By: Sophie Edens, Public Relations & Marketing Intern


Scarab, Unidentified Craftsman (Egyptian), 1938.500.057

The scarabs shown in Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy are not quite the right depiction of the scarab beetle the Egyptians worshiped. The scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer) never ate human flesh; rather, they ate the dung off the ground.

That’s right. They eat poop.



As shown in the photo to the left, the scarab beetle rolls a ball of dung along the ground and pushes it into its burrow. The female would lay her eggs in the ball. When the larvae hatched, they’d use the ball for food. When the dung was consumed the young beetles would emerge from the hole. This emergence is what struck the Egyptians as unique. This emergence from their burrow is likely what caused the scarab beetle to gain its status as a symbol of rebirth. Additionally, the scarab is associated with the god Atum, the first god to emerge at the time of creation much as the scarab emerges from its hole.

This led to the scarab being called “khepera” after the Egyptian solar deity, Khepera, who was depicted with the body of a man and the head of a beetle. This diety was “the rising sun” as he rolled the sun along the sky much as the scarab dung beetle rolls a ball of dung across the ground. Due to this resemblance, scarabs gained some symbolic connection with the sun. They can be found depicted with the sun as if they are rolling it along like Khepera. 

You will find multiple carved scarabs artifacts in the DOMA collection in the Harper Family Gallery. They are all made of ceramic but varying in color. Other Egyptian artworks are on display in Harper, including our Model Funerary Boat and statuettes of other deities. Come visit to learn more about the history and mythology of the Ancient Egyptians through the art on display. Look for tours offered on the subject with no admission fee, such as a Docent’s Tour this fall, or request one for your group anytime by filling out a Group Visit Request form here.