Signs and Wonders Upon Pharaoh

Brewer, D. & Teeter, E. (1999) Egypt and the Egyptians. Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 7 Society and Its Expectations

In this chapter the authors outline what the current Egyptological understanding is of what a regular Egyptian life would be like. Here are some highlights (p 95):

  • The nuclear family was the core of society and many gods were in family units
  • Linage we traced back through both lines of father and mother
  • Children had to take care of proper burial of the parents
  • Egyptian did not have words for relatives beyond the nuclear family. Mother (Mut) is the same as grandmother/Father (It) is the same as grandfather. Son (Sa) is the same as grandson/Daughter (Sat) is the same as granddaughter. Uncle/Brother/ or Sister/aunt use the same word. Sister is also used for wife. This would make genealogy really hard.
  • Marrying age for males was probably 16-20. Females probably as early as 13.
  • Marriages were (except of the king) usually monogamous.
  • According to the authors “marriage was purely a social arrangement that regulated property.” But marriages were not “registered” (pg 96). There were marriage contracts about property but not ceremonies once you moved in you were married. The terms for marriage “meni” (to moor a boat) and  “gereg per” (to found a house).

Kemp, B. (2008) How to Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition

I just finished reading How to Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead by Barry Kemp. It is a short book but I was struck by how individual and personal the Egyptian afterlife was. From a gospel perspective a few things that stood out to me were:

  • Knowing the appropriate names and information was important to get past gates/caverns/demons/gods to reach Osiris/judgement/field of reeds
  • This information is important for everyone to know to get through the gates/caverns/demons/gods that are blocking the path
  • The body is part of the soul and is important enough to mummify. The soul would return to the body (in the tomb)

Interesting concepts:

  • The heart was the center of the intellect whereas the brain was just “filler” in the skull.
  • The heart could betray you and speak out at the inopportune time if you did not have power over it to tell the gods what they needed to hear.
  • Words have power and if said correctly would make things happen in the next life.
  • Kemp suggests not to take the book literally in terms of drawing up a geography of the Duat. He also suggests that the Egyptians were fine with multiple conflicting stories/myths/ideas about the afterlife.
  • I wonder what the Egyptians thought happened to their families if the afterlife was all individual. Tombs had pictures of husbands and wives together but the Book of the Dead seems to suggest that the afterlife was an individual/personal rather than a familial place.

It is an interesting book and worth reading. My only minor complaint about the fascinating look at the overview of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was that Kemp cites an anti-Mormon author. Other than that I think the book is great.

A not-so-serious place for thoughts on education, technology, research, and fun.