The scarab beetle is commonly associated with Egyptian culture; however, this beetle appears in many cultures from South America to South East Asia and even Judeo-Christian cultures. In each culture the scarab has a slightly different significance.
For the Egyptians, the scarab beetle was associated with the sun because the beetle pushing its ball of dung resembled the sun traveling across the sky. In fact, the Egyptian solar god Khepri was often depicted with a scarab for a head. Egyptian scholars studied the larvae of scarab beetles in their dung balls and believed that these insects were able to regenerate.
Scarabs were also featured in the creation stories of many cultures. In the Chaco tribes of South America, a giant scarab named Aksak served as the sculptor who created men and women. Many pre-Ayran Indian cultures had a myth of a beetle that would dive through chaos and bring up material used to create the world. This beetle may have been based on the scarab.
Scarab beetles were also referred to in Taoist literature, because the dung ball of a scarab beetle was seen as a "pellet" that would aid people on the spiritual search for immortality. In Greek culture the scarab was connected with pygmies, and with death. This connection with death was important for warriors, and so the scarab was adopted by Zeus along with the eagle as one of his most important symbols.
Finally, the scarab occurs in Judeo-Christian culture because Phoenicians picked up the symbol from Egyptians and modified it to make it their own. Trinkets with scarabs on them made it as far as Rome, although they had lost much of their significance by then.