As most of you guessed, we haven’t really become convinced of an ancient Egyptian connection to IWM Duxford. We took advantage of April Fools’ Day to highlight a little piece of IWM Duxford’s hidden history. There really is a scarab beetle etched into the ground in front of Hangar 2: Flying Aircraft, but it didn’t originate in Africa 2,000 years ago.
The hangar that used to stand here belonged to No. 64 Squadron, and their badge features a scarab beetle. This is because the squadron spent some time in Egypt in the 1930s. They were based here from 1951 to 1961, flying Gloster Meteors, then Javelins.
The beetle was placed here by squadron personnel to show just whose territory this was!
I included a few clues in the previous post – did you spot them? It’s not really ‘64’ feet from the scarab to the hangar entrance, and the reason I included the phrase ‘firm of purpose’ is because this is a translation of the squadron motto – “Tenax propositi”.
However, it is possible to argue that the scarab is here because of a meteor – a Gloster Meteor, to be precise…
IWM Duxford has been visited by a wide range of people from a diverse set of countries over its 90-year history. It has recently come to our attention, however, that the first foreign visit to our little piece of South Cambridgeshire countryside may have been much earlier than we previously suspected.
Archaeological work undertaken on site in the last few weeks has revealed a remarkable man-made carving, only 64 feet from the entrance to Hangar 2: Flying Aircraft. As shown in the photograph, the carving depicts a scarab beetle, or scarabee. It is etched into what appears to be some form of conglomerate rock or breccia.
We know how important the scarab beetle was in ancient Egypt. It represented rebirth, and as a symbol is found in many places throughout the ancient world. The striking resemblance to similar carvings in North Africa allows us to date this piece to circa 1300 BCE.
Whoever completed this carving must have been extraordinarily firm of purpose, and very skilful. It has survived for what could be as much as 3,000 years – many of these surely in its present location.
If you have any information that could help us find out how this incredible artefact came to be here, we’d love to hear from you. We’ve already had some rather outlandish explanations as to how it arrived – including via a meteor!