The Afterlife: ‘Pyramid Texts’

 The first thing that interested me in the ancient Egyptian culture is their idea of life after death. The ancient Egyptian idea of the after life is different that of the Judeo-Christian, for them death was seen literally as a continuation of life. There are many sources from the period that tell us of the Egyptians’ idea of the Afterlife, the most famous one is the ‘Book of the Dead’ from the New Kingdom, but there are many other sources that hail from earlier periods. The first known source is from the Old Kingdom and is known as the ‘Pyramid Texts’. These were found in pyramids, the final resting place of the Egyptian ruler, the pharaoh, from the 5th dynasty (c. 2350 B.C). These texts, found carved mostly in the sarcophagus chambers and the antechambers, contained religious spells. These spells had the specific purpose to help the pharaoh overcome all obstacles after his death until he reached his final destination known as the ‘Field of Reeds’. Here, the pharaoh had to stand before the god of the Underworld, Osiris, and perform the ceremony known as the ‘weighing of the heart’. If he passed the test, he could then join Osiris in the Underworld and sit beside him for all eternity.

The ‘Pyramid Texts’ were meant only for the Pharaoh, and on rare occasions, for the Queen, they were not used outside the royal family. In the Middle Kingdom this changed when the ‘Coffin Texts’, manuals similar to the ‘Pyramid Texts’, became available for everyone.

 

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Egypt

I first became interested in archaeology and history back in the eighties, when my parents insisted on dragging my sister, my brother and myself around the world. Apart from our mother’s fascination with churches (though we always blamed that on our father), they would drag us to see many archaeological sites and tell us historical stories. I always loved to hear those stories and the crazy things people did in them. I especially loved to hear the different myths they left behind that resound till today.

The first time I was in Egypt, I fell in love with its mystical sights and archaeological sites, the stories and the atmosphere. When I first went down the pyramids in Giza, and looked around in amazement at the architecture and the blue starred ceilings, I was enchanted. The Valley of the Kings was amazing, the way the tunnels seemed to go on and on…. The wall paintings and the large sun temples at Karnak, I loved it, it was truly unique. From then on I was hooked, though I only started reading on the subject later on in life.

I started looking for books on Egyptian mythology and history and read as many books as I could get my hands on. Of course with time, I started getting interested in other historical periods, such as ancient Greece and Rome, the witch – hunt during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. World War Two especially interests me because of the Holocaust. I guess I decided to study history for my first degree because I wanted to understand how people could so easily allow more than ten million people to die in such horrid and inhumane ways.

I don’t know everything about Egypt, and unfortunately no-one will ever. Till today Egyptologists don’t fully understand how ancient Egyptians succeeded in building their pyramids, or even why they decided to build those pyramids. The fun bit of studying history is trying to guess these answers by learning as much as possible from the remains people have left behind. I can only say that I for one will continue reading about these subjects and writing about it here, on my blog, so that even if not many people read it because they believe history is boring, it will still be out there along with many other websites….

A New Idea

I have to admit that it is weird to be writing my thoughts on my new blog, sending these words into cyberspace. My brother set this up for me claiming that I should use this opportunity to write what I know of history and archaeology. I will try my best to do so. Knowledge is a precious thing and history is disappearing too rapidly, and though it is important to look ahead into the future, we must not forget our past.

I apologise for the style in which I write, I do not mean to sound so formal, but this is all new to me and I hope that in time I will feel freer to express my thoughts on the internet. I hope that at least some will enjoy reading a little of what I write, whether it is history or television or books or just general experiences of life. I guess blogs answer the need of many people to write their thoughts down and hope that someone out there is reading about them, caring what they have to say.

Well, for today this will do for now. I will add more later this week…

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