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Ancient Death


The way in which the Ancient Egyptians carried out their sophisticated and ostentatious Mortuary Systems were necessary to all strands of the population, including their animals, to ensure their eternal life.

The Mortuary Systems were:

1. Mummification of the Body

The Mummification process reflects the journey that the deceased was about to undertake

It aimed to assist in the journey by providing protection from Amulets and instructions from the Pyramid Texts and Spells added on papyrus into the Mummy wrappings and, often, to the Coffin itself

2. Reciting the correct Magic Spells

The Spells which the Embalmer recited while performing the Mummification of the Body would allow the deceased to travel as smoothly as possible from the Hall of Two Truths to the Aaru, the Field of Reeds

3. Being Buried with the correct goods in their Tombs which the deceased needed to use to get to and in the Afterlife




Prehistory: No written evidence remains but all the deceased were buried in a round grave with a Pot which appears to have been to hold food for the deceased’s use in the Afterlife

Predynastic Period: More Grave Goods were added in the burial. The body was arranged in the Foetal position

3,600 BC: Mummification had begun by wrapping the body in Linen bandages with embalming oils

Early Dynastic Period: Wealthy Egyptians began to build Tombs over the top of their Burial Place. The underground Burial Chamber was named a Mastaba. Even more Grave Goods were added including:

Furniture; Cosmetics; Weapons; Jewellery;
Games and anything else the deceased used in their daily lives, i.e. a Walking Stick

Coffins were added for the protection of the deceased’s body and Tombs of the Nobles and Courtiers were often found near their Lord’s or Pharaoh’s own resting place

Old Kingdom Period: Pharaohs built Pyramids; Courtiers and Nobles continued to build stone Mastabas. Masks began to be modelled, painted in the image of the deceased and left with their remains for identification in the Afterlife. Canopic Jars made their first appearance to hold the deceased’s internal organs. Amulets of were added to the mummified’s wrappings to protect the body. Statues of the deceased were added to the Grave Goods. Decorations were sometimes added to the Tombs showing offerings but not yet any human forms


First Intermediate Period: More hieroglyphs and symbolic decorations were used to decorate coffins

Middle Kingdom Period: 11th Dynasty: Tombs were excavated into the mountains of Thebes and wooden models were popularised to act as items that they wished to use in the Afterlife; such as a Boat; and Shabti’s to represent people to assist the deceased in the Afterlife
12th Dynasty: Burial continued in Mastabas near the Pharaoh’s Pyramids, although the Mummies were now regularly placed on their backs rather than their sides. Some Coffins added the Spells from the Books

Second Intermediate Period: More immigrant’s graves were included: Hyksos in the northeast of the Nile Delta; and Nubian soldiers were found in shallow, round pit burials throughout Egypt

New Kingdom Period: The Elite’s burials moved to be Rock-Cut Tombs; Royalty in the Valley of the Kings and Queens; the burials still included the high-end Grave Gods which can be viewed from when Howard Carter located the Tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. Artisans created ever more highly decorated and meaningful painted reliefs within the Tombs, especially for the Royal Family and their Courtiers. All the decorations became further tied in to their religion. By the 19th Dynasty the Tombs had less “daily life” items and instead focus shifted on to items needed solely in the Afterlife

Third Intermediate Period:Knowledge about burials during this Intermediate period is limited. There is a distinct lack of decoration on the Tomb Walls and much higher decoration of the deceased’s coffin. The expense of the Grave Goods was lowered, even for those who were the elite

Late Period: Most burials were shafts which were sunk into the floor of the desert. Grave Goods were especially made for the deceased

Ptolemaic Period: The Egyptian Elite were still being buried using stone Sarcophagi. Grave Goods still continued with Books of the Dead and Amulets included

Roman Period: Mummy masks tended to have changed to depict the Roman style of portrait and these were often added on a wooden panel rather than directly on to the mummified remains


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