Egypt: Funerary and Burial (other than Mummification)

About Ancient Egypt


Funerary and Burial (other than Mummification)


For comprehensive information see our New Egypt Mythology Section and Old Egyptian Mythology Section. You may also read


The Egyptian Book of the Dead The Amduat: The Book of Hidden Chambers by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison

The book we refer to as the Amduat (The Book of What is in the Duat), actually named "Book of the Hidden Chamber" by the ancient Egyptians, was one of the most important funerary compositions of Egypt's New Kingdom, as well as the earliest of that period. It describes the journey of the sun god through the twelve hours of the night, from his setting until his rising in the morning with instructions to the deceased king. We find the earliest fragmentary Amduat within the tomb of Tuthmosis I, though it may actually date to the later reign of Queen Hatshepsut, for she most likely reburied her father.


Ancient Egyptians as Model Builders by Scott Freeman

The ancient Egyptians created all sorts of models. They could be small representations of objects such as tools, vessels, weapons or boats and other religious paraphernalia, food items meant to substitute for offerings, architectural elements including columns, monumental gateways or entire buildings, people including servants and even entire armies. We also find some models that were intended as nothing other than toys for children, though most models were funerary in nature.


The Book of Caverns by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison

The Book of Caverns appears to have originated in the Ramessid Period (the 20th Dynasty). As an underworld book, it seems almost to emphasize that previous text had been too soft on those deceased who fail their judgement in the afterlife, while at the same time focusing also on the rewards of those who do. It is, in fact, one of our best sources on the ancient Egyptian concept of Hell.


The Book of the Dead by Caroline Seawright


One of the best preserved copies of The Book of the Dead (known to the ancient Egyptians as prt m hrw 'Coming Forth by Day') comes from 'The Papyrus of Ani', written in 1240 BC. This version of the book is filled with beautiful pictures of Ani and his wife as they travel through the land of the dead, and to the Halls of Ma'ati and beyond.


The Book of the Earth A Book of the Netherworld by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison

The Book of the Earth was the last great composition concerning the netherworld, where the sun disk is raised up from the depths of the earth by numerous pairs of arms, and where the enemies of Egypt, those whose souls have not been blessed, are punished and destroyed in the Place of Annihilation. Above all, it stresses the gods of the depths of the earth such as Aker, Geb and Tatenen. However, in reality it is not known if these scenes and texts from a part of a single composition or an amalgamation from different works, and the divisions of the book are confusing at the very least.


The Book of Gates by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison

The Book of Gates is the principal guidebookb to the netherworld found in 19th and part of the 20th Dynasty tombs of the New Kingdom, though it makes its first appearance to us with the last king of the 18th Dynasty. It was meant to allow the dead pharaoh to navigate his way along the netherworld route together with the sun god, so that his resurrection could be effected. It emphases gates with guardian deities who's names must be known in order to pass them. This is actually a very old tradition.


The Book of the Heavenly (Celestial) Cow by Roland Mastaff

The Book of the Heavenly Cow is not a manual of spiritual instruction, or a guidebook through the Duat, as are the other funerary text of the New Kingdom. Rather, it tells a story that mixes magic spells with the exact details of the Divine Cow herself. It is purely mythological in nature, and in fact, it is difficult to see how this particular book fits into the evolutionary framework of the other funerary text. The central theme of The Book of the Heavenly Cow is mankind's rebellion against the elder sun god, Re, resulting in the punishment of humans by the fiery "eye" of Re in the form of the goddess Hathor.


The Books of the Sky (Heavens) by Roland Mastaff

After the death of Akhenaten, signaling the end of the Amarna Period, we find a new set of Books related to the afterlife. These books centered around Nut, who swallows the sun god in the evening, only to give birth to him in the morning. During the day the sun god passes visibly along her body, but during the night, he travels through her body back to the place where he will rise once more. Beginning with Ramesses IV, two of the Books of the Sky were usually placed next to each other on the ceilings of royal tombs. They depicted a double representation of Nut, back to back. The the focus is on the sun god, other heavenly bodies are also included.


Burying the Pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings by Jimmy Dunn

The death of the pharaoh was accompanied by a formal announcement, "The falcon is flown to heaven and (his successor) is arisen in his place". It is interesting to note the similarity with the more modern phrase, "The King is dead, long live the king". It normally took about three months to bury the newly deceased pharaoh in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank across from modern Luxor. After the mummification process of the pharaoh's body was completed, the funeral procession began at the royal palace and moved on to the West Bank.. The king's body was carried on a sledge pulled by oxen, followed by a second sledge that held the canopic chest.


Canopic Chests and Jars by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison


Canopic chests, and particularly canopic jars, represent some of the most beautiful artwork of the ancient Egyptians. They were used to contain the internal organs of individuals removed during the process of mummification. The most common form was four jars held within a chest, but canopic equipment could comprise, at times, miniature coffins and masks. Very often, canopic equipment was made from calcite (Egyptian alabaster). Like so many terms related to ancient Egypt, " canopic" is really derives from a misunderstanding. The ancient, classical writers believed that the Greek hero, Kanopos, helmsman for Menelaeus, was worshipped at Canopus in the form of a jar.


The Coffin Text by Taylor Ray Ellison

The Coffin Text, which basically superseded the Pyramid Text as magical funerary spells at the end of the Old Kingdom, are principally a Middle Kingdom phenomenon, though we may begin to find examples as early as the late Old Kingdom. Usually found in the tombs of regional governors, in effect, they democratized the afterlife, eliminating the royal exclusivity of the earlier Pyramid Text.


The Coffins of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn writing as Jefferson Monet


One of the most important objects purchased, whether for royalty or other elites, for a tomb was the coffin. It's purpose from the earliest times was the protection of the body, preserving it from deterioration or mutilation. During Predynastic times, the Egyptians shrouded corpses in mats or furs and enclosed them in pots, baskets or clay coffins. In some areas a wooden scaffold was constructed around the body, and this might be considered the precursor to actual coffins. A sarcophagus was also usually provided to hold the coffin in the tomb. The Greek etymology of "sarcophagus" is "flesh eater". However, this is not really the Egyptian interpretation. In their ancient language, the sarcophagus might be called neb ankh (possessor of life).


Egyptian Funerary Art by Sylvia Smith


Although most people are aware that belief in life after death was fundamental to ancient Egyptian religion, only a few specialists and scholars are lucky enough to have had the opportunity to understand all that the belief implies.


An Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld From A Shrine of Tutankhamun by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison

Engraved on the second gilded shrine of Tutankhamun, discovered in his tomb by Howard Carter, was two parts of a book that is completely unique, though they do seem to have similarities to two scenes from the Amduat which were depicted on the child king's third shrine. In fact, these texts are designated as an "amduat", which here for the very first time the term is used to describe a netherworld text in general rather than the specific text to which it is normally applied.


The Evils of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn writing as Jefferson Monet


Passing into the afterlife in ancient Egypt was no insignificant matter, for as early as the Pyramid Texts, one would be judged by an entire tribunal of gods after death. These references become clear by the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts, and in the Book of the Dead, the judgment of the Dead by this tribunal became the most important focal point in the deceased's entrance to the afterlife. Furthermore, once an evil was committed, there is no evidence until the Late Period that the individual could be cleansed of such a sin, though certain spells were created to perhaps help the deceased overcome his transgressions.


Funerary Cones (Funerary Stamps) by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Artifacts, often in a conical shape made of fired clay bearing stamped funerary text on their circular face, are generally referred to as funerary cones. Though only (about) two sets of these objects have been found in situ, we believe they were inserted as a frieze, with the stamped face exposed, above the doors of Middle and New Kingdom (particularly the 18th through 26th Dynasties) private tombs. These funeral objects were produced for both men and women. While the Theban necropolis has yielded most known funerary cones, they have also been discovered in a few other locations including as far south as Nubia. The stamped text typically bears the names and titles of the deceased person, often including additional biographical data and epitaphs.


Funerary Figurines including Shabti, Shawabti and Ushabti Workers for the Dead by Jimmy Dunn

In the Predynastic and Early Dynastic period, we find a few examples of what appears to have been sacrificial burials in Egypt, where apparently rulers took to the grave various servants upon their death. However, this barbaric practice was soon replaced with symbolic figures of one nature or another. At first, they took the form of servant statuettes and tomb paintings and reliefs of laborers on the walls of tombs.


Funerary and Other Masks of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn writing as Jefferson Monet

Many people interested in Egypt are familiar with funerary masks, used to cover the face of a mummy. An example, of course, is the famous funerary mask of Tutankhamun now in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, though certainly most funerary masks were not made of solid gold. However, living persons in ancient Egypt might have employed transformational spells to assume nonhuman forms. Specifically, masked priests, priestesses or magicians, disguising themselves as divine beings such as Anubis or Beset, almost assuredly assumed such identities to exert the powers associated with those deities.


Hell in Ancient Egypt by John Watson


As befits the date, today we find out about the ancient Egyptian concept of Hell, which is not very different than our own today


Judgment of the Dead by Marie Parsons The Judgment of the Dead is known primarily after the New Kingdom and later on, through illustrated vignettes appearing on funerary papyri that were part of the Book of Coming Forth by Day. However, two earlier versions of this process are attested in Egyptian texts. The earliest, the divine tribunal that continuously operated in the under-world, is attested first in the late Old Kingdom hieroglyphic tomb-chapel inscriptions, with threats to would-be tomb robber, and in Hieratic "letters to the Dead."


The Litany of Re by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison


The Litany of Re was a major religious composition known from the New Kingdom. Though most of the renderings are found in tombs, it is not really a book of the netherworld, or a guide to the paths crossing that dark world, though in its theme is seems to be related. Instead, it is a guide to the forms and names of the sun god that also seeks to establish an equality between the dead king and the sun god, and the sun god's ba, or soul. It also contends with the sun god's daily course.


The Major Egyptian Books of the Underworld by Jimmy Dunn

The magical text that decorated the tombs of the ancient pharaohs of Egypt basically provided a detailed roadmap of the what the Egyptians believed to be the Netherworld. Actually, most of these were derived in some manner from the much earlier Pyramid Texts developed by the Kings of the 5th and 6th Dynasty. While a number of tombs are said to contain the whole text of one are more of these books, none actually have the entire text of any single book, though some have most of the text. Other tombs simply have passages from the books.


Offering Formula and Ritual by Marie Parsons


Walk through a cemetery today and take note that on this grave or that, flowers, cards, and other tokens of memory lie placed by some loving hand. In some places, some graves might even have food or drink offerings lovingly placed thereon.


Opening of the Mouth Ritual by Marie Parsons


When an ancient Egyptian died, he was not buried into the ground, mourned and then forgotten. Nor was his grave simply visited at certain times and some token words spoken over it, so that once again he is forgotten until next visit. The ancient Egyptians believed that ritual existed which would bring sensory life back to the deceased


Last Updated: June 13th, 2011