Engraved Scaraboid with Lion and Boar (Front)


The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

The convex top of this finely-carved scaraboid depicts a lion standing in right profile with its head turned to the front and tongue extended. The flat underside shows a boar also in right profile, twisting three-quarters to the front in order to scratch his head with his right hind leg.

A scaraboid is a simplified scarab, typically with a plain curved back and an intaglio design decorating the flat underside. They gradually replaced the scarab in Greece in the 400s B.C. Like scarabs, they were typically pierced and worn either as a ring or pendant. When attached to a metal hoop and worn as a ring, the curved side faced out and the intaglio surface rested against the finger. When needed as a seal, the ring was removed, the gem swiveled, and the intaglio design was pressed into soft clay or wax to identify and secure property.

The exceptional quality of this scaraboid sets it apart from most Greco-Persian gems, as does the use of lapis lazuli. Highly prized in antiquity, the stone is rarely attested in either Greek or Persian glyptic of this period, enhancing this gem’s status as a luxury good. The fact that it is carved on both sides suggests that this gem was used as jewelry and not for sealing. The devices are well paralleled within the Persian Empire, particularly the lion with turned head, which appears on a number of fourth-century B.C. silver coins from Cilicia.


  • Title: Engraved Scaraboid with Lion and Boar (Front)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 400–350 B.C.
  • Physical Dimensions: 2.4 × 1.8 × 1 cm (15/16 × 3/4 × 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Gem
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Lapis lazuli
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 83.AN.437.9
  • Culture: Greco-Persian
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of Damon Mezzacappa and Jonathan H. Kagan
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Jewelry

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