Ancient Egyptian Views of the Afterlife


Egyptian archeologists have discovered a 3100 year old tomb in Saqqara, located 30 kilometers south of Cairo. Upon the well-preserved wall reliefs on the inside of the tomb there are incredibly detailed illustrations of burial processions and the ancient concept of afterlife.

The burial chamber was discovered by staff of the Department of Archeology at the University of Cairo. The tomb belonged to a Paser, guardian of the Aramaic archives, who also served as an Egyptian ambassador in other countries.

The tomb represents a mausoleum and consists of a front door, pillars, a main hall where the sarcophagus is located, and a sanctuary divided in three rooms.

„Even though the mausoleum appears unfinished, reliefs and other decorations on the walls have been well-preserved”, explains Ali al-Asfar, head of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Bright drawings depicting the concept of afterlife and several engravings are illustrated upon the reliefs, telling the story of the burial procession of the guardian and his future in the afterlife.

One illustration painted in blue, red, and yellow depicts the Paser’s wife, mourning over her dead husband, and on another one we can see his children, making offerings to the Gods.

A third relief shows Osiris, God of the underworld, who is in charge of the Paser’s burial. There are also figures of people carrying objects meant for the preservation of his body for eternal life.

The ancient Egyptian concept of afterlife is one of the earliest-known belief systems in history. They believed that people possess Ka, or energy of life, which leaves the body at the moment of death.

During life, Ka is regenerated by food and drinks, and in order for life to continue after death, Ka must still receive food, more specifically, its spiritual ingredient.

A human being can also possess Ba – spiritual characteristics, unique to every single person. Unlike Ka, Ba stayed with the body even after death. The Egyptian burial rituals were meant to release Ba from the body, so it can travel freely and once again reunite with Ka, so they can continue living as Akh.

It was important for the body of the deceased to be preserved, since Egyptians believed that Ba comes back to the body every night so it can receive new energy, until it leaves the body in the morning as Akh.

It was once believed that the ability to go into the afterlife depends on high status in society or on the mercy of a King. At the end of the Ancient Kingdom and in the first interim period (around 2181-2055 BC), Egyptians gradually came to the conclusion that all humans have Ba and, respectively, the opportunity to have a heavenly life after death.