Egyptian funerary practices
Discuss the development of Egyptian funerary practices and its related imagery.
The Development of Egyptian Funerary Practices and Its Related Imageries
The ancient Egyptians, as noted by Barsanti et al. (2016), has had a comprehensive set of funerary practices that they did believe were needful to make sure they remained “alive” after death. This paper aims at discussing the development of Egyptian funerary practices along with the associated imageries.
The first Egyptian funerals are known from the Maadi and Omari villages near present Cairo. During the prehistoric period (Badarian Period: 4400–3800 BC), bodies were neither treated nor arranged in defined manners and were buried the deceased in simple, round grave with a pot (Stevenson, 2016). The pot possibly held food for the dead. During the Predynastic period (Naquada II: 3650-3300 BC), more objects began to be deposited with dead bodies in rectangular graves. Bodies were arranged regularly in a fetal or crouched position with their faces either in the east (the rising sun) or west (associated with the dead’s land) (Barsanti et al., 2016). Artists did paint jars with burial processions and ritual dancing. Bare-breasted women’s figures with birdlike appearances and their legs were concealed under their skirts equally appeared. Graves started differing in the number goods, implying the start of social stratification. Differences in gender also began emerging with the inclusion of cosmetic palettes in females’ graves and weapons in males’ graves (Barsanti et al., 2016). Body mummification had also started by 3,600 BC.
During the early dynastic periods, people began constructing tombs on their burials (mastaba). Grave goods included jewellery, furniture, games, cosmetic palettes, weapons, food supplies. During the Old Kingdom era, kings introduced pyramids for their tombs and surrounded them by stone mastaba for senior officers (Stevenson, 2016). Among elite Egyptians, bodies were mummified and put in wooden coffins or stone sarcophagi. Mummy masks cartonnage also appeared. During the Eleventh Dynasty, tombs began to be cut into the Thebes mountain, yet mastaba continued to be used. More changes accompanied the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, among other periods.
Several imageries characterized Egyptian funerary practices. Bodies were preserved before embalming to prevent/deter decay. Mourners sometimes mud covered their faces and did parade around a town while chest beating if the deceased belonged to high status (Stevenson, 2016). If a high-status male’s wife died, her body would not be embalmed until 3-4 days elapsed to avoid abusing the corpse (Barsanti et al., 2016). Those who were attacked or drowned were embalmed immediately since such deaths were perceived as venerated. A priest poured milk and burned incense before the body as the sledge-carried body proceeded to the graveyard. The priest would then conduct a mouth opening ceremony on the dead body upon arrival at the graveyard, a ritual that was conducted to signify allowing the individual to defend themselves and speak during the judgment process that awaited them (Stevenson, 2016).
In a nutshell, while changes have continued to be seen in Egyptian funerary practices, the original practices, like casting of magic spells, body mummification, and burials with particular grave goods have withstood the test of time.
Barsanti, S. G., Caruso, G. Guidi, G. (2016). Virtual navigation in the ancient Egyptian funerary rituals,” 2016 22nd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM), Kuala Lumpur, 1-6, Doi: 10.1109/VSMM.2016.7863148
Stevenson, A. (2016). The Egyptian Predynastic and State Formation. J Archaeol Res, 24, 421–468. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-016-9094-7