Burial Practices of the Ancient Egyptian and Greco

-Roman CulturesMythology
Burial Practices of the Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman Cultures
Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman practices of preparing the dead for the
next cradle of humanity are very intriguing. These two cultures differ in a
multitude of ways yet similarities can be noted in the domain of funerary
services. In the realm of Egyptian afterlife, The Book of the Dead can
provide one with vital information concerning ritual entombment practices
and myths of the afterlife. The additional handouts I received from
Timothy Stoker also proved to be useful in trying uncover vital information
regarding the transition into another life. Regarding the burial practices
of Greece and Rome, parts of Homer’s Odyssey are useful in the analysis of
proper interment methods.

One particular method used by the Egyptians was an intricate
process known as mummification. It was undoubtedly a very involved process
spanning seventy days in some cases. First, all the internal organs were
removed with one exception, the heart. If the body was not already West of
the Nile it was transported across it, but not before the drying process
was initiated. Natron (a special salt) was extracted from the banks of the
Nile and was placed under the corpse, on the sides, on top, and bags of the
substance were placed inside the body cavity to facilitate the process of
dehydration. After thirty-five days the ancient embalmers would anoint the
body with oil and wrap it in fine linen. If the deceased was wealthy
enough a priest donning a mask of Anubis would preside over the ceremonies
to ensure proper passage into the next realm.

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One of the practices overseen by the priest was the placing of a
special funerary amulet over the heart. This was done in behest to secure a
successful union with Osiris and their kas. The amulet made sure the heart
did not speak out against the individual at the scale of the goddess of
justice and divine order, Maat. The priest also made use of a “peculiar
ritual instrument, a sort of chisel, with which he literally opened the
mouth of the deceased.” This was done to ensure that the deceased was able
to speak during their journeys in Duat.

Another practice used by the Egyptians to aid the departed soul
involved mass human sacrifice. Many times if a prominent person passed
away the family and servants would willfully ingest poison to continue
their servitude in the next world. The family members and religious
figureheads of the community did just about everything in their power to
aid the deceased in the transition to a new life.

The community made sure the chamber was furnished with “everything
necessary for the comfort and well-being of the occupants.” It was
believed that the individual would be able of accessing these items in the
next world. Some of the most important things that the deceased would need
to have at his side were certain spells and incantations. A conglomeration
of reading material ensured a successful passage; The Pyramid Texts, The
Book of the Dead, and the Coffin Texts all aided the lost soul in their
journey through Duat into the Fields of the Blessed. “Besides all these
spells, charms, and magical tomb texts, the ancient practice of depositing
in the tomb small wooden figures of servants was employed.” These “Ushabi
statuettes” as they are called, were essentially slaves of the deceased.

If the deceased was called to work in the Elysian fields he would call upon
one of the statues to take his place and perform the task for him. It was
not unheard of for an individual to have a figure for every day of the year
to ensure an afterlife devoid of physical exertion. Just about every thing
the embalmers and burial practitioners did during the process was done for
particular reasons.

Many of the funerary practices of the ancient Greco-Romans were
also done with a specific purpose in mind. Unlike the Egyptian’s the
Greco-Roman cultures did not employ elaborate tombs but focused on the use
of a simple pit in the ground. Right after death, not too dissimilar from
the practices of the Egyptians, it was necessary for the persons to
carefully wash and prepare the corpse for his journey. It was vital for
all persons to receive a proper burial and if they did not they were dammed
to hover in a quasi-world, somewhat of a “limbo” between life and death.

One Greco-Roman myth that illustrates this point is The Odyssey by
Homer. There is a


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