Funerals and other burial rituals was a very important event in ancient Egypt. It is believed that after death, the dead began their journey through the underworld to the hall of judgment, where they would be judged and, if found worthy, allowed to proceed into the afterlife. To prepare the dead for the journey through the underworld, ancient Egyptians performed special ceremonies and recited special spells. Ancient Egyptians had special burial sites for the dead. The burial site of an individual depended on the status of the individual. High ranking citizens were buried separately from lower-ranking ones.
Below is a brief description of the ancient burial rituals and famous burial sites used in ancient Egypt.
An Introduction to the Ancient Egyptian Burial Process
Ancient Egyptians performed a series of burial rituals and ceremonies before they finally laid the corpse to rest. Each of these rituals was performed to help the deceased safely journey into the afterlife. Below is a brief description of the various burial process performed in ancient Egypt.
Embalming was the first step in the ancient Egyptian burial process, which was done to delay the decay of the body. Generally, the corpse is usually embalmed immediately after it is retrieved, but if the corpse belonged to a high-ranking woman or a very pretty woman, it was usually allowed to decay for about four days before it is embalmed. Allowing the body to decay was done to prevent abuse of the corpse. Suppose an individual dies as a result of a violent attack or by drowning. In that case, the corpse is immediately embalmed specifically by a religious priest as such death was regarded as sacred.
Mourning of the Dead
Although this might seem like a normal and natural reaction to the death of an individual, ancient Egyptians attached great importance to the mourning of the dead.
After the death of an individual, family members (mostly women) would gather, smear their faces in mud and then cry and grief loudly as the corpse is being transported to the tomb in a funeral procession. Relatives also employed professional mourners to perform the lamentations of Isis and Nephthys. They believed their cries would reach the Hall of Truth and move the gods to judge the deceased with mercy.
Opening of the Mouth Ceremony
After the corpse is transported to the tomb, the priest receives the body and performs the opening of the mouth ceremony. This ceremony is performed to open the mouth and nose so that the deceased will be able to talk and breathe in the afterlife.
Mummification is a very important part of the burial process. The main aim of the mummification of a body was to preserve it by dehydration. This preservation is achieved by removing all internal organs of the body that might aid decay. The organs removed during mummification include the brain, the intestine, the liver, the lungs, and all other body organs. However, the heart is spared as they believed that the heart would be weighed in the afterlife. Mummification helped prepare the deceased for his meeting with Osiris and also prepared the body for its reunion with the soul. The process of mummification took an average of 70 days.
Burying the Dead in the Tomb
After the body has the mummified, the body is then placed in the coffin. The coffin is usually humanoid shaped and also well decorated and painted. After placing the corpse into the coffin, a copy of The book of the dead is placed into the coffin along with the corpse. This book aims to help the deceased find his way in the afterlife and defend himself against the evil spirits in the afterlife.
Expensive food, wine, jewelry, and other types of precious materials were usually buried with the deceased to make the deceased's journey to the afterlife more palatable.
Famous Burial Sites in Ancient Egypt
People of different categories were buried in different burial sites. Kings, queens, noblemen, noblewomen, and commoners each had their own burial sites. Most of these burial sites were located in the desert because the desert's heat helped preserve the bodies. Below are some of the burial sites used in ancient Egypt.
Valley of Kings
The Valley of Kings was a major burial site reserved for kings and some of the most powerful nobles of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt. The burial site is strategically located in the west of River Nile, opposite Thebes, the ancient Egyptian capital. The Valley was actively used from the 16th century BCE to the 11th century BCE. The bodies are buried in tombs cut into the various rocks present in the Valley.
The burial site has provided archeologists with a lot of information about the lifestyle of ancient Egypt. Due to the rich cultural and historical evidence present in the Valley, in 1979, the Valley was named a UNESCO world heritage center.
Valley of Queens
Just as the most powerful and influential ancient Egyptian men were buried in the Valley of Kings, influential and powerful ancient Egyptian women were also buried in the Valley of Queens. Most of the people buried in the Valley of queens were wives of pharaohs. The Valley consists of different sections, including the main Valley where most of the tombs were located, the Valley of Prince Ahmose, the Valley of the Rope, the Valley of the Three Pits, and the Valley of the Dolmen.
The pyramids of ancient Egypt were specifically constructed to serve as burial sites. Most times, Pharaohs started constructing the pyramids where they wanted to be buried before they died. They constructed the pyramids with many rooms intended to hold valuable material the pharaoh will take to the underworld.
Many pyramids were constructed in ancient Egypt. the most notable of these pyramids are the pyramid of Giza, The pyramid of Khufu, the red pyramid, and many more. Boats were also often buried with the pharaoh in the pyramids to help in the journey over the river in the underworld.