The thing that interests me about archaeology is its focus on culture. Coming into this class, I had a totally different perception of archaeology; I had this notion that it’s all about digging out artifacts and trying to figure out when they were used and establishing a chronology for them. Talking about how the subject of archaeology changed in the 20th Century in class made me realize that not only is the field of archaeology diverse, but also culture-oriented.
What has intrigued me so far is the discussion about the Giza Necropolis located on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. It is quite interesting that the ancient Egyptians dedicated a lot of time, resources and vast pieces of land to build tombs, cemeteries, The Great Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. While the bodies of kings and pharaohs were mostly mummified, those of the average Egyptians were buried in a shallow grave in the sandy desert. Mummification was a long and expensive process therefore, it makes sense that it was majorly reserved for the kings and pharaohs. They were buried along with their riches and other possessions (believed to have been used in their afterlife), and a lot of rituals and prayers were also involved.
Also, it is believed that apart from the elaborate burial customs of the ancient Egyptians, many of their deities were associated with death. An example is Osiris, the king of the dead. Considering the number of tombs, cemeteries and the mummies discovered in ancient Egypt, it would be easy to conclude that Egyptians are fascinated by death.
However, there has been a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that Egyptians’ obsession with death is a misconception and that they are, in fact, passionate about life. One possible explanation for the numerous findings of tombs and most burial sites is that these structures were built in Egypt’s sandy desert. Since this environment is non-corrosive, it is possible that they were preserved for a longer time compared to other structures.
Furthermore, the fact that the Egyptians paid a lot of attention to preservation of the dead bodies suggests that they believed in life after death. Basically, they focused on ways to ensure the continuation of the soul, for example, by storing food, wine and other possessions in the tombs. It is believed that over three thousand five hundred items were recovered from the burial of King Tutankhamun. Also, the decorations on the walls of the tombs portray scenes of life. An example is King Tutankhamun’s tomb which is described as having a vibrant yellow color and drawings of him and various gods. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians never cremated their dead – for in doing so, they would have destroyed the afterlife of the deceased.