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Immanuel Velikovsky

Copyright 1974 by Immanuel Velikovsky

Scarabs or beetles of ceramics, of glass, semiprecious stones, or metal often have names engraved on them: the cartouches of the kings and sometimes the names of private persons. Apparently these were used as seals. It is doubted that scarabs were used as money: there is no known literary reference to their use as such, nor does any picture show scarabs being given in payment. Some scarabs were used to commemorate an important occasion, like the large ones memorializing the wedding of Amenhotep III and Tiy. A few served to convey good wishes, such as "a happy New Year," like the cards that are sent today. Those of the last category could be regarded as amulets, but not the others. Those bearing cartouches of the royal names must serve as datable objects.

"Not all Egyptian scarabs were used as seals. Some, but a very small number compared to the seal class, were used as amulets" [1]. "Their [scarab-shaped seals] value as corroborative evidence to other historical data must not be overlooked, nor can certain classes of them be lightly cast aside as bric-a-brac by the archaeologist who sets himself the task of solving, or of inquiring into, the many problems that have lately arisen concerning the early people of the Mediterranean region" [2]. These problems resulted from the fact that on innumerable occasions scarabs were found in surroundings supposedly several centuries younger. All kinds of explanations were devised.

Some scarabs may not be genuine; for instance, they may be the product of modern forgers of antiquities. But if found in situ, as for instance in an undisturbed tomb, they should be regarded with more confidence. Money and. seals have been counterfeited in all ages, but when Greek or Roman coins are found in the process of excavation their genuineness is rarely looked upon with suspicion. Moreover, forgers of ancient times must have imitated current coins and seals.

In other cases when the genuineness of the scarabs cannot be doubted, they are pronounced heirlooms handed down from one generation to another over the centuries, at last to be deposited in surroundings not of their own age. This is the second method of depreciating their value as witnesses to the age of the deposit in which they are found.

Sometimes a large collection of scarabs, all pointing to one and the same period, is found in a tomb which, for some reason, is ascribed to another age six hundred years later [3]. It is then conjectured that the collection was transferred from some old grave to the new one, the builders of which must have been grave robbers. In view of the fact that the Palestinian and the Egyptian histories are disrupted as to their contemporaneity, we would expect that the scarabs found in Palestine would be consistently of much older dates than the surroundings in which they were discovered.

In the closing years of the last century Macalister participated with Bliss in archaeological work in Palestine and followed the chronological evaluation of the strata by the latter. On digging in Gezer, he changed the evaluations of their previous archaeological work by a number of centuries. He "tried to arrange his chronology so as to cover a hiatus of several centuries (circa 9th-6th centuries) in the history of the city and consequently reduced most of his dates between 1200 and 300 B.C. by several centuries. This erroneous telescoping of chronology was carried much farther by the Germans, misled by similar gaps at Jericho and by premature historical interpretation of their finds; in their case the error amounted at one point to about eight hundred years" [4].

"As a matter of fact, Macalister's shift to lower dating for this (Early Iron II, or 'Middle Iron') pottery is easy to explain. At Gezer there is an almost complete lacuna after the tenth century" [5].

The real cause of these changes is in the conflicting evidences of Palestinian archaeology, which relies on Egyptian chronology. In some cases this adherence to the Egyptian timetable is untenable because of other evidence in a layer under investigation; in such cases the Egyptian objects are pronounced heirlooms. Later, on reconsideration, the heirlooms are often made contemporaneous with the level in which they were found. (This is particularly the case with the scarabs or Egyptian signets.)

Wherever the archaeologists excavated in Palestine they found scarabs with Egyptian signs, and often with the names of Egyptian kings, but these names regularly pointed to centuries long past. How could these finds be explained?

When Bliss and Macalister, digging in Tell es-Safi and other places in Palestine, found thirty scarabs with the names of Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, and other pharaohs in a level they recognized as belonging to the Israelite settlements, they wrote:

"Evidently some of them, if not all, are mere Palestinian imitations of imported specimens, and are therefore of no value in fixing the date of associated objects. It is an elementary archaeological canon that under the most favourable circumstances scarabs alone can give a major limit of date only; when the element of copying, perhaps long subsequent to the engraving of the original exemplar, is introduced, their chronological importance practically disappears" [6].

Scarabs were the presents of the pharaohs; they were also the official seals of the reigning monarch used in Egypt and the dependent countries; their impressions have been found in Palestine on the handles of jars that had contained oil or wine, and also on stones used as weights. Why should the impressions for legal and other official purposes have been imitations of seals of ancient pharaohs?

Many scarabs found in Palestine in subsequent years show all the marks of genuineness: they do not differ in any respect from scarabs found in Egypt in graves of the officials of the kings whose names are on the scarabs. Another explanation, therefore, had to be given for their presence and use in Palestine six hundred years after identical scarabs had been made and used in Egypt. The explorers of Jericho, Sellin and Watzinger, wrote:

"It is beyond doubt that all scarabs found are of genuine Egyptian workmanship of their time, not one a foreign or late imitation" [7].

And again: "It has already been frequently established in the Palestinian excavations that the old scarabs were worn centuries later as unintelligible amulets, and therefore, when we find them, we obtain but a terminus a quo. Furthermore, handles stamped with scarabs exactly like those from Jericho were never found in the same level of the excavations as the handmade Canaanitic ceramics" [8].

According to the last observation, then, genuine scarabs were used in Palestine after centuries of disuse, and also they were not found in the Canaanite level contemporaneous with the time of the pharaohs who made these scarabs. This is, to say the least, strange; and no less strange is the fact that the Israelites did not use as amulets the scarabs of their own time, but only old scarabs.

"We are compelled therefore to assume that it was a custom in Palestine to use old scarabs ... at a time when there was no longer any understanding of their original meaning" [9].

The Israelites employed these seals not primarily as amulets but for making impressions on jars and stone weights. There is no more reason for using genuine seals of ancient pharaohs for that purpose than imitations of old seals. Hebrew seals on jar handles are regarded as contemporaneous with the level in which these jars are found; only in the case of handles with Egyptian signs (sometimes found in the same lot [10]) are the Israelites supposed to have preferred ancient seals. But the Israelites did not use the ancient objects of the Canaanite period together with their own utensils or pottery.

Is, then, the theory that "the scarab had passed as an heirloom, or had been discovered and adapted as a seal in a century later than its own" tenable [11]?

We go a little way from Gezer and come to Beth-Shemesh, Ain-Shems of today. This city was in existence during the period of the Judges and it prospered in the time of the Kings [12]. Since the time of the Kings comprises roughly the period from -1000 to -600, it can be anticipated that in a timetable based upon Egyptian chronology the zenith of Beth-Shemesh will appear half a millennium earlier.

"The most prosperous and dignified centuries at Beth Shemesh ... were those between 1500 and 1100. During these 400 years Beth Shemesh was a place of considerable importance and culture" [13].

But other evidence, not connected with Egypt, must have intervened, and we have, for instance, the following:

"Room 380. In its southern wall ... are reinforcing stone posts and at the base of one of them was the wedding scarab of Amenophis (Amenhotep) III, already 300 to 400 years old when put to its latest use in the wall-foundations. It may have been placed there as late as 1000 B.C., a potent charm for the security of the house, or to defend the northern side of the town" [14]. This "limestone scarab with its ten lines of writing" is no different from such scarabs in the Aegean tombs and in Enkomi on Cyprus, where they are regarded as the chief evidence of the age of the levels and of Mycenaean culture in general. "It dates from 1400 B.C., and was a treasured antiquity when it was deposited for its magical value."

It was actually deposited about -870, during the first part of the reign of Jehoshaphat, shortly before the el-Amarna correspondence; it was not "a treasured antiquity" at that time, and its deposition in the wall foundations as a document destined to testify to the age of the foundation in days to come would preclude its being already old at the time of deposition. Such a deposition has many parallels in the architectural archaeology of the Orient; this usage has survived down to the present day all over the civilized world.

Megiddo of the Bible is identified with present-day Tell el-Mutesellim overlooking the Jezreel Valley, at the northern entrance of the pass that leads through Carmel into the Sharon plain. Schumacher's excavations there early in this century turned up material that seemed on examination to belong to widely separated chronological periods. When, more than two decades later, the finds of Megiddo were published, the editor of the report, Watzinger, assumed the following: "It becomes clear that in the process of digging too freely the deeper strata were invaded and finds from these more ancient layers were marked as belonging to the same layer as finds made on the floor" [15].

The new American excavation at Megiddo, carried out on a large scale, also produced equivocal material. Remains of buildings and graves were found in Megiddo. At some time point a new race came into the country and settled there. "A new people with a strong artistic feeling for its religion was invading the country at the end of the Middle Bronze Period. From the evidence of scarabs we must conclude that it was closely related to the earlier Hyksos . . ." [16]. But the Hyksos are known to have been devoid of "artistic feeling" for their religion or anything else; they did not manifest any artistic activity in Egypt. Then who could have been the invaders that carried a new culture into Palestine in the early days of the Hyksos Empire and their hegemony on the Mediterranean coast?

According to the revised scheme presented in this work [Ages in Chaos, ed. ], the Philistines and the Israelites arrived in Palestine practically at the beginning of the Hyksos-Amalekite period. The new culture in Palestine, from the fifteenth century on, is explainable by the presence there of these two peoples.

In the middle of the tenth century Solomon fortified Megiddo. In the fifth year after Solomon's death Thutmose III invaded Palestine and, as we now know, laid siege to Megiddo and took it. In the stratum of the Megiddo palace, ascribed to Early Iron I, seals with the name of Thutmose III were found. "Occurrences of the prenomen of Thutmose III ... [are] not surprising in view of the known predilection of the later Egyptians for scarabs bearing that king's name" [17]. With this casual explanation the testimony of the seals was brushed aside.

Since these lines were written by the excavators of Megiddo, again and again, all over Palestine, scarabs with the name of Thutmose III were found and always in formations five to six hundred years younger, leaving the finders in a constant state of surprise bordered with astonishment.

Yet where the remotest possibility seemed to exist of sustaining the accepted chronological table by a reference to a scarab, its genuineness or its stratigraphical position were never questioned; usually, however, such finds, on closer examination, prove to be hardly of any stratigraphical, and therefore also of any chronological, value for the purpose selected.

In the conventional chronology King Sosenk of the Libyan Dynasty was the pharaoh Shishak of the Scriptures who conquered Palestine in the fifth year of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. A fragment with the name of Sosenk on it was found at Megiddo. "A fragment of his stela found here proved that he occupied the town for a time at least" [18]. However, as I have shown, Thutmose III was the biblical Shishak, and Pharaoh So of the Scriptures, to whom Hoshea of Israel sent tribute, was the pharaoh Sosenk [19]; a stele of Sosenk at Megiddo would therefore not be out of place. Damaging to its evidential value is the fact that "the fragment of the [Sosenk] stela came from one of the old surface dump heaps, or the refuse of earlier excavations" [20].

An object found on a dump heap does not warrant drawing a conclusion like this: "From the evidence of our Sheshonk [Sosenk] stela fragment ... it follows naturally that Stratum IV (1000-800) was built before the period of Omri and Ahab" [21].

Megiddo was the fortress to which Ahaziah, king of Judah, tried to escape during the revolt of Jehu, shortly after the end of Ahab's reign. It was an important garrison city. Having been fortified by Solomon [22], restored after the siege of Thutmose III, and garrisoned by Amenhotep III, it is no wonder that the superstructure of the palace of Megiddo "parallels exactly the masonry from the Omri and Ahab palaces found at Samaria" [23].

Another such case, regularly called upon to verify the accepted synchronism between the House of Omri and the Libyan Dynasty in Egypt, will be discussed by us in greater detail at another place, but we shall not omit it in review here because, on the provenience of a Libyan seal impression found in Samaria, a chronological edifice was built.

On the floor of the palace of Omri and Ahab a number of small Egyptian objects were found. The carvings on the scarabs are mostly decorative designs, but on one of the scarabs a cartouche, or king's name, is engraved. The cartouche is that of Thutmose III. Since there was no plausible explanation for the presence of the cartouche of Thutmose III in the palace at Samaria, presumably built about six centuries after this pharaoh had died, the excavator suggested: "This may be a local imitation of an Egyptian scarab" [24]. But in accord with the present reconstruction of history, Thutmose III reigned only a few decades before Omri; the cartouche apparently is genuine.

According to conventional history, Ahab was d contemporary of Pharaoh Osorkon II of the Libyan Dynasty. And a jar with the cartouches of Pharaoh Osorkon II was actually found near the palace of Samaria [25]. This pharaoh of the Libyan Dynasty was selected by the historians as the biblical Pharaoh Zerah, adversary of Asa, in the days of Omri and Ahab [26]. But we have already identified Pharaoh Zerah as one of the kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Amenhotep II--Okheperure, successor of Thutmose III [27]. How can we, from our standpoint, explain the presence of Osorkon's jar in Samaria? The answer would be simple if beneath the layer of Osorkon's jar should be found written documents that would shatter its significance as chronological evidence.

This actually happened: Ostraca, or inscribed potsherds, were found near the palace. They were first thought to date from Ahab's reign; but, upon reexamination, they were attributed to Jeroboam II's reign [28]. Now, according to the excavators, the foundations of the Ostraca House (containing the inscribed sherds) "must have been destroyed previous to the construction of the Osorkon House" [29] (so called because of the jar found in its ruins). It follows that the potsherds were of an earlier date than the Osorkon jar, or the time of its deposition; and that, if anything, the jar can prove only that Osorkon lived after Jeroboam II, not in the days of Ahab. Nevertheless we read again and again that the jar with the seal impression of Osorkon II proves that Ahab and Osorkon were contemporaries [30].

Thus we see that scarabs found in Palestine--and elsewhere, too--are regularly denied their chronological value on a variety of pretexts--but a few, definitely unacceptable cases are elevated to the representative role of verifiers of the conventional order of things. Yet, the value of scarabs for chronological purposes is almost unique; it is not different from the chronological value of coins with the name of the kings under whom they were stamped, when, after being hoarded and hidden, they are found centuries later by excavators.


[1] P. E. Newberry, Scarabs (London: 1906), p. 1 note (1).
[2] Ibid., p. 3.
[3] For instance, cf. Petrie, Illahun, Kahun and Gurob, p. 24.
[4] Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, p. 26.
[5] W. F. Albright, The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim (New Haven: 1932), vol. 1, 76.
[6] F. J. Bliss and R. A. S. Macalister, Excavations in Palestine (1898-1900) (London: 1902), p. 152.
[7] Sellin and Watzinger, Jericho, p. 157.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Bliss and Macalister, Excavations in Palestine, Plate 56, No. 31s.
[11] Macalister, The Excavation of Gezer, vol. 2, p. 329. See also pp. 314 and 323. "...found in Third Semitic debris, but no doubt properly of Second," is a recurrent phrase referring to the scarabs discovered.
[12] 1 Samuel 6:9-20; 1 Kings 4:9; II Kings 14:11-13; II Chronicles 28:18.
[13] E. Grant, Ain Shems Excavations (1298-31), Pt. III (Haverford: 1934), p. 19.
[14] Ibid., p. 66.
[15] "Es stelit sich dabei freilich vielfach heraus, dass bei der Grabung gern in die Tiefe gegangen wurde und dann Funde aus grösserer Tiefe, also aus älteren Schichten, zusammen mit den über dem Fussboden gemachten Funden unter derselben Schichtnummer verzeichnet werden. " Tell el-Mutesellim, ed. C. Watzinger (Leipzig: 1929), vol. 2, p. v.
[16] H. G. May, Material Remains of the Megiddo Cult (Chicago: 1935), p. 35.
[17] P. L. O. Guy, Megiddo Tombs (Chicago; 1938), p. 185.
[18] Fisher, The Excavation of Armageddon, p. 16.
[19] Ages in Chaos, vol. 1, pp. 143-77.
[20] Ibid., p. 60.
[21] R. S. Lamon and G. M. Shipton, Megiddo I (Strata I-V) (Chicago: 1939), p. 61.
[22] I Kings 9:15.
[23] Fisher, The Excavation of Armegeddon, p. 73.
[24] Reisner, Fisher, and Lyon, Harvard Excavations at Samaria, vol. 1, p. 377.
[25] Ibid., p. 247.
[26] Doubts as to this identification were expressed, for the Bible refers to Zerah as an Ethiopian and Osorkon was a Libyan. G. Maspero (The Struggle of the Nations, p. 774, note) remarks: "Champollion identified Osorkon I with Zerah, who according to 2 Chronicle 14:9-15; 16:8, invaded Judah. But this has no historical value, for it is clear that Osorkon never crossed the Isthmus [of Suez]."
[27] Ages in Chaos, vol. 1, Chap. V.
[28] Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 41; idem, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, ed. Pritchard, p. 321.
[29] Reisner, Fisher, and Lyon, Harvard Excavations at Samaria, p. 131.
[30] "La date des ostraca de Samarie est fixée par les circonstances de la trouvaille et cette date est confirmée par la présence dans les memes debris de fragments d'une vase au nom d'Osorkon II (874-853), contemporain d'achab." R. Dussaud, "Samarie au temps d'Achab," Syria, 6 (1925). This statement, compared with the record of the excavators, is not precise. Jack, Samaria in Ahab's Time, p. 41, also says that Osorkon's jar was found "in the same debris" as the ostraca.


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