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Ancient Egyptian Belief in the Afterlife

The remains of ancient Egyptian civilization speak of a cultural obsession with death and the problem of an afterlife It could be argued that the extent of the Egyptians' interest in the subject is distorted by the fact that most remains simply happen to be related to death. But the tombs have lasted to a great degree because they were carefully isolated and were nearly the only objects that the Egyptians created using permanent materials. This spectacular evidence from the age of the pyramids shows a culture in which the attempt to pass beyond the apparent limits of death was given the highest priority. In the Old Kingdom, 2658-2135 B.C., the pharaohs devoted incredible amounts of time-and resources to the construction of the pyramids in preparation for their passage after death. But evidence shows that graves of humbler sorts also demonstrate a similar concern with the passage beyond life on earth. Thus, it appears, the concentration of resources on the tombs of kings was not merely an exercise of self-interested power. Though there is no certain answer to many questions about the religious and social importance of the tombs and the death rites of the pharaohs it may be that their deaths had enormous significance as major interruptions in the life of a culture whose self-concept was based on the notion of unbroken continuity. The ascension of the pharaoh into the afterlife was a means of ensuring continuity and, thereby, assuring the people that life would go on as it always had. The remains of the Old Kingdom are the evidence of the importance that a whole society placed on assisting the kings in their trip into the next world.

"Of all mysterious events the most prominent, puzzling and arresting is that of death" (Parrinder 22). Most of the world's religions have tried in some way to account for the fact of death. But the ancient Egyptians lived in a situation in which death was, far more often than for most early cul...

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Ancient Egyptian Belief in the Afterlife. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:38, November 30, 2021, from