I walked away from my exploration of the Egyptian Antiquities section of the Louvre yesterday with two impressions: 1) I’ve taken the Christian idea of heaven for granted and 2) burying someone in Ancient Egypt sounds super stressful.
Re: the first impression. Growing up Christian, my sense has always been that my choices here on Earth determine whether I will make it into heaven, and if I do, then everything I need in the afterlife will be taken care of by God and the angels once I’m there. Although I’ve never been to one, I’ve pictured heaven to be like an all inclusive beach resort in the Caribbean (minus the problems of income inequality and other legacies of colonialism).
From the artifacts I saw and the audio commentary I listened to at the Louvre, the Ancient Egyptian conception of the afterlife seems to be much more BYO and DIY. For instance, in one display there was a well worn chair, a mat, and a fly swatter that had been placed in tombs to be used by the deceased. In another room, I saw a picture of a princess depicted with the food she would need. Most curious were cases filled with servant statues–small replicas of a person meant to take their place in the work shifts one must complete in the afterlife.
With all that was required for life after death in Ancient Egypt, it seems to me that the pressure would be on the loved ones of the deceased to provide. What if the family had only one chair? Does it go in the tomb or stay in the house?
The living would also be responsible for making sure the deceased was mummified properly, which from my understanding of the audio commentary was how people made it into the afterlife. Whether there was some moral component or salvation on top of that like there is in Christianity, I’m not sure.
I don’t know enough about Ancient Egypt, and I have my childhood self to blame for that. When I was in grade school, I had a family member buy a book about hieroglyphics for me. I was determined to learn the material on my own, but I gave up after only a few attempts.
To think if I’d persevered, I would have been able to translate what I saw yesterday rather than relying on the audio commentary.
Regrets! I hope I don’t take too many of these into the afterlife.