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The Geo-Chronological Distribution of Egyptian Scarab-Shaped Seals in the Northern Levant Syria and Lebanon), From the Late Third Millennium to the Late Iron Age

Thursday, 26 January, 2012 - 15:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Arts and Philosophy
Vanessa Boschloos
phd defence

During the past two decades, publications on scarab-shaped seals stressed the importance of
an archaeological approach to this type of seal-amulet, its presence outside Egypt and its role
in reflecting Egyptian-Levantine relations. So far, however, specialists have almost
exclusively been concentrating on scarabs from the southern Levant (Israel and Jordan). With
the compilation of scarabs from Syria and Lebanon and by contextualising them in their
archaeological and historical settings, the present dissertation not only fills a large
geographical lacuna but also completes the results from the southern Levant and addresses
questions raised by the Levantine material, such as the existence of local workshops, or the
impact of imports on the local production.
Nearly 1300 provenanced Egyptian and Egyptianising scarabs are submitted to a detailed
analyses, thus collecting information on provenance (when possible the precise archaeological
context), material, iconography, style group, date and typology. These parameters are
combined to study distribution patterns and the intensity and evolution of Egyptian influence
in the northern Levant and to confront the archaeological data with the known historical
context. Factors such as local imitations or the identification of local seal workshops provide a
clearer understanding of the nature and intensity of these contacts.

Firstly, the dating of the archaeological context and the object itself are determined
independently, thus allowing identifying the object as contemporary or as an heirloom in its
context. Secondly, a thorough analysis of the technical, formal, stylistic and iconographical
aspects of the scarab permits to postulate its Egyptian or non-Egyptian origin. An
archaeological study of each context (from over 60 sites excavated in present-day Syria,
Lebanon and southern Turkey) and an iconographical analysis of each design type
(inscriptions, motifs and combinations thereof) provide data from which the geographical
distribution and the chronological evolution of Egyptian imports as well as the Levantine
production are outlined. The results suggest the presence of a Middle Bronze Age II workshop
at Byblos, an Iron Age II workshop at Tyre and an 8th-7th century paste workshop at Byblos.
The application of this approach to the entire (published and unpublished) corpus from a
particular region had not been undertaken previously, not even for Egypt or the southern
Levant. The added value of this study is not only that it represents a reference for the finds
from the northern Levant but also that it looks beyond the individual objects. It places the
finds in their stratigraphical (archaeological context), local (site), regional (nearby centres),
interregional (distribution networks) and historical framework (Egyptian-Levantine relations).
By resulting in an exhaustive catalogue in a format (multiple user web application) that
encourages updates, additions and extensions, the present dissertation moreover looks at the
future and the material from other regions that still need to be studied.