Young Explorers' Club

This short film made for children looks at the ancient Egyptian belief in the Afterlife, focusing on the married couple Kha and Merit from the workers’ village Pa-demi (Deir el-Medina).

When they died, Kha and Merit were mummified and buried in their tomb around 1380 BC, accompanied by hundreds of personal belongings. The Egyptians believed that the soul lived on within the body and would therefore continue to need familiar things from everyday life. So while its often assumed that the ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death since they did all they could to prepare for it, they actually loved life so much they did all they could to prolong it, convinced of an eternal existence based on an idealized version of earthly life.

 

Funeral procession of Ramose (TT.55), a contemporary of Kha and Meryt © J.Fletcher

Yet access to this eternal Afterlife required a long and hazardous journey through the Underworld, which they negotiated using a kind of guidebook made up of helpful spells entitled ‘The Book of Coming Forth by Day’ now known as ‘The Book of the Dead’. With these spells written in the ancient Egyptian language on papyrus, an early form of reed-made paper, the sheets were stuck together to make long rolls or ‘books’. The version commissioned by Kha and Meryt is an impressive 14m long and would have been hugely expensive to produce, the equivalent of around 6 months’ wages, since it also featured illustrations. One of these shows Kha’s funeral procession culminating in the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ ceremony, when the mouth, eyes, ears and nose were symbolically opened to re-awaken the senses of the soul within the mummified body prior to its burial in the tomb. From here the reanimated soul could begin its journey through the underworld assisted by the spells in the Book of the Dead, eventually reaching the Hall of Judgement presided over by Osiris and his fellow gods.

 

Weighing the heart (left balance tray) in the Hall of Judgement, Deir el-Medina temple © J. Fletcher

Here the heart of the deceased was weighed and if found to be heavy with sin was thrown to a monster known as ‘The Great Devourer’, whose consumption of the heart caused a second, permanent death. Only if the heart was light and free from sin was the soul allowed to pass through into the Afterlife and enjoy an eternity with loved ones. The Egyptians believed that ‘to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again’, and thanks to the discovery of their intact tomb, Kha and Meryt are known around the world and have indeed achieved immortality.

Download our hieroglyph help sheet and write your name in the ancient Egyptian language so that your name can be known for eternity too.

Hieroglyphs help sheet