Funeral Practices of Ancient Egypt

The historical background of Ancient Egypt lies in the customs, beliefs, culture and deep rooted religious practices of the Ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egypt is known for its great pyramids, tombs, mummies and etchings on the walls that give a pictorial view into the lifestyle during that period of time. Historic figures of Ancient Egypt include King Tut, Queen Nefertiti, Ramesses II and Cleopatra to name a few great pharaohs who had ruled over Ancient Egypt.

When we take a look at Ancient Egypt, we are reminded of their many gods and goddesses that they respected and worshipped such as Isis, the goddess of love, and Horus, the god of war. They had gods for both occasion and creatures. Many of their deities were also represented by animals or creatures such as Heqet, the goddess of fertility, who was represented by a frog.

The Ancient Egyptian culture, because of its religious convictions, believed in the hereafter and immortality after death, which is why the preservation of the body was of such importance when an Egyptian died. Mummies, tombs, coffins and funeral rituals were a common practice of the Ancient Egypt time period. Below, we will explore and learn more on these aspects of Ancient Egypt.

Brief History

Due to the findings of Egyptologists it is believed that the Ancient Egyptians beliefs about life and death are a significant part of their culture. Ancient Egyptians have always believed that if a person lived a good life while alive, they could carry with them that same life into the hereafter when death came. They wanted to live on eternally, therefore preserving their identities and keeping their bodies from decaying was necessary. Their bodies had to be preserved and their spirit protected. Egyptian history tells us part of preparing the dead for their journey into the hereafter required steps such as writing inscriptions on the walls of the tombs and placing objects inside the coffin that reflect that person's former life on earth. Servants were at times also sacrificed after the pharaoh's death to ensure that the pharaoh would continue to be served in the afterlife.

Tombs

Before being placed in the tomb, the body must go through several stages of preparation involving embalming and mummification. Once embalmed and mummified, a procession of mourners follow the mummy to the tomb for burial. The followers in this funeral procession were friends and family members who placed objects and supplies inside the tomb. A priest performs a ceremony called "the opening of the mouth," which allows for the spirit of the dead to speak, eat, and drink in the hereafter. Other items to be found inside of a tomb are clothing, jewelry, weapons and a statue or statues of the deceased. All these things are to help the dead survive and live in the hereafter as he or she lived on earth. The walls of the tombs are decorated with drawings that depict the everyday life of the Egyptian way of living.

Burial Rituals

At the time of death, the Ancient Egyptians had the practice and ritual of turning the deceased person's body into a mummy. It took 70 days to mummify a body and a hundred yards of linen to wrap the remains of the dead person. Mummification was their way of preserving the body in order to give the spirit eternal life in the hereafter. When death came, it was believed that the ba (soul) and ka (life force) left the body of the dead person. The ba would visit the friends and family of the deceased while the ka traveled from the remains to the underworld.

Coffins

Prior to the use of stone coffins to encase the body of a deceased Egyptian, the Egyptians placed the bodies of their dead in pots, baskets, or coffins made of clay. Sometimes, a wooden scaffold was built around the body and used as a coffin. Other forms of coffins were made out of wood, metal and pottery. However, depending upon the status of an Egyptian who had passed away, the coffin could be plain with just a flat lid. But, when an Egyptian has wealth or comes from royalty, such as a pharaoh, a more elaborate coffin would be more proper. It would show more detail and decoration, being more expensive.

Burial Goods

As mentioned earlier, part of the ritual of burying the dead of Ancient Egypt is making sure the deceased has everything they need for living in the hereafter. Burial goods are items representing that particular life before death. You will find household goods, statues of pets and servants if you were of royal decent. Magical charms and trinkets also went inside the tomb, of which some of these items were placed on the mummified body to give protection. Other goods include such things as bowls, combs, jars, baskets, and personal property of the deceased. Whatever materialistic things of importance and value to a person living could be replicated and put inside the tomb as goods for the hereafter.

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