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Life after Death

The ancient Egyptians' attitude towards death was influenced by their belief in immortality. They regarded death as a temporary interruption, rather than the cessation of life. To ensure the continuity of life after death, people paid homage to the gods, both during and after their life on earth. When they died, they were mummified so the soul would return to the body, giving it breath and life. Household equipment and food and drink were placed on offering tables outside the tomb's burial chamber to provide for the person's needs in the afterworld. Written funerary texts consisting of spells or prayers were also included to assist the dead on their way to the afterworld.

Funeral procession; 
CMC PCD 2001-304-073

To prepare the deceased for the journey to the afterworld, the "opening of the mouth" ceremony was performed on the mummy and the mummy case by priests. This elaborate ritual involved purification, censing (burning incense), anointing and incantations, as well as touching the mummy with ritual objects to restore the senses -- the ability to speak, touch, see, smell and hear. The "opening of the mouth" ceremony dates back to at least the Pyramid Age. It was originally performed on statues of the kings in their mortuary temples. By the 18th dynasty (New Kingdom), it was being performed on mummies and mummy cases.

"Opening of the Mouth" Tool Kit
Instruments such as these were used to restore the senses of the deceased. They were derived from sculptors' tools. Near the end of the Graeco-Roman Period, the tool kit usually contained only miniature versions of tools.
Tools; CMC S97-10937
1. Setep
Wood; New Kingdom
From the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Rogers Fund, 1925
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 25.3.40
2. Adze
Bronze, wood and leather; New Kingdom
From the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1896
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 96.4.7
3. Pesesh-kef knife
(replica)

The journey to the afterworld was considered full of danger. Travelling on a solar bark, the mummy passed through the underworld, which was inhabited by serpents armed with long knives, fire-spitting dragons and reptiles with five ravenous heads. Upon arriving in the realm of the Duat (Land of the Gods), the deceased had to pass through seven gates, reciting accurately a magic spell at each stop. If successful, they arrived at the Hall of Osiris, the place of judgement.

CMC PCD 2001-304-029 Solar boat; 
CMC PCD 2001-297-056

Here the gods of the dead performed the "weighing of the heart" ceremony to judge whether the person's earthly deeds were virtuous. The weighing of the heart was overseen by the jackal-headed god Anubis, and the judgement was recorded by Thoth, the god of writing.

Hall of judgement; 
CMC PCD 2001-294-065 Weighing the heart; 
CMC PCD 2001-284-005

Forty-two gods listened to the confessions of the deceased who claimed to be innocent of crimes against the divine and human social order. The person's heart was then placed on a scale, counterbalanced by a feather that represented Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the heart was equal in weight to the feather, the person was justified and achieved immortality. If not, it was devoured by the goddess Amemet. This meant that the person would not survive in the afterlife. When a pharaoh passed the test, he became one with the god Osiris. He then travelled through the underworld on a solar bark, accompanied by the gods, to reach paradise and attain everlasting life.



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