We don’t usually give beetles that much attention. Maybe we should: 20% of all known species living on the earth are beetles.
The Ancient Egyptians greatly admired one particular type of beetle, the dung beetle, or scarab. Scarabs feature largely in Ancient Egyptian art.
Dung beetles live on dung. They’re known for rolling up balls of dung for storage, and without them we’d be going under in a sea of dung.
When you’re thinking about Ancient Egyptian art and culture and the topic of scarabs, or dung beetles, comes up, you can extend it to a study of the major topics that should be covered whenever you study a living organism:
- the morphology, or shapes of the creatures
- their life cycles
- their habitats
- their relationships to humans, a particularly interesting part of the scarab’s story
The Egyptians saw in the dung beetles and their balls of dung the story of Khepri, who rolled the sun across across the sky in the same way. They revered the scarab and made jewelry and other artifacts in the shape of the scarab.
Have students examine examples of scarabs from Egypt, and then use Model Magic or another clay to create their own.
- Egyptian Scarabs gives all the basic info you need.
- The Scarab’s Secret is a beautiful picture book version of the story of Khepri.
- Zara: Daughter Of The Kings is an early chapter book set in Nubia, or Kush, a major player in the time of Ancient Egypt which often is overlooked. There is an adventure involving an emerald scarab and a lot of historical detail. This would make a good read aloud or class set of readers for a study of Ancient Egypt or scarabs.
- Wayne’s World Beetles from Palomar College has an impressive assortment of photos of beetles with useful information, plus some graphs and quizzes and things.
- National Geographic offers a thorough discussion of the scarab beetle.
- An easy reading version includes the story of Kephir, the scarab-headed god, with some beautiful pictures.
- Examples of scarab carvings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.