Ancient Egyptian religion


This video from the USA is called Akhenaten, King Tut, and the Shock of the New: Carlos Conversations.

Today in the museum, a guided tour on ancient Egyptian religion.

Esther Holwerda showed us around from prehistory till Roman times.

A student close to getting her MA degree, she apologized for her sore throat.

She pointed out there were many local versions of mythology.

Sometimes, myths of, eg, creation, were at variance with each other.

Then, there were no attempts to impose one version as orthodox; though Egypt became one kingdom about 3000 BC.

Even before then, when there was still no writing in Egypt, one can see people already believed in a life after death.

Then, people were buried in a hole in the ground.

In the pharaonic period, that would stay the same for the majority of people; though kings and elite people would by then be buried in mastabas, pyramids, and other types of graves.

A predynastic hole in the ground style grave, present in the museum, has jars for food, drink, etc. in it.

That presumes deceased people would need them in some form of life after death.

We have a somewhat clearer picture on how Egyptians saw life after death only after they started to write in hieroglyphs.

About 2600 BCE, there were “pyramid texts” in pharaoh’s graves.

They said what pharaohs (as far as we know, only they) should do after dying.

Later, these “guidebooks for the hereafter” developed, became more elaborate, and spread through various social classes.

From about 1500 BCE, there was the Egyptian Book of Death.

The Narmer palette of probably the first pharaoh shows another aspect of Egyptian religion: a falcon, the god Horus, as symbol of royal power, supposed to derive from divine power.

How exactly the relationship of kings to gods was seen varied in ancient history, dependent on how strong the pharaoh’s position was.

Lay Egyptians could come to the forecourts of temples, where sacrifices were made.

However, only priests were admitted to the temple proper.

Sometimes, common Egyptians could see the gods’ statues during processions.

Then, in the Amarna period, pharaoh Akhenaten reformed Egyptian religion drastically.

He proclaimed monotheism, the sun god Aten being the only god.

He, the pharaoh, was the only mediator between Aten and the people.

This made the many priests unemployed.

Akhenaten´s monotheism, according to Ms Holwerda, differed from later monotheisms like Christianity and Islam, in proclaiming there was no abode for life after death.

Therefore, one should enjoy the present, only, life.

A feeling, also expressed in the poem, The Song of the Harper.

After Akhenaten´s death, the many people dissatisfied with his reforms rolled them back.

The old gods´ temples started to function openly again, especially those of Amun, god of the capital Thebes, persecuted during Akhenaten´s time.

About 1000 BCE, the high priests of Amun even became pharaohs.

When Egypt became a Roman province, the cult of Egyptian goddess Isis spread all through the empire, even as far as Britain.

Egyptian god Horus and birds of prey mummies: here.

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9 thoughts on “Ancient Egyptian religion

  1. There are two ancient cities commonly called Thebes, one in Greece, one in Egypt (both with somewhat different names in Greek and Egyptian). Greek Thebes is North West of Athens. Egyptian Thebes was the capital of the Egyptian New Kingdom (since about 3500 years ago; Memphis, near Cairo, was capital of Egypt before).

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  2. Ancient Beer, Wine Jars Found in EgyptArchaeologists Unearth 5,000-Year-Old Ceramic Beer and Wine Jars in Southern Egypt
    The Associated Press

    CAIRO, Egypt May 18, 2005 — Archaeologists digging in a 5,000-year-old site in southern Egypt have unearthed 200 rough ceramic beer and wine jars and a second mud-brick mortuary enclosure of King Hur-Aha the founder of the First Dynasty, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said Wednesday.

    A joint American excavation mission from Yale University, Institute of Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania University Museum and New York Universities found the treasure Wednesday at Shunet El-Zebib, north of Abydos in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag.

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