Egyptian scarabs

The image of the scarab beetle (Scarabeus sacer) is prominent in the royal funerary decoration of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC). After laying its eggs in a ball of dung, the scarab beetle rolls the ball before it wherever it goes. When the young beetles hatch they appear, apparently miraculously, from the dung. Thus to the ancient Egyptians the scarab beetle was a symbol of rebirth and represents the god Khepri, who was thought to push the sun disc through the morning sky, as a scarab beetle pushes its ball of dung.

The scarab beetle was also an important amulet. It first appeared during the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), and was often used as a seal, mounted on a ring, with an inscription on the flat underside. This use was extended to a funerary context during the Middle Kingdom and later, in the form of the 'heart scarab': a stone amulet in the shape of a scarab placed over the heart of the mummy. This too was inscribed on its underside, with chapter thirty of the Book of the Dead, a spell that prevented the heart from speaking out against the deceased at his or her judgement.

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