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Scarab with an engraved lion and Aramaic inscription, red serpentine, width c. 5 cm, found in Tomb 69 of the Temparella burial mound on the Macchiabate necropolis, last 30 years of the 8th century BC, National Archaeological Museum, Sibari.
Scarab with an engraved lion and Aramaic inscription, red serpentine, width c. 5 cm, found in Tomb 69 of the Temparella burial mound on the Macchiabate necropolis, last 30 years of the 8th century BC, National Archaeological Museum, Sibari.

II.A.1.3. Scarab with an engraved lion belonging to the so-called lyre-player group. From Temparella Tomb 69, Macchiabate necropolis

On the breast of the little girl buried in Tomb 69 of the Temparella burial mound a rather special amulet was found. It is a fine scarab belonging to the so-called lyre-player group, so named because that is the motif most often encountered on these North-Syrian jewels, exported by the Phoenicians.

On the island of Ischia in the tombs of the prematurely deceased children of  Pithekoussai such scarabs were more frequently found. The excavator, Dr. Buchner could show that they were given the children already at birth and was of the opinion that these amulets protected the children against the light.

The scarabs of this kind are certainly connected with the God of light and the sun, because in Greece they are exclusively found in sanctuaries and many came to light in Apollo’s sanctuary at Eretria.In Egypt the beetle rolling dung balls was sacred and symbol of the God Ra who was thought to roll the sun along the sky and to bury it each night.

One wonders whether the buried child’s family knew all this, it is more likely that the Phoenician merchants convinced them of the protective character of  beetles and lions.The scarab from Francavilla Marittima with its 5 cm is larger than usual (c. 3 cm) and the bigger size evidently made it possible to render the beetle very well.

The scarab is cut from red serpentine, the colouring of the lion is an addition to better show the motif. An Aramaic inscription is placed around the animal.

The scarab was found by Paola Zancani Montuoro in the Macchiabate necropolis and is now in the National Archaeological Museum at Sibari.