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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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The ongoing interest in Egyptian culture and life has been immensely motivated by the extravagance of archaeological finds at funerary sites. The artifacts discovered at these sites exhibit insight into the culture of ancient Egyptians, by encapsulating the values, religious beliefs, and everyday activities of the time. In order to properly analyze what one can learn about Egyptian culture based on this funerary evidence, it is necessary to analyze multiple scholarly sources and opinions, ensuring objective and justified interpretations. From this it can be debated that funerary evidence allows one of the most comprehensive perceptions of Egyptian culture.

An initial examination of archeological finds may wrongly suggest that the ancient Egyptians were infatuated with death. However, as explored and corroborated by multiple scholars, the presence of certain items in excavated tombs present a dissenting view to this common ideology. Rather than interpreting the extravagant preparation of tombs as a celebration of death, it has been proposed that funerary evidence merely demonstrates the Egyptian culture’s acceptance of death’s inevitability.  The opinion that the Egyptian’s welcomed and glorified death is disintegrated with the discovery of an inscription directed to the visitors of a necropolis, addressing their appreciation of life - “O you who love life and despise death,”  Evidently demonstrated within common funerary evidence is a strong emphasis on maintaining Egyptian values of stability and permanence.   The inclusion of various items deemed essential in one’s ascent to the afterlife exhibit the Egyptians’ extensive preparations and the cultural importance of an adequately prepared burial. The discovery of funerary literature exhibits Egyptian concepts of life after death - such items including Coffin texts, Pyramid texts, and the Book of the Dead were buried with the dead to be used during one’s resurrection.  The belongings of the dead that were buried with the deceased were all specially chosen to aid the transition to rebirth, exemplifying the Egyptian’s “physical concept of the afterlife.”  This displays how the Egyptian culture centered on religious belief, evidence of which is seen in multiple funerary excavations.

Religious culture in ancient Egypt is exemplified in the funerary practices discovered in archaeological excavations of tombs and other various funerary sites. An emphasis on the God Osiris, in a physical, visual and symbolic nature, is evident in multiple funerary sites, as a judge for entry into the afterlife.  Depicted in multiple tombs, such as that of Queen Nefertari and King Tutankhamen, he was a symbol of rebirth for the ancient Egyptians.  The Khufu pyramid included stargate shafts that pointed to the Orion constellation, symbolizing Osiris.  Osiris’ presence in funerary practices reflects the cultural emphasis on “correct moral behavior as a prerequisite for entry into the afterlife.”  The significance of such Gods in Egyptian culture was shown through funerary practices, including the usage of red wrappings - symbolic of “the union of the solar god Re and Osiris in the deceased individual.”  A planter box with seeds found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb has been analysed to symbolize the “resurrection of the fertility god”, and the cycle of life and death.  ‘Concubines’ were buried in tombs to “ensure the fertility of the deceased in the afterlife and assist rebirth.”  These symbolic items exemplify the Egyptians cultural value of the Gods and their role in both everyday life and life after death.

It is primarily evident that the items enclosed in tombs were of great cultural importance to the Egyptians. As presented by one scholar, the items intentionally buried with the deceased provide the modern world with a “virtual encyclopedia of ancient life,” evidently exhibiting which material objects stimulated the Egyptian culture.  Evidence of jewelry designed for burials insinuate the cultural significance accessories had for status and symbolism.  Furthermore, instruments found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb give scholars insight into the musical culture of the ancient Egyptians, with evidence suggesting that ensembles played instruments in rituals, banquets and funerary practices.  However, as there were no means of recording or writing music in ancient Egypt, the actual genre of music that was played with the discovered instruments is unknown.

The discovery of vessels in boat pits constructed next to Khufu’s pyramid provides evidence of the immense trading culture in ancient Egypt. Advanced engineering was utilised to construct rowing boats, canoes, and rafts, and classify the Egyptians as “skilled sailors and boatbuilders.”  Utilising the centrality of the Nile to transport merchandise, the Egyptians imported and exported a vast range of goods, including that used in everyday items as well as in the construction of pyramids and tombs.   The incredible range of quality goods acquired from foreign trading implies the Egyptian’s value of foreign markets was integrated into their everyday culture.

Funerary evidence such as the aforementioned objects provide an accurate image of the Egyptians’ everyday actions, but it is also necessary to emphasize the importance of graphic depictions on the walls of tombs. Illustrations of common activities including crafts and trades complement the objects found in tombs and explain their usage in Egyptian culture.  It has been proposed that tomb art was believed to hold magical and religious purpose, this being the reasoning for its heavy influence in places of funerary significance.

Funerary evidence is one of the most accurate and insightful means to uncover the complex and intimate intricacies of ancient Egyptian culture. The discovery of various items in obituary sites each provide further comprehension of a different aspect of the elements of Egyptian lives, including their values, attitudes, and beliefs. The discovery of various spiritual elements allow scholars to deduce the religious beliefs of the time regarding the afterlife, and the objects buried with the deceased exhibit the preparation required to assist one’s rebirth. Symbols of Gods evidently depict the worshipped figures of Egyptian culture, and the values associated with these deities. Furthermore, the corroboration of both objects and visual depictions allow scholars to fully understand ancient life, including the usage of everyday items and the engagement of various activities and trades. From funerary evidence, one can regard an enriched and exhaustive representation of ancient Egyptian culture – the society’s preservation of such evidence has ensured its immortality.

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