TEL AVIV – An Israeli amateur birdwatcher accidentally discovered an ancient Egyptian scarab seal roughly 3,700-years-old.
The seal, which was found by Alexander Ternopolsky who was birdwatching near the Tel Dor archaeological site on Israel’s Carmel Coast, apparently belonged to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic dynasty.
According to researchers at Haifa University who announced the find on Sunday, it dates as far back as the 18th century BCE.
“The scarab must have belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” explained Professor Ayelet Gilboa from the Department of Archeology at Haifa University.
Gilboa is heading the excavations at Tel Dor together with Professor Ilan Sharon from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Immediately after stumbling upon the treasure, Ternopolsky handed it over to the archeological team working at Tel Dor, which is the site of an ongoing excavation of the ancient port city of Dor – a key port city for thousands of years. Egyptian documents dating back 3,500 years make mention of Dor.
According to Haifa University, Dor was the main commercial nucleus in the area, until the Romans built Caesarea. It was a trading hub for spices, resin, and other commodities that were valued by the ancient Egyptians.
The stone scarab is engraved with the name of its owner as well as his position, and includes phrases such as “overseer of the treasury” and “bearer of the seal.” The owner’s name, however, has not yet been deciphered.
The archeologists are not yet sure how the scarab arrived in Tel Dor. One theory is that it only arrived there at a much later stage, possibly even during the Roman period, when demand was high for Egyptian antiques.
“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,” said Gilboa.