What is a Pharaoh?
The word pharaoh translates to “great house” and originally referred to the royal palace in ancient Egypt. Over time, the meaning of the word changed to refer to the king of Egypt. The majority of people to hold this title were male, but some notable females eventually gained this position. Some female pharaohs included Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. After Hatshepsut’s death, many of her monuments and statues were defaced. She usurped the throne from her stepson Tuthmosis. He is believed to have been the cause of the attempted erasure of Hatshepsut’s name from history.
Responsibilities of a Pharaoh
Egyptian citizens believed that the pharaoh acted as a mediator between the gods and the humans. Following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh Menes, the pharaoh become the ruler of both kingdoms. A pharaoh was considered a preserver of the god-given order, known as maat. As such, the pharaoh was responsible for land-use in Egypt. Wars were waged at the pharaoh’s command and new laws were introduced by them. The pharaoh ensured citizens followed the Egyptian religion and were loyal to the pharaoh as the representative of the gods. The role of meting out justice was attributed to the pharaoh. Their chief assistant was known as the vizier and the pharaoh would delegate some responsibilities to the individual holding this title. The pharaoh was considered an absolute ruler who was connected to the Egyptian gods.
Afterlife of a Pharaoh
The Pharaohs, considered sacred, were buried in tombs along with their riches. Their belongings were buried with them because it was believed that any belongings buried with a person would be brought with them to the afterlife. It was also a common belief that after a Pharaoh passed they became divine. The expensive process of mummification was performed on pharaohs and some of the Egyptian elite and nobles. Mummification of an individual took seventy days to perform. Various spiritual rituals and prayers were performed and recited throughout the mummification process. The brain was removed through the nose using an unnamed hooked instrument. However, it is made of forms of palm and bamboo, as a result of the expensive cost of metals. Other organs were removed through the abdomen after an incision was made in the left side of the deceased individual’s abdomen. These organs were placed in canopic jars, containers made of limestone or pottery that were used to preserve the organs for the afterlife. Great care was taken in decorating canopic jars and they often included symbols of Egyptian gods and religion. The only organ that remained in the body was the heart, as it was believed to be the centre of an individual. Ancient Egyptians also thought the soul of an individual resided in their heart. As such, the heart was kept in the body as it was needed to progress to the afterlife.
The tomb would be decorated with artwork and furnished in preparation for the afterlife. Interestingly, this artwork was supposed to come to life in the afterlife. For example, paintings of food would turn into actual food required for survival in the afterlife. The afterlife was so important in Ancient Egyptian culture because they valued life so greatly that they longed for it to continue after life on earth. As such, making proper preparations to ensure an individual made it to the afterlife was essential and done in advance of the individual’s death.
If you are interested in learning more about the mummification process and pharaohs, please visit this Smithsonian Institute article: https://www.si.edu/spotlight/ancient-egypt/mummies
Liam is an avid reader, with a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to learn from our past. He is often found exploring other worlds during his time spent reading. He is currently a second-year student in the Professional Writing.