Depth Study 2a: Significant Beliefs, Values and Practices in Ancient Egypt
The significant beliefs, values and practices of the ancient society, with a particular emphasis on ONE of the following areas: death and funerary customs
- explain how the beliefs and values of the ancient society are evident in practices related to death and funerary customs
Death and Funerary Customs
Much of our archaeological data and literary evidence from ancient Egypt has been derived from funerary contexts. Tombs were built in the dry desert and as a result they have been preserved much better than homes, which were located closer to the Nile and cultivatable land. As such, we have a wealth of information and sources relating to death and funerary customs in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians had a set of elaborate beliefs and practices associated with death and burial which constantly developed over time increasing in ideological complexity. From as early as the Predynastic Period (c.4500–3350 BCE) the treatment of the deceased, careful placement of the body and the provision of grave goods in burials indicates a great respect for the dead and a belief in the concept of the afterlife. These funerary practices continued to develop throughout the Pharaonic Period becoming more complex with the introduction of mummification, coffins and elaborate tomb structures. These changing funerary practices were underpinned by developments in Egyptian religious beliefs.
Below you will find a list of useful resources which cover some of the main aspects of ancient Egyptian death and funerary customs.
Rijksmuseum Van Oudhedan L.XII.3-c
- TED-Ed ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead: A guidebook for the underworld’ is an interactive video which provides an easy to digest overview of the Book of the Dead and some of the principal burial beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.
- The Australian Museum has developed a number of useful web resources relating to ancient Egypt, here you will find an overview of the various funerary practices of and preparations that needed to be considered in death.
- The Underworld and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt.
- The Getty Museum provides an interactive overview and reconstruction of the mummification process for the mummy Herakleides which is currently housed within the museum’s collection.
- The University College of London as part of their Digital Egypt project have created a number of web-based resources. Here you will find a detailed discussion of funerary practices and customs across all of Egyptian history.
- The Smithsonian Museum provides a succinct overview of the mummification process and links to a number of Egyptian mummies and artefacts associated with mummification which are currently housed in their collection.
- The Ancient History Encyclopedia provides a detailed discussion of the ancient Egyptian concept of the afterlife or the ‘field of reeds’.
- The Fitzwilliam Museum’s Ancient Egyptian Coffins Project is a collaborative research project investigating coffin construction in ancient Egypt and exploring the history of a number of coffins and their respective owners from within their collection.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art has produced a short video which details the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ritual as detailed in 35.9.20a–w the Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes).
- Stünkel, I. (2019), “Ancient Egyptian Amulets” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Roehrig, C.H. (2004), “Egyptian Tombs: Life Along the Nile” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- The Australian Museum has developed a number of useful and easy to read web resources relating to ancient Egypt. Here you will find a concise overview of the way in which the ancient Egyptian’s conceptualised the underworld and the afterlife.
- Roehrig, C.H. (2004), “The Tomb of Wah” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This article is a great case study for students to examine and understand the life and death of an ancient Egyptian.