Saturday, November 14, 2009
The Mummy - Scary Scarabs
In this movie, high-priest Imhotep is punished for having an affair with the mistress of the pharaoh by being buried alive with flesh-eating scarabs in his coffin. In his tomb, the heroes Rick O’Connell, Evelyn Carnahan and their group are threatened by swarms of fast and ferocious carnivorous scarabs. One character, the tomb-looting Beni, is even eaten alive by the scarabs. The black beetles that form these scary swarms could hardly be further away from the animal they were inspired on. Real scarabs (Scarabaeus sacer) are relatively slow and clumsily-moving dung beetles whose lives revolve around animal droppings, not human flesh. Scarabs make the dung they find into a ball and roll them along, looking for a suitable place to bury it. This rolling along of a ball of animal droppings has caught the imagination of the old Egyptians. They thought the scarab-headed god Khepri would roll the sun along the sky in a similar way, “explaining” the daily movement of the sun from east to west. The real scarabs meanwhile, roll their dung balls into a self-dug borrow. The adult beetle then lays an egg on it and closes off the borrow, sealing in the dung ball and the egg. The larvae now develops with a supply of dung large enough to feed it for several months, after which the larva pupates. From the pupa hatches another adult scarab. At no stage does the life of the scarab beetle involve flesh-eating, swarming or moving along at high speed, and they really don’t need to. These harmless beetles are impressive enough by their size (3cm) and their ability to toil along in the scorching sun of Egypt.