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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Civilisations: Ancient Egyptian Afterlife

Continuing with our theme of Civilisations, I put together a handling table of Ancient Egyptian objects in our collection for the event day.

The theme of my table was the Ancient Egyptians’ belief in the afterlife, represented through funerary objects in the collection. The Ancient Egyptians believed that when someone died, their individual journey did not end but was merely transported from the earthly plane to the eternal plane.

This shabti is from Luxor. It is made from limestone and incised with text from Chapter Six of the Book of the Dead. It is from the tomb of Djhuthirmaktuf (meaning ‘Thoth is his protection’)

One of my favourite objects I used was the shabti figurine. As the Ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife was a mirror image of their normal life, it was thought that they would still be called upon to do manual labour for the gods. Shabtis were intended to act as servants or minions for the deceased and it was believed the shabtis would magically come to life and do manual labour in their stead! They are often called ‘answerers’ as they carried inscriptions asserting their readiness to answer the gods’ summons to work.

Translation of Chapter Six of the Book of the Dead

Also in our collection, we have some small amulets, which often depicted deities and were believed to have protective and regenerative powers.

In Ancient Egypt, frogs were associated with Heqet who was the goddess of fertility. Every year when the river Nile would flood, thousands of frogs were born and the land would be incredibly fertile, which is where this link between frogs and fertility originates. These amulets would be placed in tombs as it was believed Heqet helped with the rebirth after dead.

This amulet is a representation of Heqet, the goddess of fertility

Also in the collection are small Osiris figurines. Osiris was well known as the god of the afterlife and resurrection, and was a key figure in the lives of the Ancient Egyptian people. He was killed by his brother Seth but brought back to life by his sister (and wife!) Isis. Osiris figurines were placed with the deceased in the belief that they would help to resurrect the dead in the afterlife.

Osiris is often depicted with a deep black beard and green skin, which symbolises the fertile soils of the river Nile.

I had so much fun researching and presenting my table during the Civilisations Festival and I think it was a great way to bring out objects from the collection that aren’t on display!

Collections Intern

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