The most common practice of body preservation was mummification. This process was very long and required a lot of preparation and detail. The Egyptians were so concerned with life after death that they created the incredibly difficult procedure of mummification so that they could perfectly preserve a dead body.
Sometimes, in addition to material possessions, a person’s servants, or the likeness of them, would also be placed in a sarcophagus with the deceased. This helped a person to maintain his entire earthly splendor for eternity.
First, the internal organs were removed and placed in canopic jars, which were put into tombs after the body was properly mummified. Then, the body was drained of all liquids, which took approximately 70 days.
Mummification was only one of the practices that the Egyptians performed pertaining to death. They also enforced a staunch period of mourning that would last for 72 days.
During those 72 days, the mourners of the deceased would not be allowed to participate in any kind of pleasurable activity, and they were expected to focus only on death. Death was the primary concern of all Egyptians, but especially of those who experienced its presence.
After that, any openings in the body were sealed and it was wrapped in layers of linen. Each layer held personal belongings of the deceased person, so that the person still had their wealth in the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that a person should be properly attended and provided for, even in death. Sometimes, in addition to material possessions, a person’s servants, or the likeness of them, would also be placed in a sarcophagus with the deceased. This helped a person to maintain his entire earthly splendor for eternity.
Therefore, the Egyptians took great pains to preserve the dead bodies of their leaders and loved ones, so that the ‘Ka,’ or vital force of the body, could recognize a person after death and dwell in the body forever.
The Egyptians centered their entire lives around death, and most of their customs were heavily influenced by their belief in the eternal soul. From burial practices to mourning rituals and building techniques, the concept of death was ever present in the Egyptian society.
Much of the Egyptian architecture also revolves around the concept of life after death. The astounding pyramids that are synonymous with the culture were actually built as tombs for the pharaohs. The Egyptians designed pyramids so that they pointed to the heavens and directed celestial energy around the bodies of the dead pharaohs.
They were more obsessed with the afterlife than they were with life itself, and it shows in the evidence left behind in the great pyramids and tombs of Egypt.
Pyramids were built only on the west side of the Nile River, because the sun set on that side, and they were composed of intricate passages and rooms to prevent grave robbers from disturbing the deceased. All of the great pyramids were built during the Old Kingdom. When it became too expensive and laborious to build pyramids for every pharaoh, the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom buried their dead in the Valley of the Kings. However, they still made sure that the bodies were well preserved and royally attended in the afterlife, despite the change of location.
The quote, “Egyptian society was one obsessed with death” is a fairly accurate statement of how the ancient Egyptians formed their religious beliefs, practices, customs, and even their architectural works. They were the first civilization to believe in life after death, or the eternal soul, and this belief motivated the Egyptians to practice elaborate rituals surrounding the subject of death. They believed that if a dead body was well preserved, then the soul of the deceased would live forever.