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Anubis was the ancient Egyptian god associated with mummification and burial rituals. Here, he is shown attending to a mummy.

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Ancient Egyptian religion

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The ancient Egyptians had an elaborate set of burial customs that they believed were necessary to ensure their immortality after death. These rituals and protocols included mummification, casting of magic spells, and burial with specific grave goods thought to be needed in the afterlife.[1][2]. The burial process used by the ancient Egyptians evolved throughout time as old customs were discarded and new ones adopted, but several important elements of the process persisted. Although specific details changed over time, the preparation of the body, the magic rituals involved, and the grave goods provided were all essential parts of a proper Egyptian funeral.

Contents

Burial rituals and funerary literature

The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells designed to guide the deceased in the afterlife.

After the mummy was prepared, it would need to be re-animated, symbolically, by a priest. The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony was conducted by a priest who would utter a spell and touch the mummy or sarcophagus with a ceremonial adze - a copper or stone blade. This ceremony ensured that the mummy could breathe and speak in the afterlife. In a similar fashion, the priest could utter spells to reanimate the mummy's arms, legs, and other body parts. But most of the time it was open to only pharohs.

In addition to the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, many mummies were provided with some form of funerary literature to take with them to the afterlife. Most funerary literature consists of lists of spells and instructions for navigating the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom, only the pharaoh had access to this material, which scholars refer to as the Pyramid Texts. The Pyramid Texts are a collection of spells to help the pharaoh in the afterlife. The Pharaoh Unas was the first to use this collection of spells, as he and a few subsequent pharaohs had them carved on the walls of their pyramids.[3]

In the First Intermediate Period and in the Middle Kingdom, some of the Pyramid Text spells also are found in burial chambers of high officials and on many coffins, where they begin to evolve into what scholars call the Coffin Texts. In this period, the nobles and many non-royal Egyptians began to have access to funerary literature, which later evolved into the well-known Book of the Dead. By the time of the New Kingdom, any Egyptian who could afford a Book of the dead was able to take along to the afterlife a list of spells and instructions that would ensure safe passage. [4]

Burial goods

A selection of shabti statues

From the earliest periods of Egyptian history, all Egyptians were buried with at least some burial goods that they thought were necessary after death. At a minimum, these usually consisted of everyday objects such as bowls, combs, and other trinkets, along with food. Wealthier Egyptians could afford to be buried with jewelry, furniture, and other valuables, which made them targets of tomb robbers. In the early Dynastic Period, tombs were filled with daily life objects, such as furniture, jewelry and other valuables. They also contained many pottery and stone vessels.[5]

As burial customs developed in the Old Kingdom, wealthy citizens were buried in wooden or stone coffins. However, the number of burial goods declined. They were often just a set of copper model copper tools and some vessels.[6] Starting in the First Intermediate period, wooden models became very popular burial goods. These wooden models often depict everyday activities that the deceased expected to continue doing in the afterlife. Also, a type of rectangular coffin became the standard, being brightly painted and often including an offering formula. Objects of daily use were not often included in the tombs during this period. At the end of the Middle Kingdom, new object types were introduced into burials, such as the first shabtis and the first heart scarabs. Now objects of daily use appear in tombs again, often magical items already employed for protecting the living.

In the New Kingdom, some of the old burial customs changed. For example, an anthropoid coffin shape became standardized, and the deceased were provided with a small shabti statue, which the Egyptians believed would perform work for them in the afterlife. Elite burials were often filled with objects of daily use. Under Ramses II. and later all daily life objects disappear from tombs. They most often only contained a selection of items especially made for the burial. Also, in later burials, the numbers of shabti statues increased; in some burials, numbering more than four hundred statues. In addition to these shabti statues, the deceased could be buried with many different types of magical figurines to protect them from harm. Although the types of burial goods changed throughout ancient Egyptian history, their functions to protect the deceased and provide sustenance the afterlife remained a common purpose.

Funerary Boats are a part of some ancient Egyptian burials.[1] Boats played a major role in religion because they were conceived as the main means by which the gods traveled across the sky and through the netherworld. One type of boat used at funerals was for making pilgrimages to holy sites such as Abydos. A large funerary boat, for example, was found near the pyramid of the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Kheops.

Notes

  1. ^ Digital Egypt, Burial customs
  2. ^ http://web.olivet.edu/gradusers/hgerth/leeanne.htm retrieved November 26, 2007
  3. ^ Digital Egypt, Pyramid texts
  4. ^ Digital Egypt, Book of the dead
  5. ^ Grajetzki: Burial Customs, p. 7-14
  6. ^ Grajetzki: Burial Customs, p. 15-26

References

  • Wolfram Grajetzki: Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor. Duckworth: London 2003 ISBN 0715632175
  • John Taylor: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 2001

External links

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