Ancient Near East and Death Beliefs Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1161 Words
Date:  2022-11-20

The Pyramid Texts and Book of the Dead reveal concepts associated with tomb inscriptions and paintings from the 5th to 12th Egyptian dynasties. Most of the spells and illustrations were engraved on papyrus that was placed in the tombs along with the corpse. The spells were meant to enlighten the dead on overcoming the probable dangers in their afterlife. Hence, the spells were supposed to enable the deceased to acquire several mythical powers and give them information to facilitate their access through specific underworld stages. Consequently, the Sumerians and Egyptians believed that the afterlife was unpleasant. For that reason, the netherworld was characterized by tremendous hardships that illustrated the reciprocal connection between the living and the dead.

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Inhabitants of the Ancient Near East were horrified by death. For instance, in Mesopotamia, the afterlife was viewed as a bleak place. They believed that physical death was not the end of life. Most of the Sumerians presumed that the deceased continued living in the underworld in various form of spiritual existence (George, 1999). For example, in "The Epic of Gilgamesh," Enkidu claimed that in the netherworld the ghosts ate dust and clay while clothed like birds. Hence, food was a rare commodity in the underworld. However, the dead only got food when appropriate offerings were offered by people living on earth. According to George (1999), Enkidu alleged that even kings turned into beggars when their relatives did not offer drinks and foods to the departed souls. Therefore, Sumerians feared the afterlife since its stability relied on the deeds of people in the living world.

Most of the Sumerians viewed the netherworld as a gloomy place. Consequently, the people had the impression that their life in the afterlife reflected their social status on earth rather than their virtues. In case, one was poor on earth they would still be peasants in their afterlife. Similarly, if one were a king on the earth, they would still be kings of the netherworld. Nonetheless, the dead's relatives played an integral role in influencing the social hierarchy associated with the underworld. The relatives had to offer appropriate drinks and foods as offerings on a regular basis (Choksi, 2014). Otherwise, their loved ones would turn into beggars in the afterlife society. As a result, most of the Sumerians viewed the netherworld as a gloom place due to its social hierarchy.

The Egyptians considered the afterlife as a continuation of their life on earth. However, the deceased had to encounter judgment and various difficulties in the Hall of Truth. Consequently, after one justified their deeds on earth, they were allowed to cross over the Lily Lake and enter the Fields of Reeds. The Fields of Reeds exemplified a paradise where all the dead were united and lived eternally (Mark, 2016). Nevertheless, one had to have a clue on how to interact with specific gods, the places to go, and the right words to use at certain times to gain entry into paradise. Hence, the funerary texts and inscriptions provided vital clues on the manner that one had to comport themselves in the underworld.

Spell 125 outlines how the dead's heart was judged in the Hall of Truth by god Osiris. It was crucial that the deceased passed the judgment test on their souls to gain entrance to paradise. Consequently, the deceased had to have a clue on the precise words and behavior expected before the Forty-Two Judges, Anubis, Thoth, and Osiris. Spell 125 gave the dead a hint on making the Negative Confession that obliged the dead to honestly declared they had never committed certain 42 sins. After the Negative Confession was made and questioned by the Forty-Two Judges and the gods. The deceased required specific information to be vindicated by the Hall of Truth jury. The funerary texts provided the dead with various gods' names and their responsibilities. In case, the deceased answered each object and deity correctly; they got positive feedback. "You know us; pass by us" (Mark, 2016). Besides, the dead's heart had to be weighed against the white Ma'at's feather. In case, the heart was lighter one gained entry to paradise, but a heavier heart was disposed on the ground to be devoured by goddess Ammut, and the dead ceased to exist. Therefore, the Forty-Two Judges, Anubis, Thoth, and Osiris issued a critical

The Sumerians thought they would conquer death if they attested themselves in their earthly life rather than living a faithful life. Most of their burials were portrayed by simple inhumations. For instance, the bodies of the dead were buried in coffins or wrapped reed mats in rectangular pits. The deceased were clothed and buried with their belongings. Besides, the Sumerian had distinctive death beliefs on one's wealth and societal hierarchy. They believed that the social status and wealth did not have significant influence in the king's afterlife. As a result, the Sumerian royals were subjected to the same Kur that all mortals faced (Choksi, 2014). Besides, the Sumerian burial rituals were tied to their strict netherworld beliefs that people had to follow. For example, the corpse had to be buried with a vessel containing water. The bowl had to be placed between the deceased's hands adjacent to their mouth. Therefore, the Sumerians kept several vessels with water and food near the corpse to ensure the dead would not be hungry in the underworld. Additionally, the Mesopotamian burial rites obliged people to give offerings occasionally to appease the deceased spirits in their afterlife.

Egyptians had several beliefs on the afterlife and death. The Egyptians assumed that only pharaohs could unify with their gods. However, they believed that everyone else had to pass through a grim place once they died. Besides, pharaohs were buried in tombs along with their possessions that they would require in their afterlife. The Egyptians assumed that wealth and social status had a significant influence on one's afterlife (Mark, 2016). As a result, it was assumed that pharaohs who had comparatively more gifts buried with them in their tombs had better chances of being endorsed by the gods.


In the early times, the Egyptians assumed that the dead pharaohs lived among the stars in the sky. Likewise, the Egyptians anticipated that possessing a ba in the Old Kingdom could facilitate one's afterlife. However, the New Kingdom had different beliefs. For instance, the dead had to avoid several supernatural dangers in their afterlife before their final judgment; "Weighting of the Heart" (Mark, 2016). In the final judgment, the Forty-Two Judges and the gods equated the deceased's actions to Ma'at to ascertain whether they complied with the Egyptian norms. In case, the deceased was issued a worthy verdict; they would unite with their ba in paradise. Hence, the Egyptians believed that the dead lived in pleasant Osiris in the underworld.


Choksi, M. (2014). Ancient Mesopotamian Beliefs in the Afterlife. Retrieved from

George, A. (1999). The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Classics.

Mark, J. (2016). Egyptian Book of the Dead. Retrieved from

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