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Architecture of the Afterlife: Embalming & Tombs in Ancient Egypt


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Architecture of the Afterlife: Embalming & Tombs in Ancient Egypt

  1. 1. ARCHITECTURE OF THE AFTERLIFE Embalming & Tombs in Ancient Egypt Professor Will Adams
  2. 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. 3. Ancient Egyptian Mummification Preserving Pharaohs for an Eternity
  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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:
  26. 26. Architecture of the Afterlife Erecting A Pharaoh’s Eternal Home
  27. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 36. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser
  37. 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. 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. 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. 40. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser
  41. 41. Architecture of the Afterlife: Pyramid of King Huni at Meidum
  42. 42. Architecture of the Afterlife: Snefru’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshur
  43. 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. 44. Architecture of the Afterlife: The Pyramids at Giza
  45. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 53. The End