How did the Ancient Egyptians get to the Afterlife?

Follow Menna on his journey into the afterlife and learn about the beliefs and rituals of the ancient Egyptians

Deceased receiving offerings from their son (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Over 3,000 years ago, a man named Menna lived in the area we know today as Luxor. During his life, he was a high-ranking official and, before he died, he built a magnificent tomb on Luxor’s West Bank.

This tomb is still recognized today for its exceptionally vibrant and beautiful paintings. The walls of this unique tomb tell us the story not just of Menna’s life, but his death, and journey into the afterlife and beyond.   

Preparing for the Afterlife

As Menna aged, he had to have two things to make sure that he could live on in the afterlife after his death: a tomb with all the necessary pictures and texts inside to aid in his resurrection...

and the correct funerary rituals, including the mummification of his body, to preserve it for eternity.  

Man carrying Menna's mummy (2009-04) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Menna the Mummy

Since the Ancient Egyptians believed the preservation of their body was necessary for a successful passage into the afterlife, Menna had to be mummified.  

His organs were removed and the stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines preserved in canopic jars. His body was then desiccated (dried out), anointed with oils, and wrapped in linen and protective amulets, ready to be placed in a coffin as a mummy.  

Opening of the Mouth ritual (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Rites and Rituals

As a mummy, Menna retained his outer form, but a his body would also need to be nourished or, before long, it would die. 

Therefore, in a rather complicated ceremony called the “Opening of the Mouth”, a priest symbolically opened Menna’s mouth and nose so that he could eat, drink, and breathe, just like any living human. Priests also performed a similar ritual on the painted representations of the dead in the tomb.  

Traveling to and from Abydos by boat (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Ancient Pilgrimage

They even traveled to Abydos, one of the main cult centers of Osiris, more than 160 km downstream from Thebes to participate in special rituals.  

Funerary procession (2009-04) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

After the 70 day process of mummification, Menna’s mummy was given food offerings and carried in a funerary processional to the tomb. 

Adoring Osiris, lord of the netherworld (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Here more offerings were given and a bull was ritually slaughtered. Finally, the priests recited additional words of protection, and the mummy was placed into the burial chamber along with special grave goods.  

The Rebirth

Before Menna could live forever in the presence of the gods, he required the approval of Osiris, lord of the Netherworld and divine judge on the Day of Judgment.

In this scene, Menna and his wife, Henuttawy, make offerings to Osiris and praise the god, who sits in a golden kiosk, in order to gain his favor.  

Menna awaiting Osiris' judgment (2009-04) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Weighing of the Heart

Eventually, Menna had to confront Osiris to receive the final judgment. Maat, the goddess of truth, resembles the weight against which Menna’s heart is measured.

Menna fishing (right) and fowling (left) in the papyrus marshes (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Eternity in Paradise

Once Menna was resurrected in the afterlife, he could enjoy his new life in paradise. Here we can see Menna in the marshes with his wife and family, hunting birds and fish.  

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Credits: Story

The conservation and documentation of the tomb of Menna was sponsored by American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Georgia State University in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Created by Elisabeth Koch and Tessa Litecky, ARCE
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Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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