A timely reminder of the Exodus: Ancient Egyptian scarab seal found near Haifa

“The owner of this scarab filled a similar position to that held by Joseph in Egypt after he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams,” says co-head of the Tel Dor archaeology site.

April 24, 2016 13:13
1 minute read.
scarab seal

A rare scarab seal has been found at Tel Dor. (photo credit: TEL DOR EXCAVATIONS/COURTESY)


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As Jews around the globe commemorate the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt during Passover, a relic of a Pharaonic dynasty from some 3,500 years ago was found in northern Israel’s Tel Dor.

The University of Haifa announced on Sunday the discovery of a rare scarab seal belonging to a senior official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic Dynasty, which reigned in Egypt during the 18th-17th centuries BCE.

Birdwatcher Alexander Ternopolsky found the engraved stone seal at the coastal excavation site located south of Haifa before handing it over to archeological authorities.

“The rains this past winter must have eroded the soil on the southern slope of the site, and thanks to Mr. Ternopolsky’s keen eyesight, the scarab was discovered and handed over to us,” said University of Haifa Prof. Ayelet Gilboa, who co-heads the excavations at Tel Dor.

According to initial studies of the scarab, stone engravings reveal the the name of the seal’s owner, his position along with symbolic hieroglyphics.

“Scarabs were very common objects in ancient Egypt, but the size and quality of this one, its owner’s high-ranking position, and the gold ring in which it is set all make this particular scarab a rare finding in our region,” Gilboa explained.

“The scarab must have belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” she stated.

“The owner of this scarab filled a similar position to that held by Joseph in Egypt after he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.”

The coastal city of Dor served as a key hub for thousands of years until the Romans built Caesarea.

Excavators have suggested two possible scenarios in which the scarab reached the site. One postulates that a representative of the ruling Egyptian viceroy arrived to the trading city with the seal in hand in order to complete a deal for his superior. Another hypothesis suggests that the scarab arrived as part of an antiquities trade at a later point in history.

Gilboa asserted that, “Since the scarab rolled down from the mound and was not found in its archeological context, we will probably never really know when and how it got here and where it has been.”

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