A was a reserved place for the dead and can be contrasted with the modern graves (History, 2009). The main use of the tomb was to provide protection to the dead. Additionally, a tomb was considered a place where the dead person will be living in the afterlife. For this reason, supplies considered necessary for the use of the dead person in the afterlife were also put in the tomb. Later, tombs were constructed to preserve the memory of the dead.
Egyptian tombs especially the pyramids are among the tombs that carry the greatest fame in the world. Pyramids evolved frommastabas. These had a shape of a rectangle and were made of bricks and mud. They were constructed over a grave. The first mastaba to be made from stone and had a shape of a pyramid was the step pyramid of Djoser. It was built by a pharaoh of the Third dynasty. Three pharaohs in the Fourth Dynasty namely Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, built the biggest pyramids in the Egyptian history. The pyramid constructed for Khufu is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It stands taller than all the pyramids and is estimated to have a height of 480 feet. The construction took 20 years and by a workforce of about 20,000. The pharaohs and the queens were buried in the pyramids.
A peep into an Egyptian tomb depicted the beliefs the Egyptians held about the present life, death, and life after death. Egyptians believed that all those who died were believed to travel across vast valleys with body masses and cross mountains before they would get to their destination. They believe that the journey has numerous doors as well as gates that were always under the watchful eye of God (Thomas, Faulkner and Andrews, 21). One of the necessities put in the tomb for the use of the dead in the afterlife was theBook of the Dead. This book containedspells and illustrations that the Egyptians believed furnished the dead person with knowledge and power for safe travel through the dangers of the Netherworld. Some of the powers of the spell were to help the dead control their bodies and sometimes transform into other creatures. The book also talked about the ultimate goal of every Egyptian which was eternal life.
The Egyptians further believed that the day of burial was the day the dead person moved from the world of the living to the world of the dead. Among the ceremonies conducted was theopening of the mouth (Thomas, Faulkner and Andrews, 21). Egyptians also believed in judgment where the heart was weighed against a feather of truth. If they were found to have no evil, they would be allowed into the afterlife. If they were found to be evil, a monster would eat their hearts, and their existence would cease. They further believed that the afterlife was different for different people. They believed in a reunion with their families and that a living happily in eternity represented that Egypt was a good place. The Book of the Dead was always written in advance, and the only part left was the name of the dead person.
The body of the dead was specially preserved through a process that took about 70 days. The preserved body of the dead was called the mummy. They believed the spirit of the dead would return to live in the mummy. The mummy needed protection from any unfriendly spirits or forces (Thomas, Faulkner and Andrews, 21).
Significance of the pyramids
The Egyptian tombs represent an embodiment of their beliefs in the afterlife. Critical to Egyptians was the manner of the burial they received. As observed by Pyramids, a person needed to be prepared well for burial and was supposed to be given a proper send off since this would determine their afterlife (Ancientegypt.co.uk, n.p). The afterlife was the ultimate and key objective of every Egyptian and seemingly no price was too high to ensure a proper burial.
Assmann echoes the same remarks that,there is surely no funerary tradition in the world comparable to the Egyptian tomb (Assmann, 66). Hecataeus of Abdera could not agree more with this view.
Additionally, the Egyptians attached greater importance to the afterlife because it was an eternity. In their view, the time spent on earth was too short, as Assmann would call ittrifle compared to the afterlife which is an eternity. For this reason, their tombs were extraordinarily sumptuous to ensure they are finally allowed into the afterlife. Another belief cherished by the Egyptians is the memory of the dead by the living. In fact, as observed by Assmann, the living always remembered the dead and the tomb acted as a symbol of remembrance to the departed (Assmann, 66). Initially, tombs were constructed to offer protection to the dead and as a store of the necessities of the afterlife but later, pharaohs inspired by the desire of being remembered constructed massive pyramids which stand as monuments.
It is imperative to consider the observation made by Assmann that people can only be to get more knowledge about the Egyptian tomb if at all they are willing to go beyond the architectural designs, iconographic significance as well as epigraphic representation. This need investigating more on the cultural as well as social theories, beliefs and practices that were held in relation to respecting the dead.The overwhelming presence of eternity in the form of monuments and inscriptions meant that life on earth appeared not only as a trifle but as something more akin to a dream than reality, states Assmann, (66). It is this focus on securing a place in eternity that can guide people to understand more of the Egyptian tomb.
Although the Egyptians envisioned the afterlife, Frankfurt observed that they could not imagine surviving in such conditions without “”physical substratum (Frankfurt 93). For this reason, they developed mummification to preserve the body of the dead as a habitation of the dead. The Egyptians also believed that gods physically dwelled in the pharaohs. Among these gods wasHorus (god of the sky, war, and protection) andOsiris (god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead) (Bowers, n.p). For this reason, pyramids constructed to protect them when they died. It was also believed that the dead pharaoh would be responsible for making the sunset while the living pharaoh would make the sun to rise. The Egyptians believed that pharaohs the dead pharaoh had to be protected and this would ensure there was no “”cosmic disturbance experienced (Bowers, n.p).
In conclusion, critical to understanding the Egyptian tomb is to possess a proper understanding of their beliefs and value they associate with the afterlife. To the Egyptians, life on earth is only a trifle compared to the afterlife which is an eternity. Consequently, little value is attached to the life on earth and their ultimate pursuit is the afterlife. A proper burial in their view is key to being allowed into the afterlife, and this explains why their tombs are sumptuous.
Ancientegypt.co.uk. (2017).? Pyramids (House of Eternity). [Online] Available at: https://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/pyramids/home.html [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].
Assmann, Jan, and Andrew Jenkins.? The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002. Print.
Bowers, B. (2006).? Why Were Pyramids So Important to Ancient Egyptians. [Online] Classroom. Available at: https://ttps://classroom.synonym.com/why-were-pyramids-so-important-to- ancient-egyptians-12081601.html [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].
Frankfort, Henri.? Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2000. Internet resource.
History. (2009).? Tombs. [Online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/tombs [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].
Thomas, N., Faulkner, R. and Andrews, C. (1986). The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.? African Arts, 20(1).