Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt

The Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom lasted from about 2625 B.C. to 2130 B.C. During this 500-year period, the Egyptian kings of Dynasties 4 through 8 began to look outside of Egypt for resources. They started a colony in Lower Nubia to make use of resources found there. Traders were sent farther south into Africa in search of incense, oils, ebony, ivory, and other items. Traders also traveled into southwestern Asia and returned with goods such as cedar wood and silver.

The Old Kingdom is perhaps best remembered for its achievements in building. During this period the Egyptians developed the technology to construct the biggest stone buildings in the world the pyramids. A pyramid is a burial place for the dead. The Egyptians built many pyramids for their rulers and other important people. It is no wonder that the time of the Old Kingdom is often called the Age of Pyramids.

Pyramids were much larger and more magnificent than earlier Egyptian tombs. Before this time the kings of Egypt had been buried beneath flat-topped, mud-brick tombs called mastabas (MAS»tuh»buhz).

The Egyptians built strong tombs because they believed that they would need their bodies in the afterlife. For the same reason the Egyptians also developed ways to preserve the dead body

The process of preserving a body began by removing all the internal organs except for the heart. The removed organs were placed in special jars. The heart remained in the body because the ancient Egyptians believed it was the home of the soul.

After the organs were removed, the body was covered with natron, a kind of salt. The natron absorbed water and caused the body to dry out.

Next, the body was rubbed with special oils and wrapped in linen cloth. The entire process took 70 days. Only then was the preserved body, or mummy, ready to be placed in its tomb.

All the things a person might need in the afterlife were also placed in the tomb. Clothing, jewelry, furniture, and even games were included. Tomb walls were covered with painted scenes of the person's life. Prayers from the Book of the Dead were also carved in tomb walls. The Egyptians thought that these practices would help the soul in the afterlife.

The Egyptians believed that the soul of a dead person appeared before the god Osiris and a group of judges. The judges placed the dead person's heart on one side of a scale. They placed a feather, the symbol of truth, on the other side. If the two balanced, the soul earned life forever. The judges would say,

44 I have judged the heart of the deceased, and his soul stands as a witness for him. His deeds are righteous in the great balance, and no sin has been found in him.
An unbalanced scale meant that a soul was heavy with sin. This soul, the Egyptians believed, would be eaten by an animal that was part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus.

Why did the Egyptians preserve bodies as mummies?

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