The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Jewelry and Ornamentation
Necklace with Triple Scarab Pectoral
Close to a necklace with a vulture pectoral in the wrappings of Tutankhamun's mummy lay this elaborate necklace. Its rectangular gold pectoral is decorated with three upright scarabs inlaid with lapis lazuli, their front legs attached to the top of the frame, which is shaped like the hieroglyphic sign for "heaven" (pet). Engraved on its outer face is a row of stars. The sides of the frame are formed of two was scepters and the base consists of a bar ornamented on the outer surface with twelve marguerites, with dark blue glass petals and gold centers. Suspended from the bottom of the bar like a fringe are four white lotus flowers, three large buds, and three (originally six) small buds. The lotus flowers and the large buds are inlaid with carnelian, feldspar, and dark blue glass and the smaller buds with carnelian only. Above each scarab is a metal disk, the two outer disks of gold alloyed with copper representing the sun (Ra) and the center disk with a crescent of gold alloyed with silver representing the moon. Beneath each scarab (kheper) is the basket-shaped hieroglyphic sing for "lord" (neb), inlaid with feldspar. The gold undersides of the scarabs are finely modeled and the backs of the neb signs delicately chased. Contiguous circles of dark blue glass with gold centers take the place of the marguerites on the back of the base of the frame.
Egyptian jewelers often modified regular symbols or motifs for reasons that are not always apparent, though space and artistic effect were generally governing factors. In this pendant each scarab group was probably intended to suggest the name that Tutankhamun adopted when he succeeded to the throne, Nebkheperura, but the three vertical strokes that should stand between the beetle and the basket are missing. Also, in the middle group, the sun's disk is replaced by the lunar disk and crescent. In hieroglyphic writing it is possible to indicate a plural by repeating the sign three times, instead of adding the three vertical strokes to the single sign; the three scarabs may, by allowing for artistic freedom, be explained as performing that function. The word kheperu itself means the different "forms" that a god or a dead person could assume, and it is possible that the emphasis given by the threefold repetition was intended to assist, by magic, in the realization of those metamorphoses. The substitution of the lunar disk and crescent for the sun's disk is a sportive variant, which is exemplified again in the winged scarab pectoral.
Five strings of gold beads, together with a few beads of blue glass, make up the straps -now shorter in length than they were originally - on which the pectoral was suspended from the king's neck. A gold counterpoise inlaid with glass is joined to the upper ends of the straps by spacer fastenings on which winged cobras are engraved. In the center of the counterpoise is a figure of the god of "Millions of Years," Heh, squatting on a mat and holding with raised arms a cartouche bearing the inscription "The good god Nebkheperura chosen of Amen-Ra." He is supported on one side by the amuletic signs for stability (djed) and dominion (was) and on the other side by the royal cobra with the white crown of Upper Egypt to which the curved frontal projection of the red crown of Lower Egypt has been added.