Definitions

scarabaeus

scarab beetle

Any of about 30,000 beetle species (family Scarabaeidae), found worldwide, that are compact, heavy-bodied, and oval. Each antenna terminates in three flattened plates that fit together to form a club. The outer edges of the front legs may be toothed or scalloped. Species range from about 0.2 to 4.8 in. (5 to 120 mm) long and include one of the heaviest known insects. One species of dung beetle, Scarabaeus sacer, was sacred to the ancient Egyptians. Many species are agricultural pests (e.g., chafer, Japanese beetle, June beetle); many are popular with insect collectors because they are large and have beautifully coloured, hard, highly polished forewings.

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Scarab commemorating the marriage of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy, 18th dynasty; in the Oriental elipsis

In Egyptian religion, a symbol of immortality much used in funerary art. It was inspired by the scarab beetle, which lays its eggs in dung balls fashioned through rolling. This beetle was associated with the divine manifestation of the early morning sun, Khepri, whose name was written with the scarab hieroglyph, and who was believed to roll the disk of the morning sun over the eastern horizon at daybreak. Many scarabs were made of precious metals and were worn as amulets or used as seals. First appearing circa 2575–circa 2130 BCE, they were fashioned in great numbers during the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom.

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The genus Scarabaeus consists of a number of Old World dung beetle species, including the "sacred scarab beetle", Scarabaeus sacer. These beetles feed exclusively on dung, which they accomplish by rolling a piece of dung some distance from where it was deposited, and burying it, with an egg deposited on the ball. The growing larva feeds upon the dung ball, pupates, and eventually emerges as an adult.

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