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What is an Ancient Egyptian Tomb?

What is Ancient Egypt?

The Burial Place designed to ensure the deceased’s infinite protection for their earthly rest; a place for mourners to perform rituals to assist the deceased with their accession to the Afterlife; and a Resurrection Machine, which would help the deceased to reunite their soul with their body after death 

The way that Tombs were built was essential

As an Ancient Egyptian, lack of proper preparation for your death in life could lead to your damnation in the Afterlife

Nearly all Tombs are on the West Bank of the Nile; the setting of the sun in the West represented the death of the Sun God Ra at the end of each day and so the deceased belonged on this side of the Nile

Tomb Layout

The Tomb Layout was essential. For an Ancient Egyptian, a lack of care and attention to the pathway and decoration of the Tomb could lead to your soul, after your death, not being able to properly and correctly navigate their way out of the Underworld. This would prevent their ascension into the Field of Reeds. For more information about this, click here. 

As you can see from the diagram, the Tomb contained 2 pathways:

1.) the pathway for the deceased’s soul to reach the Underworld, face the Weighing of the Heart in Hall of Two Truths before using the Spells and directions which would have been depicted on the Tomb’s Walls to successfully navigate their Flight for Resurrection

2.) the pathway for the deceased’s soul to coming from by day from the Underworld to the Field of Reeds

For details about the Weighing of the Heart, click here.                   To learn about the Spells, click here. 

For more information about the Flight for Resurrection, click here.                        To understand where the Field of Reeds is, click here.

The Pharaoh

Pharaoh had the jurisdiction to perform all necessary religious rituals on behalf of Egypt as a whole which was ennobled on Pharaoh at the Coronation. After Coronation, Pharaoh was the Deities living representative within the Land; and would become a Deity on death. Pharaoh was charged with ensuring that the concept of Ma’at was maintained throughout and for the avoidance of Chaos.

This did not end with Pharaoh’s death

  • The way which Pharaoh was entombed was thought to be critical to Pharaoh’s Afterlife AND  the continued Ma’at of the Egyptians
  • Royal Tombs were built for the Pharaoh and often their Chief Royal Wife during their own lifetimes
  • Nobles and other wealthy patrons would be buried in individual or family grouped rock hewn tombs
  • Egyptologists are finding new Tombs throughout Egypt

What is Ma'at?

The worldly and afterlife core that was the central guide of Egyptian life and religion. Ma’at was so important that the concept was brought to life as a Goddess. 

Pharaoh had the jurisdiction to perform all necessary religious rituals on behalf of Egypt as a whole which was ennobled on Pharaoh at the Coronation.

The Coronation Rituals literally re-enacted God Horus’ accession to the Throne of Egypt in place of his father Osiris.

After Coronation, Pharaoh was the Deities living representative within the Land; and would become a Deity on death.

Burial Procedures & Processes

These evolved throughout the Dynasties, but the essentials often remained the same. The first being Mummification which was open to all who could afford it. The second being the reanimation of the deceased body, ensuring that the mummy could breathe and speak in the afterlife; this was called the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.

Another key aspect was that the Funerary Goods and Tomb decoration were there to assist the deceased with the judgement they would face before they could enter the Afterlife.

The First Tombs were stone built Mastabas which modified into Step Pyramids and then the full Pyramids at Giza. For Royalty, the extended Necropolis usually included family members as well as the Funerary Temple where Mummification took place; the Causeway to take the body to the Tomb and the Mortuary Temple where the deceased was venerated after their death and burial.

Rock Cut Tombs were more popular with the populace who could afford them as the undertaking of the building of a Pyramid Necropolis was a gargantuan task which they could afford.

The Pharaohs began using the Rock Cut Tombs in the Valley of the Kings location in the mid 1500s BC, whilst the Valley of the Queens was in use around 1290 BC.

Funerary Literature: explaining the paintings in the Tombs


Consisted of a grouping of “Spells” and instructions for how to navigate their way successfully to the Afterlife. These were not Spells as we would see them today but more to do with the correct way to approach the Deities for help in reaching the Afterlife.

During the Old Kingdom Period only Pharaohs and the Royal Family had access to the Spells which were known as the Pyramid Texts as this is where they were found;
inside the Pyramid, carved in to the Walls. In the First Intermediate
and Middle Kingdom Periods, the Pyramid Texts could be found on
the Tombs of Nobles and Officials.

Now the Coffin Texts overtook the Pyramid Texts and were written directly on to the Coffins of the deceased. They contained substantial new material which was related to everyday wishes; showing that these Texts were for a new audience: the general populace.

During the New Kingdom Period, The Book of the Dead arrived; comprising of the Pyramid and the Coffin Texts, it was written on Papyrus and placed into Coffins directly.

The Royal Family and Nobles continued to have their chosen “Spells” added to their Tomb Walls and Coffins as can clearly be seen in the Valley of the Kings and Queens.


The Ancestor’s Tomb


The general populace’s Ancestors were often thought of as Deities themselves; or at least living with, and may be influential to, the Deities.

Most families would visit their Ancestor’s Tombs on the relevant Festival day and ask them to intervene on their behalf. These visits were usually happy events that were almost in the form of a structured picnic where families would sit with their Ancestor for the day and offer them food and drink as they were consuming.


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