

“I was astonished! It was a scarab seal with a clearly inscribed scene – every archaeology lover’s dream!”

The statement added that the ancient scarab “was a surprise discovery” during the school field trip.

The experts explained that the “scene depicted on the scarab probably represents the bestowing of legitimacy on a local ruler”.

Stern said: “We were wandering around when I saw something that looked like a small toy on the ground.”

He added: “The pupils were really excited!”

Photo shows Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority Education Officer, with the eighth-grade pupils from the Rabin Middle School in Azor, undated photo. The 3,000-year-old Egyptian scarab seal was found during a middle school field trip in Azor, just outside Tel Aviv, Israel in November 2022. (Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

The IAA said: “The tour of the eighth-grade pupils from the Rabin Middle School, took place in the context of a Tour-Guide Course organized by the Israel Antiquity Authority for the third year running.

“The course enables the pupils to teach the local Azor residents about their local archaeological heritage.”

They explained that the scarab was “designed in the shape of the common dung beetle”.

They said that the Ancient Egyptians saw in the beetle, “which rolls a ball of dung twice its size where it stows its future offspring as the embodiment of creation and regeneration”, something “similar to the act of the Creator God”.

Dr Amir Golani, an Israel Antiquities Authority specialist of the Bronze Age, said: “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.”

The experts explained: “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.

Photo shows conservationist Yosef Bukengolts cleaning the scarab seal in the Israel Antiquities Authority Laboratories, undated photo. The 3,000-year-old Egyptian scarab seal was found during a middle school field trip in Azor, just outside Tel Aviv, Israel in November 2022. (Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

“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.”

Golani said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

The statement continued: “Scarab seals are indeed distinctly Egyptian, but their wide distribution also reached far outside the borders of Egypt. Hundreds of scarabs were discovered in the Land of Israel, mainly in graves, but also in settlement layers.

“Some of them were imported from Egypt, many more were imitated in Israel by local artisans under Egyptian influence. The level of workmanship of the particular scarab found now is not typical for Egypt and may represent a product of local craftsmen.

“The close cooperation between the Israel Antiquity Authority and the Azor Municipality and its educational department and schools, led to the recent opening of an impressive local museum, exhibiting the archaeological story of Azor.”

Photo shows conservationist Yosef Bukengolts cleaning the scarab seal in the Israel Antiquities Authority Laboratories, undated photo. The 3,000-year-old Egyptian scarab seal was found during a middle school field trip in Azor, just outside Tel Aviv, Israel in November 2022. (Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

Eli Escusido, Director of the IAA, said: “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.”


To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Joseph GolderSub-EditorWilliam McGee, Agency: Newsflash

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