The scarab was a hieroglyph, , pronounced kheper - which meant the beetle, but also 'to exist', or ''shape'.

The Sun God

The scarab beetle is known for making balls of dung, with its eggs in, which it rolls to a sunny place. This reminded the Egyptians of the sun travelling across the sky.

This is why one form of the sun god - Re-Kheperi - had a scarab for a head.

Right: Re-Kheperi, from the tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramses II


A lot of scarabs were made as amulets. They were strung around the neck, or worn on a ring, or laid on mummies. They were believed to give magical protection. Because kheper meant to exist, if you wore a scarab, it meant you would continue to exist.

Protecting the soul

Scarabs were often placed over a mummy's heart. When the dead person's soul came to be judged before the gods, his heart was examined to see if it was heavy with sin. The heart could tell the gods all about the person's sins, and cause him to be barred from heaven. The scarab, therefore, had a spell written on it which kept the heart quiet:



Scarabs were sometimes used like ancient newspapers, to send messages about important events throughout the land. The pharaoh Amenhotep III made 5 scarabs, about the following events in his reign:

1. A wild bull hunt

2. A lion hunt

3. The arrival of a foreign princess

4. His marriage to Queen Tiya

5. His construction of a pleasure lake for Tiya

On the right is one of these scarabs. It tells how Amenhotep slew 102 lions!

   'O heart of my mother, o heart of my mother. Do not stand against me as a witness. Do not outweigh me before the keeper of the balance.'

(from the Book of the Dead, Spell 30B)



Scarabs were often shown with bird wings. The picture below shows the pectoral of Tutankhamun, which spells out his throne name in hieroglyphs, Neb-kheperu-re.