All About History Cobblestone alley - All About History Banner

Ancient Egyptians

QUESTION: Did the ancient Egyptians believe in an afterlife?


Ancient Egyptians strongly believed in an afterlife. The ancient Egyptian god of the underworld is Osiris. The myth says Osiris was slain by the god Seth, tearing apart the body of Osiris and flinging the pieces all over Egypt. The goddess Isis and her sister Nephthys found the pieces, giving new life to Osiris. Osiris became the ruler of the underworld. Isis and Osiris conceived Horus. The ancient Egyptians believed in divine kingship. Their concept of death of the king became Osiris and the new king was identified as Horus.

Their belief system of a soul was that each individual possessed two. One soul, ka, accompanied the body throughout life. After death, ka departed from the body and entered into the realm of the dead. The ka could not exist without the body and every effort was made to preserve the corpse through mummification. Statues of wood and stone replicas of the corpse were buried with the deceased. The greater number of statues in the tomb increased the deceased person's chances of resurrection.

After the souls left the tomb of its buried dead, the myth says danger lurked everywhere to destroy the ka. Portions of the "Book of the Dead" were buried with the deceased to guide the soul through the world of the dead. Osiris, the king of the dead and forty-two demon assistants, judged the ka. The book showed the ka how to conduct itself before the judges. If the ka was condemned, it spent eternity in hunger and thirst or it was torn to pieces by executioners. If the judgment was favorable, the ka went to a heavenly realm to harvest grain from the fields of Yaru, where grain stalks grew twelve feet high. The many statues buried in the tomb could be used as payment for protection or used to harvest the grain instead of the ka of the deceased.

Temple and pyramid digs have unearthed cultural practices of the ancient Egyptian people and their strong belief in an afterlife. Canopic jars were discovered to hold the internal organs of the mummified bodies, so the organs would be preserved for use in the afterlife. Each pyramid consisted of an inner chamber that entombed the deceased, the servants of the deceased, and artifacts to make living in the afterlife similar to what they were used to every day. Servants, horses, and pets were buried with the deceased. Whether they were buried alive, is debated. The tomb was not just a place to lay a corpse, but the home of the deceased supplied with all the goods needed to exist after death.
A deep shaft led to the underground burial chamber in what is called a mastaba. Mastabas were mostly utilized for non-royal burials. The rooms built adjacent to the burial chamber were stocked with food and equipment for use after death, similar to the elite and royal burials. Walls were decorated with scenes depicting their assumptions of daily activities. Mastabas were built with a chapel, including a sacrificial altar. A false door was created through which the souls of the deceased traveled in and out of the burial chamber.

Learn More about Egyptian gods!

Copyright © 2002-2021, All Rights Reserved