Why Death and the Afterlife are so Important in Egyptian Culture – History Week 6 Review

Why Death and Afterlife was so Important in Egyptian Culture

In ancient Egyptian records, death, the funeral procession, and the afterlife are all significant focuses in Egyptology.  The interiors of the tombs disclose this, and numerous additional details of what they believe of the afterlife, all portrayed upon the walls of the tombs.  The tombs perform a monstrous role in how we know so much about ancient Egypt and they still do today… there are probably hundreds more tombs to find even today.  The steps were as follows:

1)         The high priest comes in with the dead body.

2)         The priest removes the brain (they thought the brain was unimportant) through the nose.

3)         Depending on the method chosen, he would do one of these three things:

  • Take out the organs, crush them up, stick them in a jar with natrum salt, let it sit for seventy days, and finally give it back to the buyer
  • Fill the stomach with cedar oil, soak the body in spices for seventy days, and on the last day pull out all the cedar oil, and with it, the dissolved organs, then give it back to the buyer
  • cut open the side of the corpse with a sharp Ethiopian stone, remove the intestines, and wash out the belly, cleaning it with palm wine and again with pounded aromatics. They fill up the body with pure crushed myrrh, cassia and other herbs (except frankincense) and sow it up again. After this, they pickle the body in natrum salt, hiding it away for seventy days, the longest time possible. After the seventy days, they wash the body and wrap it up completely in cut bandages of linen muslin, smearing it with gum which the Egyptians use instead of glue. The relatives then get the body back and make a man-sized wooden image, into which they insert the mummy and then store it away in a burial chamber

They thought that once the body was embalmed, that their spirits would embark on a three-year-long journey to the land of the dead.  They believed that once their spirits arrived in the Land of the Dead that they would live there for three thousand years.

Names were also very important in Egyptian culture.  They thought that speaking a dead person’s name would help the person in the land of the dead.  However, erasing or destroying that person’s name was basically erasing that person from existence.  This culture was also highly intertwined with government, like the pharaoh representing the gods, whatever he upholds being just and right (ma’at) and everything else being wrong, etc.

Therefore, the answer to the question “Where does mummification and their beliefs of afterlife fit in?” is that the whole culture depended on it and two links hold it together; 1) their god of the afterlife, and 2) the connection between the mummification and the afterlife.  In short, the whole process is; First, the person dies.  Second, the high priest allows the relatives to choose which process they’d like, and then he follows through that process.  After the process is complete the relatives retrieve the mummy or jars and place them in a chamber in the rock.  What they believe happens next is that the soul splits in half to become the Ka (spirit shadow of the person) and the Ba (the life-force).  Then the spirit (not the soul, which became the Ka and Ba) goes on a three-year-long canoe ride to the Land of the Dead.  The he lives for three thousand years, and at the end of the three thousand years is the end of the world and everything is destroyed.  In conclusion, Death and the Afterlife are so important in Egyptian culture because the whole culture is centered around it.

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