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Architecture of the Afterlife: Embalming & Tombs in Ancient Egypt

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  • 1. ARCHITECTURE OF THE AFTERLIFE Embalming & Tombs in Ancient Egypt Professor Will Adams
  • 2. Ancient Egypt: Gift of the Nile  The ancient Egyptians inhabited the fertile valley of the Nile.  The river's annual flood deposited a fresh layer of silt, renewing the fertility of the soil & ensuring that, for the most part, the country was prosperous & the population sufficiently fed.  For much of the year, most people would be involved in agricultural labor of some kind, but during the Inundation (July – October) the workforce was used by the state for building & other major projects such as "rehabilitation" of the land following the flood.
  • 3. Ancient Egyptian Mummification Preserving Pharaohs for an Eternity
  • 4. The Purpose of Egyptian Mummification  The ancient Egyptians’ funerary customs & beliefs called for the preservation of the body & ample provisions for the afterlife.  This was envisioned as a continuation of the mortal existence after death.  An ancient Egyptian would provide for the afterlife as best as his or her economic abilities would allow.  Today, this means that a huge amount of information about daily life in ancient Egypt can be found in the tombs.  Examination of mummies provides information on health, diet & life- expectancy.
  • 5. The Purpose of Egyptian Mummification  The body of a dead Egyptian would be made into a mummy in order to preserve the body for its immortal soul, or ka.  The word "mummy" comes from the Arabic mumiyah (body preserved by wax or bitumen)  The process of mummification was complicated, including removing organs & wrapping the body in linen cloth.  The body was treated with preservatives which dried out the body of the mummy.  The ancient Egyptians believed that, after death, their bodies would travel to the world of the afterlife during the day & return to their bodies at night.
  • 6. The Purpose of Egyptian Mummification  In order for the person’s spirit, or ka, to live forever, it had to be able to recognize & return to the body.  If a spirit could not recognize the body it belonged to, it would die.  This is why the Egyptians wanted to preserve the bodies of the dead in as life- like a state as possible.  Mummification guaranteed eternal life for the spirit.
  • 7. The Mummification Process  The entire process took 70 days to complete.  Several embalmers conducted the task in the special embalming shop, or per-nefer.  The chief embalmer was known as the hery sheshta.  He wore a jackal mask to represent Anubis, the god of mummification.
  • 8. The Mummification Process  After the deceased’s body was brought to the per- nefer, it was washed with a mixture of palm wine and water from the Nile, then shaved of its hair.  Following that, all of the body parts that might decay or rot were removed.  The embalmers first removed the deceased’s brain through his or her nose using a long hook.
  • 9. The Mummification Process  The long hook was used to stir up the brain until it was liquefied.  Then the embalmers would turn the body face down to allow the brain to ooze out through the nostrils.  The Egyptians were so rough on the brain because they didn’t realize its importance.  They thought its sole purpose was to produce snot!
  • 10. The Mummification Process  Next, the embalmers would remove the soft, moist body parts that would cause the body to decay.  A deep incision was made in the left side of the deceased’s abdomen to remove his or her internal organs, usually the lungs, the stomach, the liver and the intestines.
  • 11. The Mummification Process  In some cases they removed the heart, but in the vast majority of cases they left it.  Unlike modern humans, the ancient believed that the heart, not the brain, was the seat of the soul  The Egyptians also believed that the heart testified on behalf of the deceased during the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony in the afterlife.
  • 12. The Mummification Process  After the body’s organs had been removed, it was stuffed with bundles of a strong drying salt called natron that was meant to further dehydrate the corpse.  The deceased’s entire body was then covered with natron & placed on an inclined slab so that any moisture the natron pulled from the body would run off the end, be collected & buried with the body.
  • 13. The Mummification Process  While the body was drying, the previously removed internal organs were also dried & preserved with natron.  They were then wrapped in strips of linen & put into separate containers called canopic jars.  The Egyptians believed that all body parts would be magically reunited in the afterlife and that the body would become whole again, just like the god Osiris’s had.
  • 14. The Egyptian Myth of Osiris  According to Egyptian mythology, the god Osiris was murdered by his jealous brother Set, who hacked Osiris’s body into pieces & scattered them into the Nile.  Heartbroken, Osiris’s wife, the goddess Isis, reassembled the pieces with the other gods’ assistance & Osiris was magically restored.  He then went on to become the god of the afterlife.
  • 15. The Mummification Process  The stoppers of the canopic jars were shaped like the heads of the four sons of the god Horus (god of the Egyptian kings).  Each son protected the organ placed inside his respective jar:  Jackal-headed Duamutef guarded the jar that contained the stomach.  Falcon-headed Qebehsenuf watched over the intestines.  The baboon-headed son of Horus, Hapi, protected the lungs.  Human-headed Imseti was in charge of protecting the liver.
  • 16. The Mummification Process  Next, the canopic jars were carefully stored in a heavy, secure chest that was later placed in the tomb with the mummy.  The chest of canopic jars on the left was found in the tomb of the famous King Tutankhamen.
  • 17. The Mummification Process  After 40 days, the body was completely dehydrated.  During that time the skin became shrunken, wrinkled & leathery.  The bundles of natron were then removed from the body’s abdomen.  Next, the mummy was washed with wine & water one more time & rubbed with sacred oils to soften the skin.
  • 18. The Mummification Process  The mummy’s head & body were packed with herbs, sawdust & linen soaked in scented oil so that the body could regain its shape, and to deodorize the deceased’s body.  Then, small stones or small onions were placed under the eyelids to restore a life-like appearance.  Once this was done, the mummy could be covered with necklaces, rings and bracelets made of gold & gems.
  • 19. The Mummification Process  According to Egyptian myth, the god Horus had his eye miraculously restored after losing it in a battle with the evil god Set.  As a result, The Eye of Horus, called a wedjat, is associated with healing & protection.  During mummification, a wax or bronze plate with a wedjat carved on it was placed over the embalming incision to magically heal the wound in the afterlife.
  • 20. The Mummification Process  Once the wedjat was in place, the entire body was then covered in shrouds & bound with strips of linen until the mummy had returned to its original size.  This was a complicated job, could take as long as a week, and usually required 1,000 yards’ worth of 2 – 8” wide linen strips.
  • 21. The Mummification Process  As the mummy was being wrapped, small, magical carvings called amulets were inserted between the layers of linen to further protect the mummy’s spirit on its way to the afterlife.  As each layer was added, it was coated with resin to hold the wrappings together with a waterproof seal.
  • 22. The Mummification Process  After the week of wrapping was finished, the head of the mummy was covered with a portrait mask.  This was designed to ensure that the ka would recognize the body in the afterlife.  Finally, the wrapped, masked mummy was placed into a series of wooden & gilded coffins which were ultimately placed into a stone sarcophagus.
  • 23. The Mummification Process  On the day of the funeral, the mummy was brought to the western bank of the Nile on a barque.  The mummy was next brought to its tomb, where Osiris’s priests performed the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony by touching the deceased’s eyes, nose, and mouth of the sarcophagus with a sacred tool.  This ritual symbolically reactivated these senses in the afterlife.
  • 24. The Mummification Process  The deceased’s sarcophagus was then placed inside the tomb’s burial chamber, the entrance to which would be sealed to prevent looting or theft.  Before the tomb was sealed, the deceased’s family members deposited food, clothes, furniture, and dishes into the burial chamber.  They did this because the Egyptians believed the deceased would need the same accoutrements in the afterlife that he or she had used in his or her mortal life.
  • 25. The Mummification Process  If you still can’t get enough of the Egyptian mummification process, then you might enjoy the opportunity to act like a virtual hery shesta, using the Québec Museum of Civilization’s online embalming game at: www.mcq.org/momies
  • 26. Architecture of the Afterlife Erecting A Pharaoh’s Eternal Home
  • 27. Architecture of the Afterlife Building Materials  The 3 most common materials for construction in Egypt were plant materials, clay & stone.  Plant materials consisted of readily available materials like reeds, papyrus, & palm tree ribs & shafts.  Timber was available in limited quantity & used for roofing.  Nile-sourced clay was used for construction, either for frame construction or as sun-dried brick.  Stone was not used much during the early period of Egyptian civilization, but became popular later for tombs & temples.
  • 28. Architecture of the Afterlife The Socio-Cultural Context  Ancient Egyptians viewed earthly dwellings as temporary, so they spent very little emphasis on house construction.  Instead, tremendous effort was exerted in tomb construction.  This stemmed from the belief that the deceased’s tomb was his or her true permanent dwelling, as it would be used for the entirety of the afterlife.
  • 29. Architecture of the Afterlife The Socio-Cultural Context  As previously stated, Egyptians believed that a dead person needed all her or his worldly goods in the afterlife.  Subsequently, the tomb was usually packed with all the dead person’s treasures.  If something could not be provided, its image was painted on the walls of the tomb.
  • 30. Architecture of the Afterlife  During the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh and his court lived in Memphis.  When they died, they were buried at the necropolis at Saqqara.  Today, very little of ancient Memphis survives because its structures were built from inexpensive, locally-sourced materials.  Houses were built of materials like wood and mud-brick, and were only meant to last for 1 lifetime.
  • 31. Architecture of the Afterlife  The earliest method of burial in ancient Egypt was actually in shallow pits in the desert of the Nile’s west bank.  The desert sand dried the bodies and preserved them.  When animals preying on bodies became a problem in burial, the people dug their graves deeper.  In the end, to ensure the preservation of their burials, they built a bench-like structure over graves to create the first burial structure called a mastaba.
  • 32. Architecture of the Afterlife  The name mastaba derived from the name for the steps or podiums found in the front of traditional Egyptian houses.  In the Old Kingdom, rich & noble people built mastabas for their burials in the necropolis.  Above ground, the mastaba looks like a large bench of sunbaked bricks rising about 30 feet high, with a flat roof & sloping walls.  The earliest mastabas were decorated with painted patterns in brilliant colors.
  • 33. Architecture of the Afterlife  Internally, a mastaba consists of three spaces: an underground burial chamber & an above ground serdab & chapel.  The burial chamber was located 30 feet below ground & was the place for the deceased’s sarcophagus.  It was connected to the serdab & chapel above ground through a shaft.
  • 34. Architecture of the Afterlife  The mastaba’s serdab & chapel are located above- ground.  The serdab is a room where the ka statue of the dead person is kept.  The ka statue would act as a substitute for the deceased’s body in case it was destroyed and was also the focus of worship by the deceased’s family members.
  • 35. Architecture of the Afterlife  Some mastabas had surrounding security fences or walls, and some even had chambers for the burial of the deceased’s servants or pets.  The design of the mastaba is the architectural embryo that grew into the pyramids.
  • 36. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser
  • 37. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser  Egyptian King Djoser was a powerful pharaoh of the third dynasty of the Old Kingdom.  His tomb, known as the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, was designed by Imhotep (the first named artist in history) in 2,667 BCE.  It was built as a funeral complex at the necropolis of Saqqara.  Initially, Imhotep conceived of the tomb as a large mastaba of stone.
  • 38. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser  Apparently, King Djoser did not like Imhotep’s initial idea, so instead Imhotep designed a series of layered mastaba “steps” instead.  The result was a pyramid with five sloping tiers set upon a massive mastaba base.  As a result, this step pyramid acts as the intermediate step between the mastaba and a true geometric pyramid.
  • 39. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser  When it was complete, the Step Pyramid stood 200’ high, with 6 giant steps.  The pharaoh’s burial chamber was entered from north side & is 92’ below ground level.  On either side of chamber are store rooms for the pharaoh’s treasures
  • 40. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser
  • 41. Architecture of the Afterlife: Pyramid of King Huni at Meidum
  • 42. Architecture of the Afterlife: Snefru’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshur
  • 43. Architecture of the Afterlife: Snefru’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshur  The later Pharaoh Snefru made two attempts at creating a true pyramid.  His first attempt in 2,600 BCE, the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, had a square plan with a height of 334’.  Due to structural instability during construction, the pyramid’s sides changed angle halfway up, which led to its being nicknamed the “Bent Pyramid”.
  • 44. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza
  • 45. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  Construction of a true geometrical pyramid was finally achieved during reign of King Khufu, son of Snefru, in 2,560 BCE.  His pyramid is located, along with the other most famous true pyramids, on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile.  The pyramid is 482’ high on a plan of 760’ square.
  • 46. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  Eventually, two additional pyramids were built at Giza by Cheops’ successors.  The second and largest, in the center, was built by King Khafre, King Cheops’s son.  The third and smallest was built by King Menkaure, Chefren’s son.  Collectively, the three are referred to as the Pyramids at Giza.
  • 47. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  The three are aligned diagonally along the axis set by the Great Pyramid.  The three small pyramids located close by were built for the pharaohs’ queens.
  • 48. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  All the pyramids were designed as part of a dynastic funeral complex for the burial of the pharaohs.  Today, Khafre’s complex is the best preserved example.  His complex consist of three interconnected units: A valley temple by the Nile where the pharaoh’s body was embalmed A pyramid mortuary temple for rituals A long narrow causeway connecting the two
  • 49. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  How were the pyramids constructed?  There is no completely certain knowledge about the method of construction used to create the pyramids.  That said, scholars estimate that roughly 100,000 men worked 3-4 months each year for 30 years to build the pyramids.  The material used to construct the pyramids was limestone quarried from nearby & transported by lever action.  Pyramid construction workers were paid in food, clothing & drinks.
  • 50. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza  The Pyramids at Giza were built to contrast the vast Saharan desert landscape that surrounds them.  For structures to be visible in the immense desert, they had to be built on a huge scale.  The pyramids were a product of the will to achieve immortality by the pharaohs.  The pyramids were built with such monumentality because they were the everlasting homes of the pharaohs’ kas.
  • 51. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Great Sphinx  Also located at Giza is the Great Sphinx with the body of a lion & the head of Khafre.  The reason for its construction & its purpose are unclear.  A theory holds that it was produced from leftover pyramid materials that were a applied to an existing stone.  It may also have been carved to stand guard over the temple & tomb of Khafre.
  • 52. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Period of Pyramids Passes  With King Menkaure’s death, the era of the pyramid ended for the most part.  More pyramids were built by later pharaohs, but they were smaller & less complex.  Also, later pharaohs could not afford the cost of huge pyramid construction.  Of even greater concern, ancient grave robbers quickly learned how to break into the pyramids & steal the goods buried with pharaohs.  The end of the Old Kingdom therefore marked the end of the great era of Egyptian pyramid construction.
  • 53. The End