|Life in Ancient Egypt
Much of our knowledge about ancient Egyptian
culture comes from archaeological evidence uncovered in tombs. Objects, inscriptions, and paintings
from tombs have led Egyptologists to conclude that what appeared to be a preoccupation with death was
in actuality an overwhelming desire to secure and perpetuate in the afterlife the "good life" enjoyed
Over the more than three thousand years of ancient
Egypt's history, traditional beliefs about the transition to eternal life persisted, with new ideas being
incorporated from time to time. Most important for full participation in the afterlife was the need for an
individual's identity to be preserved. Consequently, the body had to remain intact and receive regular
offerings of food and drink.
The afterlife was
1. Preserving the body through mummification.
2. Protecting the body in a tomb in which the name of the deceased was
3. Providing the deceased with food and drink or illustrations of it
in case no one was available to make the offerings.
To protect the spirit of the deceased, scenes
and inscriptions were written on coffins and the walls of tombs.These
texts included such writings as adaptations of the myth about the death
of Osiris and spells to protect the deceased on his or her dangerous journey
to the underworld. Figures known as shabtis functioned as servants for the deceased.
The final step
in the transition to the afterlife was the judgment by Osiris, god of
the underworld, in a ritual known as the Weighing
of the Heart. If a person had led a decent life, he or she would
be judged worthy of eternal life. Many spells and rituals were designed
to ensure a favorable judgment and were written in the papyrus or linen
"Book of the Dead."
All ancient Egyptians
believed in the afterlife and spent their lives preparing for it.
Pharaohs built the finest tombs, collected the
most elaborate funerary equipment, and were mummified in the most expensive
way. Others were able to provide for their afterlives according to their
earthly means. Regardless of their wealth, however, they all expected
the afterlife to be an idealized version of their earthly existence.