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Egypt, New Kingdom (1550 - 1070 BC), Agate, L: 3.5 cm

Japanese name for a scarab is “a dung beetle“, and the scarab rolling a ball of dung was treated like a metaphor of making sun to move, and it was identified with the sun god Ra. The scarab is often depicted in art as a symbol of revival and rebirth.
Agate from which this scarab is made, forms in volcanic rocks by filtering of tiny crystals formed in bands and colored deposits as hot silica-rich solutions through cavities in porous rock. Beautiful color and banded patterns made agate popular material for adornments. Because of fine-grained tough quality it is a good material for detailed carving. This scarab is also beautifully executed with either details of the insect’s appearance or a small functional loop carved in this object for suspension.
Various precious stones were used in art of the ancient Erypt. Their colors were prized not only for the esthetic effect, but were also believed to have symbolic or protective meaning.
Popular and frequently used precious stones were carnelian and garnet as symbols of life, energy and sun. Turquoise was a color of water and sky, but the cobalt blue night sky was symbolized by lapis lazuli, then malachite was color of rebirth and growth of nature. Sources of the precious stones were are partly in Egypt: Sinai peninsula, Eastern Desert, south of Egypt and Meroe (nowadays Sudan). However, lapis lazuli was imported from as far as Northern Afghanistan.
Import of precious stones, production and export of accessories concentrated in a port town of Alexandria. There are no agate mines known in Egypt, but there are seldom finds of agate pebbles in the Eastern Desert and Sinai. Later, in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods agate was imported to Egypt from India. Carving of this scarab is fine and on a high artistic level, and use of agate in the New Kingdom is rare, so it seems to be a unique work of art.

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