Usually when people think of Ancient Egyptian graves they think of tombs, and the riches associated with them. A lot of people don’t realize that it didn’t start out like that at all. Well off the street anyway. Mortuary practices in any culture never fail to interest me. Yes, it’s a little dark but I’ve always been drawn to such things. Plus the Ancient Egyptians had such elaborate mortuary practices that I couldn’t resist looking more into them or more specifically the grave goods that were put with the dead. These help to emphasize the values the Egyptians placed on the afterlife and the social inequality that graves and what they contained expressed.
People usually associate Egypt with tombs of grandeur for the dead. For early Egypt, this is definitely not true, most people were actually commonly buried in sand pits that were dug into an oval shape. So, naturally there weren’t any grave goods to really talk about. From 5000-4100 B.C. in an area that’s known as Merimde Beni Salama, it was discovered that the dead were buried with no burial goods but the bodies were wrapped in animal skins or mats, being laid on their right side in a fetal position, with their head facing south and facing north to northeast. Occasionally grave goods such as pots were found in the graves but never frequently. Eventually these graves dug in the and progressed to containing pottery and sometimes a small pillow placed under the head of the deceased. As time passed cemeteries eventually formed and social inequality could easily be seen. The emphasis on the afterlife starts to become more prevalent in the Egyptian culture.
The Ancient Egyptians buried what they believed important items with their dead. These could range from everyday items that were important to the individual to what they would need after death. Sometimes even servants would be buried with the deceased in the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Period. However, thankfully this didn’t get a strong foothold in the culture. In the Amduat (underworld) land was given to the deceased by Ra. Naturally, nobles and royals wanted nothing to the with actual work. They wanted to take their servants with them. This is one of the reasons why there was the creation of Shabti, small human figurines that represented who would do a certain task in the afterlife for the deceased. They first started to appear in tombs at the beginning of the Dynastic and continued to appear into the Ptolemaic Period.
There are many more examples of Ancient Egyptian grave goods. As mentioned in class, utilitarian objects were often buried with the deceased. Such as cosmetic palettes, stone tools, jewelry (somewhat rare to find) and of course lots and lots of pottery. There have even been isolated burials with ibex horns, however I couldn’t really find much on ibex horns associated with ancient Egypt. For the most part the resources commonly agreed that the Egyptians had as symbolic connection between the Nile and the antelope.