Classical Phoenician Scarab Corpus

'Classical Phoenician scarabs' were made in Phoenicia in the period of the Achaemenid Persian empire, from the later sixth century to the mid-fourth century BC. Beside the Etruscan, they are the last major production of scarab seals of antiquity. They are made of green jasper, the colour probably being of as much importance as their intaglios since it enhances their amuletic value.

Most of the 1500 examples known have been found in the west Phoenician (Punic) cemeteries of Carthage, Sardinia and Ibiza (Spain), but there are many also from the east Mediterranean. It was long held that all were western products but it is more likely, on many other grounds, that they were made in the Phoenician homeland. They served as jewellery, as offerings in tombs and sanctuaries, and for their primary function of sealing. Many were given precious metal mounts.

The subjects of the intaglios are the most eclectic of any medium of the period. They include Egyptianizing (the common stock of Phoenicia for many years), Levantine (more Syrian in style and subject) and Hellenizing (mainly following late archaic Greek subjects and styles, whence many have been called Greco-Phoenician). But there are also many Miscellaneous, and much overlapping of categories, which are simply for the convenience of scholars and not to be taken as reflecting on use or provenience. To each category in the catalogue given here is appended a select list of scarabs with the same subjects in other materials (with X numbers) some of which are also illustrated; these appear to be of the same period and from the same sites but not the same workshops.

The series has been studied in more detail by John Boardman in Classical Phoenician Scarabs (Beazley Archive and Archaeopress, 2003) where there is selective illustration. This website has been designed to repeat the whole catalogue from the book, and the intention is to add to it, in time, fuller illustration from various sources. It is hoped that this will make it possible for others to suggest corrections and additions (to be addressed to

The material has been assembled over many years but its final ordering was made possible only by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Foundation of an Emeritus Research Fellowship.

Each of the catalogue sections is here put on line, with illustrations. For the full index see Index to catalogue. For an explanation of the abbreviations see abbreviations. For the chart explaining the border patterns and types of hoop see borders and mounts.

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