Primary sources, such as archaeological sites, artifacts and written material from different historical periods gives one an insight into the lives and beliefs of the people and the culture responsible for creating those artifacts and shaping their lives. Ancient Egypt, with its treasure trove of excavated sites, the treasures of the tombs of the Pharoah’s, the vast collection of inscribed stones and detailed papyrus scrolls shows us the beliefs which informed ancient Egyptian culture.
After the advent of Christianity, Egypt became home to the Coptics and some of the most important icons and other artifacts of this religious denomination provide insights into the belief of this Christian religious sect. St Catherine's monastery in the Sinai holds some of the most important icons of the Coptic religion and it shows the various phases in the development of the order as well as the art of iconoclasm. This paper explores the lives and beliefs of Egyptians based on their hieroglyphs as well as Coptic artifacts.
Judgment before Osiris, a painted papyrus from the Egyptian Book of Dead, Dynasty 19, at present located in the British Museum is an important artifact that aids in the study of the funerary practices that were one of the most important aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization. This papyrus contains not only hieroglyphs but also illustrations and these are generally placed in the coffin in the belief that the dead person could use them in the afterworld or in the event of resurrection.
The papyrus scroll contains a host of characters from Egyptian mythology, associated with the Dynasty 19 such as Anubis, “the jackal headed god of embalming” who is charged with the task of looking after the judgment scales, used to weigh a person’s deeds on earth. The person being judged is Hunefer, the Royal scribe, who was part of the administrative machinery of ancient Egypt. The elaborate scroll and the presence of the several deities from the Egyptian pantheon reveal the importance of the scribe in the Egyptian administrative setup.
One of the most important elements of ancient Egypt that is seen in the scroll is the importance of the afterlife for Egyptians. The vast array of characters, the number of gods and goddesses, the solemnity of the whole exercise points out the fact that the Egyptians were staunch believers in the afterlife and their actions, especially relative to funerary practices reveals their religiosity as well as stress upon mortality.
The element of righteousness and its impact upon one's afterlife is one of the most important aspects of this scroll. The weighing scales and the feather and heart are symbolic, in the sense that the feather is symbolic of righteousness while the heart may be seen as a symbol of the dead person whose vices and virtues have to be weighed before the person can be awarded “eternal life.”
The importance of good deeds as a precursor for resurrection and also to enjoy a happy afterlife is understood from...