The ancient Egyptians firmly believed in an afterlife, although conceptions of its nature varied. It was generally regarded as a continuation of the agricultural life along the Nile, hence servant figures, or shabtis, were required to avoid manual labor. It was also believed that the dead rested in suspended animation and were only revived when the sun god Re descended into the underworld during the hours of darkness on earth.
   To enjoy an afterlife, the deceased had to have led a virtuous life according to the precepts of maat. He would have to pass through the various gates of the underworld, guarded by demons, to reach the court of the god of the dead Osiris, where he would be judged in the weighing of the heart ceremony. Various spells in the Book of the Deadwere designed to ensure that this procedure was carried out successfully.
   The Egyptians also believed that the body of the deceased had to be preserved as a home for the ka, or life spirit, and the ba, or free spirit, of the deceased so that he or she might continue to live after death. The technique of mummification was developed to accomplish this. The mummy was buried in the tomb after the opening of the mouth ceremony in which it was magically revived. Depending on the cost of burial, the mummy could be interred in a series of wooden decorated coffins that might be placed in a large stone coffin or sarcophagus. The family or priests would then make periodic food offerings to the spirit of the deceased. Statues would also be provided as a home for the spirits in case the body decayed. The Egyptians expected to enjoy the same life after death, so they provided the deceased with the appropriate grave goods.
   See also Name; Pyramid Texts; Religion.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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