17 August 2016

THE AGE OF ASTRONOMY. 5/7: Astronomical References: The Scarab and the Dung Beetle 1813BC

Ancient Astronomy Series. THE AGE OF ASTRONOMY. 5/7: Astronomical References: The Scarab and the Dung Beetle. 1813BC.

What is the age of Astronomy? How old is it? Can we find some tangible evidence of it's age?
Many clues can be found in almost all civilizations on Earth before us.
In this mini series of articles we will establish the chronology of astronomy with astronomical relics, instruments, artifacts, alignments, maps, references and places in ancient periods pinpointing exactly in time, the age of Astronomy.

Ancient Astronomy Series: List of the articles
    1/7 Instruments: NASA's STEREO mission. Predicting the Sun's activities. 2006AD
    2/7 : Relics: Abù Bakr Ibn Yùsuf's medieval Moroccan astrolabes. 1216AD
    3/7: Places: El caracol, Mayan Observatory. 906AD
    4/7: Artifacts: Nebra sky disk of North Germany. 1600BC
    5/7: Astronomical References: The scarab and the Dung beetle. 1813BC
    6/7: Alignments: Megaliths of Carnac, France. 3300BC
    7/7: Maps: Prehistoric Starmap. 10500BC

Illustration 13: The beetle ring of Sithathoryunet in homage to the God Khepri. Middle Kingdom, ancient Egypt.

1813BC. The scarab and the Dung beetle.
Location: Egypt.

An Ancient Egyptian Artifact representing a God describing an astronomical objects is what we investigate in this article. The ring of Sithathoryunet, the beetle amulet. Sithathoryunet was a member of the royalty in the middle kingdom period and her ring was a powerful amulet in the form of a beetle. The relation with the nature world and the heavens are well represented in this ring. Does this ring represent something astronomical as well? And if it does, we can push the age of Astronomy back into an much earlier past than the previous evidence suggested in a past article of the Age of astronomy Series.

The Dung Beetle
Dung beetles are beetles that feed partly or exclusively on dung.
All the species belong to the super family Scarabaeoidea; most of them to the subfamilies Scarabaeinae (scarab beetles). As most species of Scarabaeinae feed exclusively on feces, that subfamily is often dubbed true dung beetles. Beetles or scarabs are often found in funeral coffins as well as mentions in Egyptian coffin texts.

Scarab in ancient Egypt
Several species of the dung beetle, most notably the species Scarabaeus sacer (the sacred scarab), enjoyed a sacred status among the ancient Egyptians. As this scarab was linked to Khepri ("He who has come into being"), the god of the rising sun. The ancients believed that the dung beetle was only male in gender, and reproduced by depositing semen into a dung ball. The supposed self-creation of the beetle resembles that of Khepri, who creates himself out of nothing. Moreover, the dung ball rolled by a dung beetle represented the rising sun.

The God Khepri and the rising Sun.
The Scarab ring had a direct link to the God Khepri. The shape of the beetle on the ring represented the God and when ancient people wore this ring, they believe to have the God with them. The God Khepri known also as "He who has come into being" is link to the rising Sun. As the Sun rises it becomes into being and therefore is represented by Khepri. The beetle signified the God Khepri and the God Khepri signified the rising Sun that was represented by the beetle pushing its dung ball. A very cyclical outlook at life. From here below to there above (and back).

Illustration 14: The God Khepri's name in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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. Some New Kingdom royal tombs exhibit a threefold image of the sun god, with the beetle as symbol of the morning sun. The astronomical ceiling in the tomb of Ramses VI portrays the nightly "death" and "rebirth" of the sun as being swallowed by Nut, goddess of the sky, and re-emerging from her womb as Khepri.

Plutarch wrote:
"The race of beetles has no female, but all the males eject their sperm into a round pellet of material which they roll up by pushing it from the opposite side, just as the sun seems to turn the heavens in the direction opposite to its own course, which is from West to East."

The Sun being an astronomical object hence connect astronomy with this period of time of at least 1813BC. The Quote by Plutarch and the artifact found in Egypt, the Ring of Sithathoryunet gives a tangible evidence of knowledge of Astronomy at that period.

So what is the age of Astronomy, you ask? At least since 1813BC. That means the knowledge of astronomy is at least 3828 years old.
The search for the age of Astronomy is still out there. Read the next article of our series on The age of Astronomy”and see how far back we can push it's age in time. Stay tuned, and continue reading Ancient Astronomy Series. THE AGE OF ASTRONOMY.

Please take time to read the links and PDF files on this subject.

Pubic outreach program  by Astronomy club Toutatis, Kustavi, Finland