10 Interesting Facts About Ancient Egypt’s Mortuary Rituals

Priests used to purify the bodies of the deceased in the olden days. They used to remove all sorts of internal organs and place them in canopic jars, which were thought to be watched over by the guardian gods known as the Sons of Horus.

Multiple researchers and archaeologists discovered that a large portion of ancient Egyptian culture was about ‘deaths’. People were obsessed with the idea of ‘death’ and ‘death rituals’. Egypt, in general, is not just about tombs, burial chambers, peculiar rituals, embalmed bodies, etc. The culture itself has so much depth to it.

The book of the dead
A scene from the book of the dead. Source: www.bridgemanart.com

Following are ten interesting facts regarding ancient Egypt’s mortuary rituals:

1) Ancient Egyptians believed that their afterlife was a continuation of mortal life. Hence, they worked hard to build tombs and burial chambers. They also killed pets so they could be with their respective owners in the afterlife.

2) The oldest mortuary tombs in ancient Egypt were quite plain and simple. Ancient Egyptians used to place the bodies of the deceased in ‘mastaba tombs’ along with a few other belongings and grave goods. However, things changed in c. 3500 BCE when mummification began to be practised. Ancient Egyptians started constructing massive pyramids for the deceased in c. 2613-2181 BCE.

3) Priests used to purify the bodies of the deceased in the olden days. They used to remove all sorts of internal organs and place them in canopic jars, which were thought to be watched over by the guardian gods known as the Sons of Horus. Moreover, they used to crush the brains of the dead people to prevent decay.

4) After the removal of the organs, the body of the deceased was soaked in natron for almost 70 days and then rinsed and purified again. Natron was used as a mixture of salt during the mummification process. Moreover, the body was then carefully wrapped in soft pieces of linen. They used to take two weeks to wrap the bodies of their deceased. All in all, the embalming or mummification process was quite detailed.

5) Multiple amulets were placed over the heart of the deceased. The amulets served as protection spells.

6) The relatives of the deceased used to place grave goods such as clothing and shabti dolls, personal or favourite belongings in the burial chambers so the deceased could ultimately carry them to the afterlife.

7) People used to hire professional mourners back in the olden days. The professional mourners would cry noisily, pound their chests, hit their heads on the ground, and yell in pain. These people generally dressed in the colour of grief. They also covered their faces and hair with dust. The said mourners were known as the Kites of Nephthys.

8) The servants of the deceased were purposely killed during the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt so they could serve their masters in the afterlife.

9) The embalmed body of the deceased was placed in a mortuary boat; the coffined body was then transferred to the tomb or burial chamber.

10) Before sealing the tombs, priests used to write warnings, spells of protection and various other texts on the walls of the burial chambers. The tombs of the deceased souls were then sealed for eternity.

Let’s summarise what we learned:

I truly believe that ancient Egyptians had distorted religious beliefs. Quite a lot of innocent people such as slaves were brutally murdered so they could serve their masters in the afterlife. Moreover, it is evident that the people of ancient Egypt took care of their deceased. 

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