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Unexplained / Ancient civilizations / Ancient Egypt / Afterlife - Coffins - Mummy Masks / 


Afterlife - Coffins - Mummy Masks

The entire civilization of Ancient Egypt was based on religion, and their beliefs were important to them. Their belief in the rebirth after death became their driving force behind their funeral practices.

The Egyptians believed that death was simply a temporary interruption, rather than complete cessation, of life, and that eternal life could be ensured by means like piety to the gods, preservation of the physical form through Mummification, and the provision of statuary and other funerary equipment. Each human consisted of the physical body, the 'ka', the 'ba', and the 'akh'. The Name and Shadow were also living entities. To enjoy the afterlife, all these elements had to be sustained and protected from harm.
The Funerary Scene



This scene depicts what occurs after a person has died, according to the ancient Egyptians.

Beginning with the upper left-hand corner, the deceased appears before a panel of 14 judges to make an accounting for his deeds during life. The ankh, the key of life, appears in the hands of some of the judges.

Next, below, the jackal god Anubis who represents the underworld and mummification leads the deceased before the scale. In his hand, Anubis holds the ankh.

Anubis then weighs the heart of the deceased (left tray) against the feather of Ma'at, goddess of truth and justice (right tray). In some drawings, the full goddess Ma'at, not just her feather, is shown seated on the tray. Note that Ma'at's head, crowned by the feather, also appears atop the fulcrum of the scale. If the heart of the deceased outweighs the feather, then the deceased has a heart which has been made heavy with evil deeds. In that event, Ammit the god with the crocodile head and hippopotamous legs will devour the heart, condemning the deceased to oblivion for eternity. But if the feather outweighs the heart, then the deceased has led a righteous life and may be presented before Osiris to join the afterlife. Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom stands at the ready to record the outcome.

The deceased is then led to Osiris by Horus, the god with the falcon head. Note the ankh in Horus' hand. Horus represents the personification of the Pharaoh during life, and his father Osiris represents the personification of the Pharaoh after death.

Osiris, lord of the underworld, sits on his throne, represented as a mummy. On his head is the white crown of Lower Egypt (the north). He holds the symbols of Egyptian kingship in his hands: the shepherd's crook to symbolize his role as shepherd of mankind, and the flail, to represent his ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. Behind him stand his wife Isis and her sister Nephthys. Isis is the one in red, and Nephthys is the one in green. Together, Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys welcome the deceased to the underworld.

The tomb-owner would continue after death the occupations of this life and so everything required was packed in the tomb along with the body. Writing materials were often supplied along with clothing, wigs, hairdressing supplies and assorted tools, depending on the occupation of the deceased.

Often model tools rather than full size ones would be placed in the tomb; models were cheaper and took up less space and in the after-life would be magically transformed into the real thing.

Things might include a headrest, glass vessels which may have contained perfume and a slate palette for grinding make-up.

Food was provided for the deceased and should the expected regular offerings of the descendants cease, food depicted on the walls of the tomb would be magically transformed to supply the needs of the dead.

Images on tombs might include a triangular shaped piece of bread (part of the food offerings from a tomb). Other images might represent food items which the tomb owner would have eaten in his lifetime and hoped to eat in the after-life.

Life was dominated by Ma'at, or the concept of justice and order. Egyptians believed there were different levels of goodness and evil. Egyptians believed that part of the personality, called the Ka, remained in the tomb. Thus elaborate and complex burial practices developed.

The removed internal organs were separately treated and, during much of Egyptian history, placed in jars of clay or stone. These so-called Canopic Jars were closed with stoppers fashioned in the shape of four heads -- human, baboon, falcon, and jackal - representing the four protective spirits called the Four Sons of Horus.
Canopic Jars


The heart was removed to be weighed against a feather representing Ma'at to determine moral righteousness. The brain was sucked out of the cranial cavity and thrown away because the Egyptian's thought it was useless. Personal belongings were usually placed in the tomb to make the Ka more at home and to assist the dead in their journey into the afterlife.

Text was read from the 'Book of the Dead' and the ritual of "opening the mouth" was performed before the tomb was sealed.

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