One thing I look for on scarabs
Re: Thank you. I wonder how could one ever tell an old one from a clever repro? -- lindabd Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
11/02/2018, 10:38:39

A lot of "freshly made" scarabs for the tourist trade have hieroglyphs on the back that make no sense - in that they are contained within a royal cartouche but do not correspond to any known pharaoh. Instead, the hieroglyphs seem to have been chosen because they are easy to carve.

In this case, it is very difficult to make out the hieroglyphs in order to check which pharaoh may be indicated, but several appear to be quite intricate. I can't tell if they are surrounded by a cartouche.

Conclusion - I think it's unlikely to be a fairly modern, really cheap knock-off. Beyond that, it may be a very well done older repro. There may have been a mold made of an ancient piece which was used to make the repro, which accounts for the worn look of the inscription. When in Egypt, I saw numerous shops selling reproductions of all sorts of ancient statues and other artifacts. They were all artificially aged to mimic their ancient counterparts - often quite badly done IMHO. And some of the prices were very high. I got the impression that the sellers hoped that the buyer would actually think they were getting a real ancient artifact. Of course it is completely against the law to sell or buy ancient Egyptian artifacts unless one has a special license - not something a tourist would necessarily know about in advance. There is of course a black market in ancient Egyptian pieces that any sane person would be wise to avoid.

It may not be relevant to this particular scarab, but in researching old plastic beads I have found that the craftsmanship used on the old plastics - celluloid, Bakelite, and galalith (casein) - when they were first being used for jewelry, can be outstanding. When these materials were introduced, artisans were apparently spending a lot of time using them for imitations of more expensive materials. More modern (post - 1960 or so) plastic beads, by comparison, look and feel like cheap plastic beads not finely crafted imitations of anything in particular. My thinking is that the same sort of "evolution" occurred with repros of ancient Egyptian items - very obvious now, but possible finely crafted around 50-100 years ago.

I think the scarab is highly unlikely to be ancient, but of course it's possible. The British in particular took a large number of artifacts out of Egypt starting with the "hey-days" of archeological work that started in the early 1800s (the Rosetta stone was found in 1799) after Napoleon invaded Egypt, and peaked in the late 1800s- early 1900s. King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1922, one of the events that touched off the era of Egyptian Revival jewelry and art, and probably a lot of reproductions of everything Egyptian.

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