I Spy: A 3,500-Year-Old Ancient Egyptian Scarab

Scarab of Thutmose III found by a hiker


An ancient Egyptian scarab with the cartouche of Pharaoh Thutmose III was recently found by a hiker in the Lower Galilee of Israel. During Thutmose’s reign, Canaan came under Egyptian rule. Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

While hiking with his family along an extinct volcano known as the Horns of Hattin in Israel’s Lower Galilee, Amit Haklai made an incredible discovery: He spotted amidst black basalt rocks what turned out to be an ancient Egyptian scarab from 3,500 years ago!

The white-colored ancient Egyptian scarab was examined by Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, the Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen Curator of Egyptian Archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

“The scarab is made of steatite,” Ben-Tor told Bible History Daily. “It was originally glazed, but like all scarabs found outside the dry climatic conditions of the Nile valley, the glaze has worn off.”

In an Israel Antiquities Authority press release translated by Arutz Sheva, Daphna Ben-Tor said, “The scarab shows King Thutmose III sitting on his throne and in front of him a cartouche that says his name.”

A cartouche is an ancient Egyptian symbol in which an oval frame encircles the name of an Egyptian royal in hieroglyphs.

In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.

“The scarab was a cosmological symbol that was important in Egyptian culture,” Ben-Tor explained in the press release. “Many scarab symbols have been found throughout Israel pointing to the strong cultural and political influence that Egypt had over Israel at that time.”

Thutmose III was the sixth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (c. 1479–1425 B.C.E.) in the New Kingdom of Egypt. For the first 22 years of his reign, he ruled as co-regent with Queen Hatshepsut, his stepmother and aunt. Thutmose III led a number of military campaigns in the Near East and Middle East; it was during his reign that Canaan came under Egyptian rule. Thutmose’s conquests, including a successful battle at Megiddo, are recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun at Karnak.

In the Archaeology Odyssey article “In Pharaoh’s Footsteps,” Eric H. Cline describes the significance of Thutmose III’s attack on Megiddo in 1479 B.C.E.:

Thutmose III’s 17 campaigns in Syro-Palestine … took place almost every year for the next two decades. The Megiddo campaign may well have been the most significant, for it immediately reestablished Egyptian authority in the area and showed the Canaanites that their overlords were there to stay. The Egyptian presence in the southern Levant remained firm for the next 200 years.

Read more about the ancient Egyptian scarab discovered at the Horns of Hattin.


Learn more about Thutmose III and Hatshepsut in the BAS Library:

Eric H. Cline, “In Pharaoh’s Footsteps,” Archaeology Odyssey, Spring 1998.

Nadav Na’aman, “The Trowel vs. the Text,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2009.

Gay Robins, “The Enigma of Hatshepsut,” Archaeology Odyssey, Winter 1999.

“When a Woman Ruled Egypt,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

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