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Funeral Traditions in Ancient Egypt

  • 05 16, 2023

Funeral Traditions in Ancient Egypt

To live in the afterlife, the Egyptians believed that it was necessary to preserve the deceased through mummification, to allow the soul to live in the embalmed body. The dead were then provided with whatever could be useful to them after death, before delivering them forever to eternity with a series of elaborate funeral rituals.

These body conservation techniques, described in detail in the section dedicated to mummification, could be implemented by natural means, using simple sandy tombs in which natural mummification took place, or by embalming, which took place according to procedures still unknown.

The first mummies, from the prehistoric era, were probably accidental. Mummification began under the 4th dynasty, with the development of artificial embalming techniques. The priests first removed all internal organs, except the heart, which would also have a key role in ultra-earthly life. Then the corpse was dried with natron and finally wrapped in linen bandages.

Special canopic jars guarded the internal organs of the dead. Intestines, stomachs, liver, and lungs were placed in separate vessels, next to the coffin inside the tomb. Among the most valuable canopic vases are those found from the tomb of Tutankhamon, now preserved in the rooms of Tutankhamen in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

A death mask was placed on the head of the mummy, to help the spirit of the deceased person recognize his body.

All the masks of the mummies, from the splendid gilded specimens of the pharaohs to the more common ones in cartonnage, were idealized portraits of the dead.

The mummy was often buried, as well as with a large number of earthly objects, with funerary furnishings, including amulets, ritual figurines, and a model boat for transport to the afterlife.

Ceremonies and funeral rites:

At the funeral, relatives offered food, and the priests performed special rituals. These ceremonies were to protect the deceased on his journey to the afterlife, protecting him on his path.

For added support, ritual images and texts were placed on the body of the deceased or used to decorate the tomb.

The ritual of the opening of the mouth was performed before the burial since in this way the senses would be reactivated and the deceased could continue to live in the afterlife.

The "weighing of the heart" was the final stage in the journey to the afterlife. The deities presided over the ceremony to decide whether the dead deserved eternal life. The god Anubis weighed his heart with the feather of truth. If the heart was too heavy, it was given to the monster Ammut, which devoured it. Only in the case of equilibrium did the dead have the right to eternal life.


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Funeral traditions in ancient Egypt were elaborate and deeply rooted in belief in the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that the deceased would continue to exist in the afterlife, and they conducted various rituals and practices to ensure a successful journey to the afterlife. Here are some key aspects of funeral traditions in ancient Egypt:

   Mummification: Mummification was a crucial process in preparing the deceased for the afterlife. It involved removing the internal organs, preserving the body with natron (a type of salt), and wrapping it in linen bandages. The goal was to prevent decay and ensure the body's preservation.

   Funeral Procession: A funeral procession was an essential part of Egyptian funeral rituals. The deceased's body, placed in a decorated coffin, was carried in a procession to the tomb. Family members and mourners would accompany the procession, and priests conducted rituals along the way.

   Tomb and Burial: The tomb was carefully prepared to serve as a resting place for the deceased's body and belongings. Tombs ranged from simple pits to grand structures like pyramids. The deceased's possessions, food, and other items were often included in the tomb to provide for their needs in the afterlife.

   Offerings and Rituals: Offerings of food, drink, and other items were made to the deceased during funeral rituals. Priests and family members conducted ceremonies and recited prayers to ensure the deceased's safe journey to the afterlife.

   The Book of the Dead: The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells and prayers that provided guidance for the deceased in the afterlife. It was often included in the tomb to assist the deceased on their journey.

   Osiris and Judgment: In ancient Egyptian belief, the god Osiris played a central role in the afterlife. The deceased would be judged by Osiris, and their hearts would be weighed against the feather of Ma'at (the goddess of truth and justice). If the heart was found to be pure, the deceased would enter the afterlife.

   Mourning Period: There was a period of mourning after the funeral, during which family members and loved ones continued to make offerings and perform rituals to honor the deceased.

   Funerary Art and Inscriptions: Tombs and coffins were often decorated with elaborate artwork and inscriptions that depicted scenes from the deceased's life, their journey to the afterlife, and their encounters with gods and spirits.

   Eternal Offerings: It was believed that the deceased would need a continuous supply of offerings in the afterlife. Family members would continue to make offerings at the tomb, and there were also designated priests to perform these rituals.


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