Mortuary Practices

A large amount of archaeological findings in Egypt are mortuary remains. There is much we can learn from the ways in which people bury their dead. There are many cultural differences in putting people to rest through out antiquity that can be seen across Egypt.

In Tell el’ Omari, settlers practiced bury their dead below the floors of their circular houses, similar to Mediterranean cultures at this time. Only about two or three people were buried under these structures, most likely those who had resided in these homes and had past away while living there. Other places like Ma’adi practiced burying their dead in cemeteries like many other cultures at this time. This is comparable to Native Americans who buried the deceased in burial mounds near their settle meant.

While many buried their loved ones close to home, the ancient Romans had different practices. Like many Egyptians, they had tombs and cemeteries but they did not allow anyone to be buried inside the walls of the city to supposedly keep out diseases. It was not until Rome expanded that the dead were allowed inside the sacred walls of the city.

We can also learn a great deal by the artifacts found with buried bodies in these mortuary locations. Many believed that the deceased would need certain goods to help them get to the afterlife and to stay there in peace. For example, as I mentioned in my first blog post, Tutankhaman was buried with oars to possibly help him travel to the after life.

Burial rituals varied through out antiquity and as people mobilized and cultures intertwined, changes in customs occurred in Egypt. Mortuary beliefs reflected the social and spirituals ideas of a group of people and archaeological remains show patterns throughout regions of ancient Egypt that can tell us a great deal about the expansion of belief systems and how they have influenced other systems. Burial remains, their location and special goods, have helped archaeologists study the mortuary customs of not only Egyptians but culture all over the world.

2 thoughts on “Mortuary Practices

  1. I am glad you focused your post on mortuary practices. I say this with the least amount of morbidity as possible, but I find classical mortuary practices so intriguing. As mentioned in your post, Tutankhaman was buried with oars, it made me think of the ancient Greeks and their after life beliefs – the burying of money on their eyes so when they got to one of the first parts of the underworld, they would be able to pay the ferry that would take them across. I think a lot of the mortuary practices were so heavily rooted in ideologies, that the impact it had on the way they carried out their practices was so heavily influenced.
    I read somewhere when researching my post that because the Ancient Egyptians had such a strong ideology based society, everything down to the positioning of the body when being buried, mattered. It had something to do with sun worship and it was meant for whatever spirit that was left of the person deceased, to have it follow in the direction of the sun so that it would follow the person into the afterlife.
    From reading, I assume the Egyptian culture had a strong sense of family – which explains a bit about the whole: burry under house floorboards etc. But I also read that children were often buried closer to settlements versus out in the desert where there are a lot of grave pits.

  2. Since I can remember, I have been fascinated with ancient Egypt. This fascination began with the discovery of their burial customs. Unlike any other culture I have come across, the Egyptians had incredibly intricate mortuary practices to ensure a pleasant immortal afterlife. Not only was the body buried, but it was mummified, buried with treasures (and whatever the Egyptians thought they needed in the afterlife), and magical spells were sometimes cast on the body. Mummification was vital because the Egyptians believed that the body had to be in tact for a successful acceptance into the afterlife. The bodies of civilians who were not a part of the ruling class, were normally just buried in small sites dug into the sand. Yet, tombs seemed to have a much different meaning for the upper class and pharaohs. A perfect example would be the pyramids. As soon as a Pharaoh came to power, he would start the construction of his burial tomb. These were incredibly elaborate and ensured an easy pass to the afterlife for the Pharaoh. Not only was this an important practice in ancient Egypt, but it allows us (in the present day) to examine well preserved mummies and artifacts, and create an image of what life would have been like to be an Egyptian in ancient times.

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