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Ancient Egypt, more than any other culture, took this fascination with morbidity to new levels. Apart from including the portrayal of coffins in the…
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Introduction to Humanities Introduction Ancient cultures celebrated death as an inevitable part of life and included daily reminders of it in their daily schedules. Ancient Egypt, more than any other culture, took this fascination with morbidity to new levels. Apart from including the portrayal of coffins in the schedule while partaking dinner, they built fascinating structures to accommodate the bodies of the dead. Every citizen desired a grand dwelling for his corpse. Nevertheless, only the very rich indulged in pyramids as their final dwelling places. The construction of these gigantic artifacts was begun during the incumbent’s lifetime and was carried out near his house.
The ancient Egyptians believed that real life began after the death of the body. It is for this purpose that so much deliberation and concern went into organizing the places where bodies would be brought to rest at the moment of death. The rich had the walls of their tombs carved exquisitely, and rich foods and jewels as well, were left there along with the body. The walls of the tombs also depicted Egyptian gods leading the person’s soul through judgment, and finally to his allotted area. Poor Egyptians were buried in the sand, but also made efforts to ensure that their bodies would first be mummified. (Bishop, 1999)
The preservation of the body was very important to ancient Egyptians. They believed that a soul would need it in the next life and so took measures to ensure its maintenance. Mummification, an embalming process that took 70 days, was done to dry the body. Large amounts of natron were also employed to hasten the drying process. Canopy jars were then utilized to hold the mummified remains of the body parts that had been removed.
The early Minoans in northern and eastern Crete were also seemingly preoccupied with the dead. They carved out in caves, elaborate house tombs for their dead, a norm that suggests that they considered that the deceased person would go on with a new life in death and that he would need his house (Bishop, 1999).
Even in ancient China, the populace believed that the soul of a dead person continued to exist in another form once it left the body. It was deemed that it would require everything it possessed in earthly life to be comfortable. The ancient Chinese slaughtered the livestock and actual family of the deceased so that they could accompany him in his new existence. This was a practice observed by many ancient cultures inclusive of the Egyptians (Bishop, 1999).
Today’s death practices in various parts of the world involve morticians and so save the family from dealing directly with the corpse which could be traumatic. Preservation of the body is still effected by flushing chemicals through the bloodstream which will preserve the tissue in case the body will be exposed in a wake. In Jamaica, a family will hold a nine-day event to console relatives of the deceased and to prepare the soul of the departed member for the next journey. During the nights, fried fish, cakes and bread is left until midnight so that the soul of the deceased may have something to eat if he is hungry (Colman, 1997).
Today’s society is, however, not as preoccupied with the dead as were the ancient civilizations. The inherent fear of death has caused jokes to abound about this subject but brought no serious discussions or considerations of it in an organized way in society. In the 21st century, various religions project the belief in an afterlife. This theory assists the relations of the deceased in not feeling totally hopeless as they trust that they will meet with the dead person again. The place where modern religions differ with ancient religions is in the viewing the mortal body as the instrument to be preserved for the spirit’s future use.
All the major religions dispose of their dead trusting in the provision of a newer and more improved body to be provided to the dead in the afterlife. The Hindus cremate their dead while the other religions bury them. Modern religions hold that, in the spirit world, the individual’s provisions will be catered to by the Deity and they will have no desire for earthly necessities.
Bishop, P. (1999). Adventures in the Human Spirit. New York: Prentice Hall.
Colman, P.(1997). Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial. New York: Henry
Holt and Company. Read More
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