The story

Egypt - Economy and Religion


ECONOMY

Agriculture was the main economic activity of the Egyptians. Initially, to better enjoy the waters of the Nile River, the peasants would come together, striving to build dikes and store grain for the time of scarcity.

Over time, agricultural production became varied, with cotton, flax (used in the manufacture of clothing), wheat, barley, sesame, vegetables, fruits, and especially olive trees being grown.

On the banks of the river the peasants made orchards and vegetable gardens, producing broad beans, lentils, chickpeas and cucumbers. They also cultivated grapes, used in wine making.

Near their homes they raised pigs and sheep. The work in the field was carried out with the aid of a wooden plow pulled by oxen.

Farmers living in the marshes and coastal lakes, organized in teams, raised numerous varieties of fish in tanks. Fish, dried and preserved, were often eaten with bread and beer, and were an important part of the diet of the Egyptians.

Counting on intense craftsmanship, commerce was also another important economic activity in Ancient Egypt.

RELIGION

Religion played an important role in Egyptian society: all aspects of an Egyptian's life were regulated by religious norms.

There were religious ceremonies for individual events: birth, marriage, death, etc., and also for events that involved the whole of society, such as feasts at harvest time.


Mouth Opening: One of Ancient Egypt's Funeral Rituals

Egyptian beliefs revolved around the worship of various gods, polytheism, and the belief in gods in human and animal form, anthropozoomorphism. Many of them were associated with certain forces of nature. Egyptian polytheism was accompanied by a strong belief in an afterlife. It is from this religious principle that we can understand the complexity of burial rituals and the preparation of corpses through the process of mummification.

The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and the return of the spirit to the body. Much of what we know today about the customs and way of life of ancient Egypt is associated with this belief. Most of our knowledge comes from analyzing the paintings and objects left by the Egyptians in the tombs.

RITUALS OF LIFE AND DEATH

The Egyptians believed in the afterlife, but if they wanted to enjoy the other world, their bodies would have to survive. For this reason they mummified their dead. The technique of preserving bodies is called embalming and the Egyptians were true masters in this activity.


God Anubis performing a mummification

After death, the body was emptied and dehydrated with the help of a special salt. Then embalmed and wrapped with strips of linen fabric. The viscera of the deceased were placed separately in four containers.

Only the heart was replaced by any object. Because it was impossible to keep, a beetle-shaped piece (a four-winged insect, also called a cake bug) was placed in its place. In general, a sacred text involved the new "heart." Thus, the former was replaced symbolically.

While embalmers were busy protecting the body, a grave was prepared and decorated.


Funerary Chapel of Thutmose III

Not all Egyptians were buried in pyramids, as did the pharaohs. Burial varied according to one's social position and wealth. There were other types of tombs: the hypogeus and the mastabas.

Hypogeus were underground tombs dug out of rocks, especially in river banks or mountain slopes. They could have several compartments and be richly decorated. The mastabas were rectangular tombs with an offering room, a chapel, and an underground mortuary chamber where the dead were. The humblest people were buried in simple graves in the middle of the desert.

Inside the tomb, the Egyptians carried everyday objects and the riches they owned and painted everyday scenes. They believed that by doing so they would ensure comfort in the afterlife.
A curious point in the rituals of Egypt was the zoolatria, that is, the worship of animals. The animals considered sacred were also carefully mummified after death and deposited in special cemeteries.