Ever because European archaeologists began excavating in Egypt in the 18th and 19th centuries CE, the ancient culture has to be largely associated with death. Even into the mid-20th century CE trustworthy scholars were still composing on the death-obsessed Egyptians whose stays were doing not have in play and also without joy. Mummies in dark, labyrinthine tombs, weird rituals carry out by dour priests, and also the pyramid tombs of the queens remain the most prominent pictures of ancient Egypt in plenty of people"s minds also in the current day, and an array of over 2,000 deities - many of them uniquely connected with the immortality - just seems to add to the created vision the the ancient Egyptians as obsessed with death. Actually, though, they were fully engaged in life, so much so that their afterlife was thought about an eternal extension of their time top top earth.

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Book the the Dead, Ptolemaic Period
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

When someone passed away in ancient Egypt the funeral was a public event which allowed the life to mourn the happen of a member the the ar and enabled the deceased to move on from the earthly aircraft to the eternal. Back there were outpourings the grief and deep mourning over the lose of who they loved, they walk not believe the dead person had ceased to exist; they had merely left the earth for one more realm.

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In order to make sure they got to their destination safely, the Egyptians emerged elaborate mortuary rituals to preserve the body, cost-free the soul, and send it on the way. This rituals urged the healthy and balanced expression that grief among the living yet concluded through a feast celebrate the life of the deceased and his or her departure, emphasizing how death was not the end but only a continuation. Egyptologist Helen Strudwick notes, "for the life-loving Egyptians, the guarantee of continuing life in the netherworld was immensely important" (190). The mortuary rituals listed the people with just that type of guarantee.

Early Rituals & Burial

The faster burials in ancient Egypt were basic graves in which the deceased to be placed, on the left side, attach by part grave goods. The is clear there was already a belief in some sort of afterlife prior come c. 3500 BCE once mummification began to be practiced yet no written record of what type this id took. An easy graves in the Predynastic period in Egypt (c. 6000 - c. 3150 BCE) advanced into the mastaba burial places of the early on Dynastic duration (c. 3150 - c. 2613 BCE) which then came to be the grand pyramids the the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE). Every one of these periods thought in an immortality and involved in mortuary rituals, but those of the Old Kingdom room the ideal known from photos on tombs.

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By the time of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the culture had a clear expertise of just how the world worked and humanity"s place in it. The god had created the world and the human being in it through the agency of magic (heka) and also sustained it v magic together well. All the civilization was imbued v mystical life generated by the gods that would welcome the soul as soon as it finally left the planet for the afterlife. In order because that the soul to make this journey, the human body it left behind necessary to be carefully preserved, and also this is why mummification came to be such an integral part of the mortuary rituals. Although that is usually assumed that anyone in Egypt to be mummified after your death, the exercise was expensive, and also usually only the upper class and also nobility might afford it.

In the Old Kingdom the kings were buried in your pyramid tombs, yet from the first Intermediate period of Egypt (2181-2040 BCE) onwards, kings and also nobles favored tombs cut into rock face or right into the earth. By the moment of the new Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE) the tombs and the rituals leading to funeral had got to their highest possible state that development. There to be three techniques of embalming/funerary ritual available: the most expensive and elaborate, a second, cheaper choice which still allowed for lot of the first, and a third which was also cheaper and afforded tiny of the attention to detail of the first. The adhering to rituals and also embalming methods described are those that the first, most elaborate option, which to be performed for royalty and the certain rituals space those observed in the new Kingdom of Egypt.

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The Preparations

After death, the human body was carried to the embalmers where the priests washed and purified it. The mortuary priest then gotten rid of those organs i beg your pardon would decay most quickly and also destroy the body. In early on mummification, the offal of the abdomen and the brain were placed in canopic jars i beg your pardon were thought to it is in watched end by the guardian gods well-known as The 4 Sons that Horus. In later times the organs were taken out, treated, wrapped, and placed earlier into the body, yet canopic jars were still inserted in tombs, and also The 4 Sons of Horus to be still assumed to keep watch over the organs.


Canopic Jars the Neskhons

The embalmers removed the organs indigenous the abdomen with a lengthy incision reduced into the left side; because that the brain, they would insert a hooked surgical device up through the dead person"s nose and also pull the brain out in pieces. Over there is likewise evidence the embalmers break the sleep to enlarge the room to obtain the brain out more easily. Break the sleep was no the preferred method, though, due to the fact that it could disfigure the face of the deceased and the main goal that mummification to be to keep the body intact and also preserved as life-like as possible. The removed of the offal and brain was all around drying out the human body - the only organ castle left in place was the heart because that was believed to be the chair of the person"s identity. This was all done because the soul essential to be freed native the human body to proceed on that eternal journey right into the immortality and, to do so, it necessary to have actually an undamaged "house" to leaving behind and additionally one it would recognize if that wished to go back to visit.

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After the removed of the organs, the body was soaked in natron because that 70 days and also then washed and purified again. It was then very closely wrapped in linen; a process which can take up to two weeks. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson explains:

This was critical aspect of the mortuary process, accompanied by incantations, hymns, and ritual ceremonies. In part instances the linens taken indigenous shrines and also temples were noted to the wealthy or aristocratic deceased in the belief that such materials had actually special graces and magical powers. An individual mummy would certainly require approximately 445 square yards of material. Throughout the wrappings semiprecious stones and amulets were put in strategy positions, every one guaranteed to safeguard a certain an ar of the person anatomy in the afterlife. (176)

Among the most vital of these amulets was the one i m sorry was inserted over the heart. This was done to prevent the love from bearing witness versus the deceased when the moment of referee came. Because the heart to be the chair of separation, personal, instance character, and also since that was obvious that world often do statements they later regretted, that was considered important to have actually a charm to protect against that possibility.

The Funeral Procession & Service

The embalmers would certainly then return the mummy to the household who would have had a coffin or sarcophagus made. The corpse would certainly not be placed in the coffin yet, however, yet would be laid top top a bier and also then moved toward a waiting watercraft on the Nile River. This to be the start of the funeral organization which started in the beforehand morning, typically departing either from a holy place of the king or the embalmer"s center. The servants and poorer relationships of the deceased to be at the former of the procession transferring flowers and also food offerings. They were followed by others transporting grave goods such together clothing and also shabti dolls, favorite possessions that the deceased, and also other objects which would certainly be important in the afterlife.

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Directly in prior of the corpse would be skilled mourners, women recognized as the Kites that Nephthys, whose function was come encourage rather to express their grief. The kites would wail loudly, beat your breasts, strike your heads on the ground, and scream in pain. These females were dressed in the shade of mourning and also sorrow, a blue-gray, and covered their faces and also hair through dust and earth. This was a payment position, and also the wealthier the deceased, the much more kites would certainly be current in the procession. A scene from the tomb of the pharaoh Horemheb (1320-1292 BCE) that the new Kingdom vividly depicts the Kites of Nephthys at work as they wail and also fling us to the ground.

In the beforehand Dynastic duration in Egypt, the servants would have actually been eliminated upon getting to the tomb so the they could continue to serve the deceased in the afterlife. By the time of the new Kingdom, this practice had actually long been abandoned and also an effigy currently took the place of the servants well-known as a tekenu. Like the shabti dolls, which one would certainly magically animate in the afterlife to carry out work, the tekenu would certainly later involved life, in the exact same way, to offer the heart in paradise.

The corpse and the tekenu were followed by priests, and when they reached the eastern bank of the Nile, the tekenu and also the oxen who had pulled the corpse were ritually sacrificed and also burned. The corpse to be then put on a mortuary boat together with two women that symbolized the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. This to be in recommendation to the Osiris legend in i beg your pardon Osiris is eliminated by his brother collection and went back to life by his sister-wife Isis and her sister Nephthys. In life, the king was associated with the child of Osiris and also Isis, Horus, yet in death, with the mr of the Dead, Osiris. The women would attend to the dead king as the goddesses speak to Osiris.

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The boat sailed indigenous the eastern side (representing life) come the west (the soil of the dead) where it docked and also the body to be then relocated to one more bier and transported to its tomb. A priest would have already arranged to have actually the coffin or sarcophagus collection up at the entrance of the tomb, and also at this point, the corpse was placed inside the it. The priest would certainly then carry out the opened of the Mouth Ceremony throughout which he would touch the corpse at various places on the human body in bespeak to restore the senses so the deceased can again see, hear, smell, taste, and also talk.

During this ceremony, the 2 women representing Isis and also Nephthys would certainly recite The Lamentations that Isis and Nephthys, the call-and-response incantation i m sorry re-created the minute when Osiris had been brought ago to life by the sisters. The lid to be then fastened ~ above the coffin and also it was carried into the tomb. The dig would have actually the deceased"s name composed in it, statues and pictures of the or she in life, and inscriptions top top the wall surface (Pyramid Texts) informing the story of their life and also providing instructions for the afterlife. Prayers would certainly be created the heart of the deceased and also grave products would be arranged about the coffin; ~ this, the tomb would be sealed.


Egpytian Sarcophagus
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The family members was meant to carry out for the ongoing existence that the departed by bringing them food and also drink offerings and remembering your name. If a family uncovered this also burdensome, they hired a monk (known as a Ka-Servant) to execute the duties and also rituals. Lists of food and also drink to be carried were inscriptions on the dig (Offering Lists) and also an autobiography of the departed therefore they would certainly be remembered. The heart would continue to exist peacefully in the following life (following justification) as lengthy as this offerings to be made.

The priests, family, and guests would certainly then sit under for a feast come celebrate the life the the departed and also his forward journey to paradise. This celebration took place external of the tomb under a tent erected for the purpose. Food, beer, and wine would have actually been brought earlier and also was currently served as fancy picnic banquet. The deceased would certainly be honored v the kind of festival that or she would have actually known and enjoyed in life. When the party concluded, the guest would go back to their homes and go on through life.

Journey come the Afterlife

For the heart of the departed, however, a new life had actually just begun. Following the mortuary rituals and the close up door of the tomb, the spirit was believed to wake in the body and feel disoriented. Inscriptions on the wall surface of the tomb, prefer the Pyramid Texts, or in one"s coffin, similar to the Coffin Texts, would certainly remind the heart of the life on earth and direct the to leave the body and move forward. These messages were replaced in the new Kingdom the Egypt by the Book that the Dead. One of the gods, most regularly Anubis, would show up to command the heart forth toward the room of fact (also well-known as The hall of 2 Truths) whereby it would certainly be judged.

Depictions that the judgment typically show a long line the souls waiting for their minute to appear before Osiris and these are cared for by deities like Qebhet, who noted them with cool, refreshing water. Familiar goddesses choose Nephthys, Isis, Neith, and Serket would also be there to comfort and also encourage the soul.


When one"s time came, one would relocate forward to where Osiris, Anubis, and also Thoth stand by the scale of justice and also would recite the an unfavorable Confessions, a routine list of guilty one can honestly speak one had actually not committed. In ~ this suggest one"s heart was weighed in the balance against the white feather that truth; if one"s heart was lighter than the feather, one to be justified, and if not, the heart to be dropped come the floor where it was consumed by the monster Amut and the soul would then cease to exist.

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If one had been justification by the weighing of the heart, Osiris, Thoth, and Anubis would confer through the Forty-two Judges and then enable one to pass on towards paradise. This next component of the journey takes different forms depending on different texts and also time periods. In part versions, the soul should still stop pitfalls, demons, and dangers, and required the aid of a guide book such as The Egyptian publication of the Dead. In various other depictions, when one had actually been justified, one checked out the shores of Lily Lake where a final test had to it is in passed.

The ferryman to be an eternally unpleasant man named Hraf-hef to who the soul necessary to be kind and gracious. If one happen this last test, one to be rowed throughout the lake to paradise in the field of Reeds. Below the heart would uncover everything and also everyone thought to be lost through death. Those who had actually passed on prior to would it is in waiting and one"s favorite pets. The residence the soul had actually loved when alive, the neighborhood, friends, all would certainly be waiting and also the spirit would enjoy this life eternally there is no the risk of loss and in the firm of the immortal gods. This final paradise, however, to be only feasible if the family on planet had perform the mortuary rituals completely and if they continued to honor and also remember the departed soul.