Israeli Hiker Finds 3,500-year-old Egyptian Seal in Galilee

Scarab seal represents Pharaoh Thutmose III, who ruled in the 15th century B.C.E. Relic thought to have been brought to surface after recent rains.

The ancient scarab seal found on the Horns of Hattin in the Galilee, January 2016.
Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority

An Israeli man found a 3,500-year-old Egyptian seal while hiking in the Galilee last month.

Amit Haklai, from near Tiberias, was hiking with his children on the Horns of Hattin (Karnei Hattin) when he spotted a small white object carved in the shape of a beetle, with various markings engraved on it. He realized it must be an ancient Egyptian seal, so he handed it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Scarab seals were made by the Egyptians in the second millennium B.C.E. They were used to stamp the name of a clerk or king on objects ranging from pottery to papyri.

Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, a curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum, identified this scarab as an amulet from the period of the New Kingdom in Egypt.

Someone holds an ancient scarab seal between their fingers. It was found in the Horns of Hattin in the Galilee in January 2016.
Clara Amit/Israel Antiquities Authority

“The scarab represents Pharaoh Thutmose III [1481-1425 B.C.E.] sitting on his throne, and before him is a cartouche – an oval shape that contains symbols representing his name in hieroglyphics,” she explained. “Thutmose ruled for many years during the 15th century B.C.E., and during his reign Egypt set up an administrative system of governance in Canaan. There, he waged many campaigns of conquest, of which the most famous was the battle of Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley – a victory documented in giant tablets on the walls of the Karnak Temple in [Luxor], Egypt.”

Ben-Tor said such seals were carved in the shape of a dung beetle because the beetle had cosmological significance in ancient Egypt.

Dr. Michael Saban, director of the Antiquities Authority’s collection, said that while many scarabs have been found in Israel, this is the first one ever found on the Horns of Hattin. They are usually found during excavations, but he said they sometimes rise to the surface after a rainstorm, as apparently happened with this one.

“They are very important to archaeological research,” he said. “There are hundreds, but every artifact is important.”

Such scarabs, he noted, help to determine the chronology of ancient history. “It’s like finding written regards from King Thutmose, one of the founders of the Egyptian empire,” he said.

The Horns of Hattin is an extinct volcano with two peaks that resemble horns. It is famous for being the site of the battle of Hattin in 1187, in which Saladin defeated the Crusader army and thereby put an end to the first Crusader Kingdom.

Many years earlier, during the late Bronze Age, a fortified citadel had stood on the Horns of Hattin. But it was apparently destroyed in the 13th century B.C.E.

“Even though the scarab was found on the surface and not in an archaeological excavation, it can apparently be linked to the period when this citadel existed,” said Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeologist from the Antiquities Authority.

The authority gave Haklai a certificate of thanks for his discovery.