Ancient Egyptians believed that when someone died their soul would go to the afterlife, if they had done enough good deeds.
To help them get to the afterlife, ancient Egyptians would make sure their bodies were properly preserved and buried.
Ancient Egyptians would preserve the bodies using mummification (they would turn the bodies into mummies!) to make them last for a long time into the afterlife.
This process took around 70 days and was performed by a priest wearing a mask of Anubis, the god who guarded the gates to the underworld. Anubis looked like a man with the head of a jackal.
Initially, the body was washed and all the internal organs were removed except for the heart. The body was then filled with stuffing to keep its shape and wrapped in cloth called natron to absorb any moisture.
After 40-50 days, these were swapped for fresh linen and a white sheet was placed over the body, before it was enclosed in a coffin.
The organs were placed in canopic jars and put in the tomb alongside the coffin. The body was now ready to travel into the afterlife.
The coffin was paraded through town with family and friends until they reached the tomb where the person’s body would remain in the afterlife. Once the coffin was placed in the tomb, mourners wailed and priests prayed at the tomb door, in a ceremony called the ‘Opening of the Mouth’, before the door was sealed shut forever. This ritual let the dead person use all their senses in the afterlife.
At each stage of the burial, priests performed special rites to help the person reach the afterlife.
These involved special prayers and spells, as well as using special oils on the mummy to keep the bodies preserved and the soul happy.
Weighing of the Heart
It was very important to give people the best possible chance of reaching the afterlife. Before you could get there, ancient Egyptians believed that you had to pass a test.
Your heart had to be light and full of good deeds that you’d performed in your lifetime. If not, your soul would be eaten by the god Ammut, who had a crocodile head and the body of a lion and a hippo – the three deadliest animals in Egypt.
After death, your soul travelled to meet the gods. Anubis weighed your heart to see if it was lighter than a feather and Thoth (the god of writing and magic) wrote down the findings in a big book.
If your heart was light enough, you passed the test and entered the afterlife! As people wanted to reach the afterlife, they all made sure to do lots of good deeds in life to keep their souls alive.
Facts about Ancient Egyptian Burial
- Ancient Egyptians mummified their bodies after death.
- Mummification involved removing nearly all the internal organs and the moisture from the body.
- The body was stuffed with linen and wrapped in cloth to keep its shape.
- The coffin was paraded through town before being placed in the tomb.
- Priests performed special rituals to help the soul reach the afterlife.
- Mourners wailed at the tomb and priests spoke prayers as the tomb was sealed shut.
- People had to pass a test to see if they had done enough good deeds to reach the afterlife.
- If Anubis said your heart was light enough, you passed onto the afterlife.
- If you had not done enough good deeds, Ammut would eat your soul!
- What was mummification?
Priests preserved the bodies of the dead to help them reach the afterlife.
- How did priests mummify bodies?
They removed the internal organs except the heart, wrapped them in cloth for 40 days and then placed them clean in the coffin.
- What was the weighing of the heart?
The god Anubis decided if you had done enough good deeds in your life.
- Why was this so important?
If you didn’t do enough good deeds, you couldn’t reach the afterlife and would be eaten by the god Ammut!
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