A lot of what we know about Ancient Egypt today is thanks to the artifacts we found from the era.
An artifact is an object of cultural importance which comes from the past.
Because Egypt had so many wonderful artists and craftsmen, there was a huge number of artifacts left behind after the civilization collapsed.
For example, historians learned a lot about Ancient Egyptian funerals from the “death masks” discovered in the tombs of the dead.
A death mask was a mask created to honor a person after their death. It was supposed to resemble them very closely, and most Egyptians were buried wearing their own death mask.
One of the most famous death masks of all is the Mask of Tutankhamun. Tutankhamun was a young pharaoh of Egypt, and when he died, he was buried in a very fancy, elaborate tomb.
When the explorers opened his sarcophagus (another example of an artifact from Ancient Egypt, a sarcophagus was a special kind of coffin used to bury mummies) they found a mummified body with a beautiful, golden death mask on top.
The Mask of Tutankhamun is one of the world’s most famous historical artifacts.
Because historians got a chance to examine how the death mask was constructed and decorated, they got to learn a lot about how Egyptian artists shaped their creations.
They also show us how important proper burial was to the culture at the time.
The reason we know how to read hieroglyphics (Egyptian letters) today is thanks to another artifact. The Narmer Palette is one of the oldest known examples of hieroglyphics, dating all the way back to 3100 B.C.
The Narmer Palette is a stone tablet which depicts an ancient king of Egypt, King Narmer, unifying the north and south of Egypt.
But besides the Narmer Palette, another artifact which is crucial to our modern understanding of hieroglyphics is the Rosetta Stone.
The Rosetta Stone is a black stone tablet which is covered in three different languages – hieroglyphics, Ancient Greek, and demotic (the written language of the common folk of Egypt).
The Rosetta Stone features the same message written out three times, in the three different languages.
By comparing the letters of the Ancient Greek message to the hieroglyphics on the tablet, historians discovered how to read hieroglyphics.
This artifact was extremely important in figuring out how the hieroglyphic writing system worked.
Amulets and statues were a big part of religious worship in Ancient Egypt.
Explorers of Ancient Egyptian tombs discovered that a lot of amulets had been buried with the wealthy of Egypt.
For example, many Egyptians were buried with an amulet in the shape of the ankh (☥) the symbol of Ra, the Sun God, as it was thought to bring the wearer good luck in the afterlife.
But pharaohs and princes were not just buried with amulets.
They were also buried with a huge amount of statues called “ushabti,” which were supposed to act as servants to the deceased in the afterlife.
These statues were very small, often less than a foot tall, and were usually depicted carrying a farming tool called a hoe.
The mummies found in Ancient Egyptian tombs are valuable artifacts all by themselves, too.
A mummy was the body of a person which was preserved after death, and they were usually wrapped in linen bandages before being placed inside their sarcophagus.
Much of what we know today about Egyptian burial rites comes from our knowledge of the mummification process.
In the 20th century, when the exploration of Ancient Egyptian tombs was becoming more popular, many rich people would even hold “unwrapping parties” where they’d invite guests to see the bodies of the mummies they’d bought!
What was a death mask?
A mask created to honor a person after their death. They usually resembled the deceased person.
Whose death mask is one of the most famous Ancient Egyptian artifacts of all time?
The pharaoh Tutankhamun.
What year, roughly, was the Narmer Palette believed to have been in made in?
What symbol did protective amulets/necklaces often resemble in Ancient Egypt?
What was the name given to the clay servants that people were buried with in Ancient Egypt?