The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Jewelry and Ornamentation
Gold Bangle with Openwork Scarab Encrusted with Lapis Lazuli
The small circumference of this bracelet suggests that it was made for Tutankhamun when he was a child. Nevertheless, it agrees very closely in size with the bracelets that were placed on the forearms of his mummy and were though by Carter to have been worn by the king in his lifetime. It was found in the cartouche-shaped box that contained several other objects, including the fine pair of earrings which also seem to have been personal possessions.
The bracelet's central feature is a gold openwork scarab encrusted with lapis lazuli. On each side is a narrow raised band composed of gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, quartz, and carnelian inlay, bordered on the inner edge with gold granules. The bands are continued on the back of the hoop. Two identical botanical ornaments flank the scarab, each consisting of a mandrake fruit supported by two poppy buds, with gold marguerites filling the interstices between the stems of the mandrake and the buds. The yellow and green colors of the mandrakes are painted at the back of the translucent quartz inlay. Both the hinge and the fastening are made of interlocking cylindrical teeth held together by long gold pins, the hinge pin being fixed and the other movable.
The ancient Egyptians adopted the scarab (Ateuchus sacer) as a symbol of the sun-god because they were familiar with the sight of the beetle rolling a ball of dung on the ground and this action suggested to them that the invisible power that rolled the sun daily across the sky could be represented pictorially as a scarab. Moreover, they had noticed that the young beetle emerged from a ball of dung by what they imagined to be an autogenic process, so that a further parallel was seen between this creature and the sun-god, who was also credited with having created himself. In reality the ball of dung rolled by the scarab is only a reserve supply of food that it hides in a convenient crevice, whereas the ball containing the egg is pear-shaped and is never moved from the burrow in which it is placed by the female. In the Egyptian language the words for the scarab and for existence were identical (kheper), and the name of the sun-god, on his first appearance every morning, was Khopri. In hieroglyphic writing the scarab sign was used for all three words.
In spite of black being the color of the scarab in nature, the Egyptians seldom copied it in their reproductions, perhaps because there was no native semi-precious stone of that color, and obsidian was not easily obtainable. Quite exceptionally, however, two scarabs placed on Tutankhamun's mummy were made of black resin. Glazed specimens were usually green or light blue, and it is clear that no importance was attached to reproducing an exact likeness of the living beetle. Lapis lazuli, the material used for most of the scarabs in Tutankhamun's collection of jewelry, has not been found in Egypt, the nearest source know at present being Badakhshan in the northeast of Afghanistan.