The After Life The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife. The afterlife was a heavenly place, complete with a heavenly Nile River. The ancient Egyptians called this heavenly place the land of the Two Fields. First, you had to pass the test of heart in the Hall of Maat. That got you onboard Ra's boat. In the beginning, only pharaohs could board Ra's magical boat and travel to the land of the Two Fields, to dwell forever in the afterlife. But the god Osiris changed that. One of the reasons that Osiris was such a famous and important god in ancient Egypt is that Osiris opened the door to the afterlife to everyone. And you had to have a preserved body. Just dying would not get to you the land of the Two Fields. You had to earn a place in Ra's boat. To board Ra's boat, your heart had to be light. To keep your heart light, the ancient Egyptians believed you had to spend a lifetime doing good deeds. Crime was very low in ancient Egypt because someday, after a good life spent by the Nile, everyone wanted to board Ra's boat and travel to the land of the Two Fields to enjoy their afterlife. There were a couple of other requirements you had to satisfy before you could spend eternity in the afterlife. But you also had to have your name written down somewhere. Why? Because the ancient Egyptians believed that everyone had a soul. They called the soul by two names the Ba and the Ka. As the story goes, the Ba returned during the day to watch over the living family, while the Ka flew off to enjoy life in the land of the Two Fields. At night, both the Ba and the Ka flew home to their tomb, to rest and prepare for the next heavenly day. If something happened to your preserved body, or if your name was not written down somewhere, the Ba and Ka would get lost and you would disappear, no longer able to reach your afterlife. That's why grave robbing was the most horrible crime in ancient Egypt. Grave robbers not only stole someone's wealth, they stole their chance to live happily ever after in the land of the Two Fields. The Book of the Dead and Grave Goods The Book of the Dead is not a book. It's a nickname for a bunch of different magical spells written down in various ways by the ancient Egyptians. These spells were supposed to help the Egyptians reach the afterlife safely. Nearly all of the magical spells that have been discovered to date were written to help the ancient Egyptian safely reach their afterlife. Egyptologists have found about 200 different spells so far, most written on piece of papyrus, some written on tomb walls. Everyone in ancient Egypt wanted to safely reach the afterlife. They believed the afterlife was a real place, and they believed magical spells would help them get there. Wealthy Egyptians hired scribes to write down all their personal favorite spells on papyrus sheets. Once prepared, this collection of spells was packed carefully away with their other grave goods, to be placed in their tomb someday. If you did not have a lot of money, you could buy a ready-made version that included several of the most popular spells. A space was left on the sheet of papyrus for your name. That way, you not only had several spells on hand to use, but you also had your name written down, which helped your Ba and your Ka - the two pieces of your soul find their way home each night to your tomb. The ancient Egyptians believed that if their heart was light from spending a lifetime doing good deed that, after their death, they would climb in Ra's boat and travel to their afterlife. To the ancient Egyptians, the afterlife was a real place, the land of Two Fields, a truly splendid place! In preparation for their trip to the land of Two Fields, before they died, and throughout their lifetime, people spent a great deal of their leisure time making grave goods. Grave goods were all the things they wanted to bring with them to the land of the Two Fields. People in ancient Egypt fully expected to be assigned jobs to do in their afterlife, just as they were assigned jobs to do in their daily life. So nearly everybody made little statues of people as part of their grave goods. To the ancient Egyptians, it made perfect sense to create little statues that would do the work for them. It was believed that when the deceased was called on to do their share of the work in the afterlife, they could send their little workers instead. That would leave them free to sail the heavenly Nile or visit with friends who had entered the afterlife. They made toys. They made beautiful clothing. They made jewelry. They made everything they would need in the land of the Two Fields. And they made most of it in little tiny sizes. It is assumed that the ancient Egyptians believed these articles would grow to whatever size was needed when they reached the end of their trip. Once made, grave goods were packed carefully away in big urns. After they died, these urns, full of the grave goods they had spent a lifetime preparing, were buried in their tomb, along with their mummified body, rather like luggage. The ancient Egyptians had a great deal of fun preparing for their afterlife. Canopic Jars Canopic jars were an important part of the mummification process. The body's internal organs were carefully stored in these jars. There were always four jars, representing the four sons of the god Horus - four protective spirits - human, baboon, falcon, and jackal. It was very important to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs that the human body was preserved. A method of artificial preservation, called mummification was developed by the ancient Egyptians. During the process of mummification, all of the major organs were removed and placed in canopic jars. 1. Imsety had a human head, protected the liver. 2. Qebehsenuf had the head of a falcon and guarded the intestines. 3. Hapy had a baboon head protected the lungs. 4. Duamatef had the head of a jackal, and guarded the stomach. The four canopic jars were put into a special chest which went into the tomb with the mummy. A cartouche was an oval circle with a name written in it, rather like a nameplate. The persons liver, intestines (guts), lungs and stomach were placed in canopic jas. Each organ was placed in a special jar with a top representing an animal or human head. In the early days of ancient Egypt, a cartouche was attached to the coffins of kings and queens. As time went on, many people hired an artist to create a cartouche for their own coffins. The heart was left inside the body because the Egyptians believed that in the afterlife it would be weighed to see whether the person had led a good life. The ancient Egyptians believed that you had to have your name written down somewhere, so that you would not disappear when you died. By attaching a cartouche to their coffin, people made sure their name was written down in one place at least! The Canopic Jars were decorated with the heads of the four sons of Horus. Pyramids and Grave Robbers It was only during the time of the Old Kingdom that the ancient Egyptians built pyramids to hold the royal tombs of their kings. Pyramids were huge structures. Pyramids had storage rooms, courtyards, secret passageways, and all kinds of fancy traps designed to catch robbers who tried to break into the pyramid to rob it. Pyramids were full of treasures. The average person created grave goods to take with them to their afterlife. Imagine the treasures a pharaoh might feel were necessary to bring along! The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid, was built around 2700 BCE, nearly 5000 years ago! Pyramid construction was abandoned after the time of the Old Kingdom. It was simply too easy to find a pyramid. Grave robbers knew exactly where the pharaohs were buried, and thus knew exactly where to find riches and wealth. If you were caught, the penalty for grave robbing was death. The ancient Egyptians did not simply build a pyramid, bury a pharaoh, and walk away. A whole city grew up around a pyramid during its construction. These cities were called pyramid cities. The pharaoh provided homes for everyone who worked on the pyramid construction. People were paid for their work in goods and food and homes. After a pyramid was finished, the pyramid city continued to exist. Some of the people who stayed had jobs maintaining and guarding the pyramid. Others, like bakers and basket weavers, were merchants who created needed goods. Grave robbing was the most horrible crime in ancient Egypt. When grave robbers broke into a tomb, they often broke the cartouche when they opened the coffin. They nearly always damaged the mummified body in their haste to find treasures buried within the fabric that wrapped it. This put the Ba and the Ka at risk. The ancient Egyptians believed that everyone had a soul. They called the soul by two names - the Ba and the Ka. After you died, the ancient Egyptians believed that your soul had two jobs. The Ba visited the living family, to watch over them. The Ka flew off to enjoy life in the land of the Two Fields, the afterlife. At night, both the Ba and the Ka flew home to their tomb, to rest and prepare for the next heavenly day. But, if something happened to your preserved body, or if your name was not written down somewhere, the Ba and Ka would get lost. They would not be able to come home to their tomb at night, and you would disappear forever, no longer able to dwell happily in the afterlife. Grave robbers not only stole someone's wealth, they stole their chance to live happily ever after in the afterlife. Punishment was swift and terrible for grave robbers caught robbing a grave. Mummies The earliest ancient Egyptians buried their dead in small pits in the desert. The heat and dryness of the sand dehydrated the bodies quickly, creating lifelike and natural 'mummies'. Later, the ancient Egyptians began burying their dead in coffins to protect them from wild animals in the desert. However, they realized that bodies placed in coffins decayed when they were not exposed to the hot, dry sand of the desert. Over many centuries, the ancient Egyptians developed a method of preserving bodies so they would remain lifelike. The process included embalming the bodies and wrapping them in strips of linen. Today we call this process mummification. The poor placed the bodies of their dead relatives out in the sun, in the desert sand. The bodies mummified naturally. Anyone who could afford it went to a professional mummy maker. People wanted to look their best in their afterlife. Embalming First, his body is taken to the tent known as 'ibu' or the 'place of purification'. There, the embalmers wash his body with good smelling palm wine and rinse it with water from the Nile. One of the embalmer's men makes a cut in the left side of the body and removes many of the internal organs. It is important to remove these because they are the first part of the body to decompose. The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines are washed and packed in natron, which will dry them out. The heart is not taken out of the body because it is the center of intelligence and feeling and the man will need it in the afterlife. A long hook is used to smash the brain and pull it out through the nose. The body is now covered and stuffed with natron, which will dry it out. All of the fluids, and rags from the embalming process will be saved and buried along with the body. After forty days the body is washed again with water from the Nile. Then it is covered with oils to help the skin stay elastic. The dehydrated internal organs are wrapped in linen and returned to the body. The body is stuffed with dry materials such as sawdust, leaves and linen so that it looks lifelike. Finally the body is covered again with good-smelling oils. It is now ready to be wrapped in linen. Wrapping the mummy First the head and neck are wrapped with strips of fine linen. Then the fingers and the toes are individually wrapped. The arms and legs are wrapped separately. Between the layers of wrapping, the embalmers place amulets to protect the body in its journey through the underworld. The 'Plummet' amulet helps keep the person balanced in the next life. The 'Isis knot' amulet helps protect the body. A priest reads spells out loud while the mummy is being wrapped. These spells will help ward off evil spirits and help the deceased make the journey to the afterlife. The arms and legs are tied together. A papyrus scroll with spells from the Book of the Dead is placed between the wrapped hands. More linen strips are wrapped around the body. At every layer, the bandages are painted with liquid resin that helps to glue the bandages together. A cloth is wrapped around the body and a picture of the god Osiris is painted on its surface. Finally, a large cloth is wrapped around the entire mummy. It is attached with strips of linen that run from the top to the bottom of the mummy, and around its middle. A board of painted wood is placed on top of the mummy before the mummy is lowered into its coffin. The first coffin is then put inside a second coffin. A ritual called the 'Opening of the Mouth' is performed, allowing the deceased to eat and drink again. Finally, the body and its coffins are placed inside a large stone sarcophagus in the tomb. Furniture, clothing, valuable objects, food and drink are arranged in the tomb for the deceased. Now his body is ready for its journey through the underworld. There his heart will be judged by his good deeds on earth. If his heart is found to be pure he will be sent to live for all eternity in the beautiful 'Field of Reeds'.