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Ancient Egypt


The sun god Re travelling through the underworldThe sun god Re travelling through the underworld The ancient Egyptians believed in the Afterlife, a place where they went when they died. This was the kingdom of Osiris, god of the dead. To be reborn in the Afterlife required much preparation, especially in finding some way to preserve their dead bodies. The wealthy could afford to have a proper tomb built, while the less well-off were simply buried in pits in the sand. All Egyptians, however, agreed on the necessity to ensure that their king, the pharaoh, completed a successful journey to the Afterlife. To them, the very survival of their land depended on it.

Symbols representing (from the top) the ka, ba and akhSymbols representing (from the top) the ka, ba and akh

Ka, ba and akh

To the ancient Egyptians, a person’s soul was made up of two important parts, known as the ka and the ba. The ka was a person’s essential “life force” which needed food and drink to survive. On death, it departed the body. The ka was represented in art and inscriptions by upraised arms.

The ba could be described as a person’s “personality”. It was represented by a bird with a human head. The ba needed to seek out the ka, for if a person was to be reborn in the Afterlife, the two parts of their soul had to be reunited. If they did so, a third state of being would be achieved: the akh, a “spirit”. The akh was represented by a crested ibis. For the ka and ba to come together, the body could not be allowed to decay: hence the vital importance of mummification.

The pharaoh's spirit

Before going before the god Anubis for judgement, a person had to recite a list of sins in front of 42 judges and swear they had not committed any of them.

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