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10 Ancient Egyptian Beliefs and Practices Connected With Death

Updated on May 7, 2012
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Life after Death in Egyptian Religion

The ancient Egyptians looked forward to life after death. They expected their existence to continue in bliss so long as the cult of the dead performed certain rituals especially with respect to several of their many gods. The deceased would also be provided with the means to traverse the afterlife.

1. A solid tomb was essential to prevent damage to the mummified body so the dry rocks of the desert served as great location. The Egyptians would begin working on his tomb during his lifetime; so important was preparing for death. Pyramids were royal tombs of Old and Middle Kingdom. The large underground tombs of the Vally of the Kings were constructed during the New Kingdom. Tutankhamon's tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

2. The chief embalmer wore the mask of the jackal god Anubis during the process of embalming.

3. Canopic jars contained the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines of the deceased and were placed near the coffin in the tomb.

4. The most important rite was the Opening of the Mouth where by a series of spells were recited which the priests believed would restore the use of the sense organs.

5. The deceased was provided with a Book of the Dead which contained spells and directions to overcome the guardians and adversaries in the journey.

6. The ancient Egyptians were expected to continue several tasks at the request of the gods. To ensure obedience a wooden figurine called an ushabti was placed in the tomb to represent the deceased; additionally, a magical spell to give life to the wooden substitute was affixed to the form. The fortunate mummy could be buried with 365 ushabtis, one for each day of the year.

7. The family of the deceased had the responsibility to maintain the tomb and bring food offerings.

8. We know much about ancient Egypt because of the provision of the tombs with representation of farming, manufacture, and domestic life in inscriptions, paintings as well as miniatures.

9. The Sphinx of Giza represents King Kephren as guardian of his own funerary monument.

10. As soon as he came to the throne the new pharaoh would commence work on his tomb. The king was as important to the cult in death so the most skilled artisans constructed and decorated his tomb. When he died these dedicated workmen were urged to complete the job during the 70 days of mummification.


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