Why Did the Dead Need Material Goods and Mummification?
The ancient Egyptians believed in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. This belief was rooted in what they observed each day. The sun fell into the western horizon each evening and was reborn the next morning in the east. New life sprouted from grains planted in the earth, and the moon waxed and waned. As long as order was maintained, everything was highly dependable and life after death could be achieved provided certain conditions were met. For example, the body had to be preserved through mummification and given a properly furnished tomb with everything needed for life in the afterworld.
Today, the method of mummification used to preserve a body, as well as the quality of the work, aids Egyptologists in determining the social status of the deceased. Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells us that there were three primary types of mummification available which ancient clients chose according to their ability to pay for these services. Also Offerings of cat statuettes and mummified cats were presented at temples. Some of the cat-shaped statues were actually elaborate coffins designed to hold mummified cats. Cat cemeteries filled with these mummies have been found throughout Egypt, for example at Bubastis, Saqqara, Thebes, and Beni Hasan. In apparent contrast to the prohibition against killing cats, it does not appear that these mummified cats were old house pets, preserved after their natural deaths. Modern x-ray evidence shows cats were deliberately killed, often while still quite young, suggesting that the cats were bred specifically for this purpose. At least in part, these practices seem to have been encouraged by Egyptian rulers for economic reasons. The ‘sacred animal industry’, supplied considerable employment and also provided tax income to the Pharaohs. That is a lot of information on Egyptian mummification and how it was started to how they perfected it. It is amazing how they did the mummification and how it was for religious purposes. so mummification wasn’t just for the pharaohs, it was also for the religious class, then began expanding to the social classes. Mummification also helped with economics and improved the technology in the tools they used for mummification. Also animals were used in Ancient Egyptian religious art to illustrate characteristics of the gods. However, the Egyptians did not worship animals and the depictions were not literal. For example, Horus was depicted as a falcon because he was believed to have falcon-like qualities, not because he was thought to be a bird and the goddess Bastet, linked to childrearing, was often represented as a cat.
Grave goods, however rich or modest, would be placed in the tomb or grave. These would include shabti dolls who, in the afterlife, could be woken to life through a spell and assume the dead person's tasks. Since the afterlife was considered an eternal and perfect version of life on earth, it was thought there was work there just as in one's mortal life. The shabti would perform these tasks so the soul could relax and enjoy itself. Shabti dolls are important indicators to modern archaeologists on the wealth and status of the individual buried in a certain tomb; the more shabti dolls, the greater the wealth. Besides the shabti, the person would be buried with items thought necessary in the afterlife: combs, jewelry, beer, bread, clothing, one's weapons, a favorite object, even one's pets (Gibson, C., 2009). All of these would appear to the soul in the afterlife and they would be able to make use of them. Before the tomb was sealed, a ritual was enacted which was considered vital to the continuation of the soul's journey: the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. In this rite, a priest would invoke Isis and Nephthys (who had brought Osiris back to life) as he touched the mummy with different objects (adzes, chisels, knives) at various spots while anointing the body. In doing so, he restored the use of ears, eyes, mouth, and nose to the deceased. The son and heir of the departed would often take the priest's role, thus further linking the rite with the story of Horus and his father Osiris (Ikram,S., 2003). The deceased would now be able to hear, see, and speak and was ready to continue the journey. The mummy would be enclosed in the sarcophagus or coffin, which would be buried in a grave or laid to rest in a tomb along with the grave goods, and the funeral would conclude. The living would then go back to their business, and the dead were then believed to go on to eternal life.
As can be seen, artificial mummification was a practical response to this desire to preserve the corpse for all eternity. Although the Egyptians are not the only people to have attempted the artificial preservation of the corpse, they are the only people to have held this specific religious belief. The heart, rather than the brain, was regarded as the organ of reasoning. As such it would be required in the afterlife, when it would testify to the goodness of the deceased. It was therefore left in place within the body and, if accidentally removed, immediately sewn back.
Gibson, C. The Hidden Life of Ancient Egypt. Saraband, 2009.
Ikram,S. Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt. Longman, 2003.
Nardo, D. Living in Ancient Egypt. Thompson/Gale, 2004.
Strudwick, H. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Metro Books, 2006.