Scarabs were popular amulets and impression seals in ancient Egypt. They survive in large numbers and, through their inscriptions and typology, they are an important source of information for archaeologists and historians of the ancient world. They also represent a significant body of ancient art.
For reasons that are not clear (although no doubt connected to the religious significance of the Egyptian god Khepri), amulets in the form of scarab beetles had become enormously popular in Ancient Egypt by the early Middle Kingdom (approx. 2000 BCE) and remained popular for the rest of the pharaonic period and beyond. During that long period the function of scarabs repeatedly changed. Primarily amulets, they were also inscribed for use as personal or administrative seals or were incorporated into jewelry. Some scarabs were apparently created for political or diplomatic purposes to commemorate or advertise royal achievements. By the early New Kingdom, heart scarabs had become part of the battery of amulets protecting mummies.
In ancient Egyptian religion, the sun god Ra is seen to roll across the sky each day, transforming bodies and souls. Beetles of the family Scarabaeidae (dung beetle) roll dung into a ball as food and as a brood chamber in which to lay eggs; this way, the larvae hatch and are immediately surrounded by food. For these reasons the scarab was seen as a symbol of this heavenly cycle and of the idea of rebirth or regeneration. The Egyptian god Khepri, Ra as the rising sun, was often depicted as a scarab beetle or as a scarab beetle-headed man. The ancient Egyptians believed that Khepri renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again, the next day. A golden scarab of Nefertiti was discovered in the Uluburun wreck.