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Ancient Egypt: The Afterlife Society and Their Rituals

3139 words (13 pages) Essay in History

08/02/20 History Reference this

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INTRO:

The members of the ancient Egypt society were very spiritual, they believed each of us had many bodies. “Khat” is the term used to describe the physical body and it was considered the lowest of them all. The “Khu” was the spirit body and it was seen as immortal. For this reason, the Egyptians gave a large importance to death and the Afterlife. Unique rituals were practiced during funerary ceremonies, like the mummifications of pharaohs, kings, and nobles. The bodies were often buried in tombs, which was also another important aspect of the ancient Egypt culture. The following paper will discuss three essential features of the ancient Egypt related to death and the Afterlife. The first part will consist of the funerary rituals and other ceremonies they practiced, the following section is one of the most famous ritual in the Ancient Egypt, the mummification. Finally, the last section will discuss the tombs found across Egypt containing kings, pharaohs, and other artifacts.

The ancient Egyptians did not have a negative image of death like in our society. They gave an important value to the Afterlife, to protect the soul of the dead person, many rituals and different ceremonies were practiced like mummification and burials in tombs.

DEATH RITUALS AND RELEGIOUS CEREMONIES

To begin, the civilization of ancient Egypt goes back to about 5000 years ago. In their spiritual believes, they venerated many different gods. Their ultimate goal was to ultimately purify their soul to finally meet the gods in the Afterlife. Kings and pharaohs were considered partly gods. The priests were seen by the society as guidance in the real world to advance in the spiritual world. Ceremonies were organised where different specialities of priests were used for example magical, seer, lookers, and of course, mummification. “The Book of The Dead” was an essential book for the Egyptian for their passage in the Afterlife. Therefor, it had an important signification for them. “The Book of The Dead” was read by a priest at the funerals if it could be afforded. This manuscript touched the journey of the spirit from the tomb to the Afterlife, and the rebirth of the “Khu”. Additionally, a list of forty-two negative confessions were written and judged by Osiris. This god was seen to determine if the soul was purify enough to meet the god or sent back to earth to rebirth for another life. Throughout the years the book changed name to “The Book of Coming Into Light” or “The Wisdom of Ani” and many other varieties. The tome was used as prayers to aid and help in the Afterlife. (Notes, James, 2018)

The Egyptian were constantly searching for immortality of an individual’s soul. They believed the ceremonies and rituals could influence the fate in the Afterlife, but also as protection by gods. The religious rites were practice in the Temples, which were considered like the center of life or “Island of Creation”. Each room and hall of the Temples served for particular customs. With the help of the high priest, the king would bring the temple “alive” to produce a magical force. Many types of rituals were practiced, but two of them were the most important. One of them was practiced three times daily in honor of the rebirth of the sun and the resurrection of Osiris. The second ceremony was a great festival celebrated certain time during the year. These religious rites were in place to protect the king, the land, and its population from famine and evil. (David, 1975)

Another believe the Egyptian had towards the dead, is that the buried body had the same needs as his life. The “Ka” was the energy or force that surrounded the body and could live internally. They offered food, jewelleries, clothes, amulets and important personal items. Each objects that was buried with the bodies had a specific signification closely related to magic. The “Ka” could return to his body and for this reason food was given and placed inside the burial chamber. The Amulets, or Wedja, was a very important item for the Egyptian. It had healing properties and protection force against darkness. Thoth or Hermes was considered the God of Magic. They believed that the entire world was created with magic. It was giving by the Gods to human to protect them against evil force. Although, many used it for bad purpose and created spells. Pharaohs and priests were in charge of fighting chaos in the society using magic and religion. (Notes, James, 2018)

 Later on, the priests realized the important implication that involved bring regularly bring food to the souls of the bodies. For this reason they created a new discipline of priest was created called the “Ka-Priesthood”. They had the duty to make the necessary offerings to the “Ka” of the buried. This custom created an economic drain which was solved with magic and art. The tombs’ wall contained various painting of food instead of real food. (David, 1975)

There was three principal lines of priest in the Egyptian society. To become a priest it was a hard parkour physically but also psychologically. A long training was required in the priesthood, it was called “The Path of Power” or “The path or Pain”. Priest would dream together and improved their spiritual skills. The first line was focused mostly on Magic. Their speciality was to fight evil and help the people through magic and healing. The second type was the seer category, they would be able to see within the different level of the soul and plane of individuals. The third variety of priest used their power with looking further in time and distance, for example to see enemies approaching. (Leca, A. P. 1982)

MUMMIES

As mention previously, mummies were buried in tombs across Egypt. The study of Egypt and mummies became popular in the Renaissance, approximately 1350-1550AD, where many wealthy man and researchers from Europe started to focus their studies and interests towards Egyptian history. In the 19th century the Egyptology became an official discipline touching mostly archeology, anthropology and history. Hundreds of mummies and other artifacts were then found and studied. Today, mummies are known around the world because of photography like the very popular King Tutankhamun or different movies. Many questions can be asked about the dates, the procedure, and reasons behind the mummification of the Ancient Egypt. (Notes, James, 2018)

Items from the ancient Egypt go back to about 5,000 years ago. The techniques of dating evolved with time. Flinders Petri was a British Egyptologist, especially known for his diverse techniques of dating. He mostly touched archelogy and history, but his way of dating was used with pottery, ruins, and texts found. He started a new method of dating called the sequence dating. Today the “Petrie” dating and the Berlin-school dating are used to put dates of ancient Egypt. Petrie started a new process called “In-situ”, which means “on-site”. This method was created afterwards of the founding of many artifacts transformed in dust after the trip from Egypt to Europe. He studied on the site instead of moving the items across the ocean. Which help with the preservation and quality of the objects discovered. Since then, the techniques have evolved a lot. Today, the Carbon Dating is very popular which consist of observing at what rate the carbon disappear on the relics which gives an approximate idea of the age. Moreover, the paleontology dating is a very interesting technique, it focuses on the ancient diseases. Also, the
Computed Tomography gives detailed images through a scan of the body’s organs. It is used similarly to a “virtual dissections”, while keeping the bodies intact. (Petrella, E., Piciucchi, S., Feletti, F., Barone, D., Piraccini, A., Minghetti, C., … Traversari, M. 2016)

Two type of mummies were discovered with the years, the natural and artificial mummification. The climate of Egypt was ideal to preserve bodies after their death. The hot and dry environment with the endless sand, presented the perfect conditions for bodies to be kept forever. Then a natural phenomenon occurred, as described by R. David, “The body fluids of the newly buried corpse evaporated and were absorbed by the sand, a process that arrested decomposition and were produced desiccated, practically sterile bodies that could last indefinitely in the right environment conditions.” This funeral technique was the first introduced, but was also mostly used by the lower class of Egypt. Eventually, the artificial method of mummification, which consist of different varieties of wrapping the bodies in tissue, was introduced. This new process started to be only for the elite members, like kings, pharaohs, and priests, then later on to anyone who could afford it. (David, 2008)

Furthermore, the procedure of mummification also changed within the years, the earliest mummies had their internal organs removed, except the brain. This technique was introduced in the Old Kingdom and was called the evisceration. The body was then filled with spices and resins. The organs were preserved individually and were wrapped in a linen and placed either in a box called the Canopic Jars. The mummy was finally wrapped in fine linen and sometime included a mask. (Murray, A. Margaret. 1989)

During the Middle Kingdom, most of the mummies discovered were in poor condition. There was barely evidence of the previous technique of evisceration found in the mummies. David states that the bodies were probably conserved with injection of resinous substances into the alimentary canal per anum. Although, some of the mummies found from the middle kingdom had their brain and the organs removed and preserved with the body. This practice was generally used for nonroyal persons. (Sparks, 2013) (Petrella, E., Piciucchi, S., Feletti, F., Barone, D., Piraccini, A., Minghetti, C., … Traversari, M.,2016)

In the New Kingdom, the technique used to mummify a body had a goal to make it look like a living person. Incisions were made in the face and filled with padding and clay to push the cheeks and other parts of the face, then the face of the dead was painted. The procedure of evisceration and exacerbation, which consists of the brain removal acceded through the foramen magnum or the trepanned orbit, was well spread.  (Murray, A. Margaret. 1989)

TOMBS

To finish, the tombs varied throughout the ancient Egypt reign. The first burial chamber discovered belonged to many kings of the predynatic period. Many were found with paint decorations and hieroglyphs, others had less decoration but could measure up to twenty-two square meters. They were transformed from simple chambers, to more elaborated designs, addition of staircases or statues. In the Old Kingdom, more precisely the third Dynatic, The Step Pyramid was made for king Djoser. His majestic structure was made mostly in mud brick and rose over his royal chamber up 204 feet high. This structure was a major progress in the procedure in the making royal burials. (Dodson, 2017)

In the middle Kingdom, the eleventh Dynastic introduced a new type of structure, as described by Dodson,”the north side was the royal mortuary chapel and its burial-shafts, courtyards, and the tomb-chapels of members of the court. The face possessed massive courtyards and was sided by the tomb-chapels of members of the court. This was followed the entrance to an alternative location instead of the north side like in the Old Kingdom’s concept introduced by king Mentuhotep II.  (Dodson, 2017) The Egyptians followed a very precise and unique style for the tombs, and eventually with the years, the changes were easily observed. (Dodson, 2017)

The New kingdom’s tombs really modify the traditional way of burials. Started with the Eighteenth Dynasty founder Ahmose I, who built his pyramid at Abydos, but his burial chamber was built at the edge of the desert. After realizing the cost and the danger related to building a pyramid, a new strategy was adopted. Instead of being buried in a pyramid that could be seen from miles away, the Kings’ monuments were now secretly located deep in the desert. More precisely about 400 miles south of the Great Pyramid. It was located close to the city of Luxor, which used to be known as an important political and religious center called Thebes. The position of the valley was also influenced by the sun. Since it was in the mountains on the west side of the Nile, the sun set each evening. They linked the sun with the sun god Re and believed that the sun went into the land of the dead and would rebirth each day in the east. This sequence of removed catacombs created “the Valley of Kings” where dozens of royal tombs were found. These were the memorial temples, they were built in dedication to the king, but also two gods, Ra and Amun. The style memorial temples varied from different sizes, to bent ‘axis’ to carved reliefs and flat paint decorations. (Reeves, C. N., & Wilkinson, R. H. 2008)

As mentioned earlier, what the tombs contained were very significant. They believe the “Ka” of the individual stayed on earth near the tomb and consumed the offerings for the Afterlife. Food, beverages, clothes, jewelries, and personal belongings were buried with the body. These were valuable objects for thieves. Series of tombs thieves occurred throughout the years, where many pyramids and tombs were broken into. For this reason, kings started to create their burial tombs and pyramid against robbers. To miss lead the thieves many dead-end corridors, hidden doors, and traps were designed. The valuable items like gold, amulets, and jewels were in place for the person to carry in his next life, but were also the principle target for these robbers. These actions were immoral crimes, but also touched the archeologic aspect. Most of the pyramid and tombs were already the victims of robberies, this has an impact of the advance in knowledge of the Ancient Egypt society. (Patridge, 2009)

CONCLUSION:

To conclude, death was something that the Egyptians did not fear. They believed each one had many bodies, and the physical one was the lowest. At the end of their life on earth, the god Osiris would judge between rebirth on earth or the soul was purified and was able to meet the gods. To help the soul to find the gods, a series of rituals and ceremonies were practiced. These included the reading of “The Book of The Dead” by the priests. The Mummification was another ritual made on kings, pharaohs, and nobles. Although the first type of mummies were naturally created by the dry and hot Egyptian climate. The artificial way changed throughout the years, but the removal of some organs and the body wrapped in linen was spread in the years. The dead bodies of the kings or other important person were often buried in Tombs. These were also very important for their religious beliefs. They faced some advances with time, from simple mud-brick construction to sophisticated structures. During the New Kingdom, approximately in the eighteenth dynasty, kings were getting buried in an isolated valley of the desert. Many dozens of bodies were found in these tombs located in “The Valley of the Kings”. This paper concerned a variety of rituals and ceremonies related to death and Afterlife.

SUMMARY:

The ancient Egypt society were unique concerning their beliefs, their religion, and architecture. All these aspects made the Egyptian one of the greatest civilization of all time. They believed in the Afterlife, which developed a huge possibilities of theories towards death and ceremonies. A variety of rituals were practiced when a royal passed away. Food and other personal items were giving in the burial chamber, also priers were read by priest to help and protect the soul in the Afterlife. Another common practiced was the mummification. Natural and artificial mummies were discovered. The natural phenomena was created with the dry and hot climate. The artificial practiced varied throughout the years. It started with the evisceration, which is the removal of the internal organs except the brain. The body was then filled with spices and resins and was wrapped in a linen. With the years, mummification faced some modifications. These were then buried in royal chambers and tombs. They, just like the mummies, evolved with the years. Beginning as simple mud bricks tombs to the introduction of massive and elaborated structure. These were in place for the Afterlife of the dead, to help his “Ka” in his journey. In the new kingdom, a series of kings were buried in an isolated valley in the desert, and it created the
“The Valley of the Kings”. The Ancient Egyptians was a society based on religion and gods, their ultimate goal was to purify their souls to finally meet the gods in the Afterlife.

REFERENCES

  • David, R.A. (1975). The Making of the Past: The Egyptian Kingdoms. New-York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.
  • Dérobert, L. (1975) Le monde étrange des momies, Paris: Pygmalion
  • Dodson, A. (2017). The Tombs of the Kings of Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt Magazine, 17(6), 22–29. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=123751746&site=ehost-live
  • Leca, A. P. (1982). The cult of the immortal: Mummies and the Ancient Egyptian way of death. London: Granada.
  • McKnight, L. M. (2015). Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies as Votive Offerings. Ancient Egypt Magazine, 16(1), 27–33. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=109145995&site=ehost-live
  • Murray, M. A. (1989). The splendour that was Egypt. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
  • Price, C., Forshaw, R., Chamberlain, A., Nicholson, P. T., & David, A. R. (2018). Mummies, magic, and medicine in ancient Egypt: Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Patridge, B. (2009). Why did ancient Egyptians mummify their dead? Ancient Egypt Magazine, 10(3), 31–35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=45628849&site=ehost-live
  • Reeves, C. N., & Wilkinson, R. H. (2008). The complete Valley of the Kings: Tombs and treasures of Egypts greatest Pharaohs. London: Thames & Hudson.
  • Wallis Budge, E.A. (2008) The Egyptian Book of the Dead. London: Penguin classics
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