Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Dung Beetle and Heavenly Lights

Alice C. Linsley

The African "rolling" dung beetle orients itself by celestial lights as it rolls a dung ball away from the competition. During the day it orients by the sun and at night by the Milky Way.

Dung beetle on dung ball under the Milky Way
Image: Emily Baird

Every so often the beetle who pushes the dung ball stops and climbs up on top of the ball and looks around. If it is off course, it will correct itself. Dung beetles are the only non-human creature known to orient themselves using the Milky Way to move along straight paths. They do not orientate to the individual stars visible at night.

Some dung beetles bury the dung wherever they find it, and other dung beetles simply live in the manure where they find it. The behavior of the rolling dung beetle held special significance, however, for the ancient Horites who also oriented themselves by celestial lights.

Significance of the dung beetle in Horite religion

Abraham’s Horite people viewed the heart as the mind and the seat of decision-making. The heart was the essential organ when it came to resurrection of the body, as it would be weighed in the afterlife. The body of the pure heart would rise from the dead, as the sun rise in the morning. This is the significance of the dung beetle scarab, placed over the mummy's heart.

This beetle rolls balls of dung along the ground and deposits them in its burrows. The female lays her eggs in the dung ball and when they hatch, the larvae feed off the dung until they emerge from the earth. The orb of the lowly beetle replicated on earth the solar orb of the Creator. Both were seen to sink below the earth and were believed to give life to those buried in the earth.

The ancient Egyptians observed that the beetle buried the dung ball and that the beetle's young fed off the dung underground. This was symbolic of the food placed in the graves of rulers in hope that they would come forth from the grave and lead their people to immortality. The scarab beetle was given the name Khoprer, which is derived from kheper, meaning to become.

The dung beetle and ancient monuments

The dung beetle can see the magnetic lines running north and south in the sky. As the beetle pushes the dung ball it sometimes stops and climbs up on top of the ball and looks around. It is likely that this same observation was used by the ancient Nilo-Saharans in the building and alignment of their monuments over great distances. The majority of their monuments align to meridian cardinal directions and the solar arc.

In 1997 University of Colorado astronomy professor J. McKim Malville identified alignments at a megalithic complex in the desert at Nabta in the region of ancient Nubia. This site was seasonally inhabited by cattle herders between 11,000 and 4,800 years ago (Malville et al. 1998). One stone circle exhibits a line-of-sight 'window' at an azimuth of 62 degrees; the direction at which the rising mid-summer sun would have been visible about 6,000 years BC. This is the oldest astronomically aligned structure yet discovered on the planet.

Nabta consists of a stone circle, a series of flat, tomb-like stone structures and five lines of standing and toppled megaliths. Nabta predates Stonehenge and similar prehistoric sites by about 1,000 years.

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