The concept of afterlife existed among many ancient civilizations. It was met as a way of understanding the present or as a way to predict the future depending on their needs. As such, in order to explain the unknown phenomenon that impacted their daily life, early tribes saw natural events as simple as the rain and the winds or birth and death and regarded them to be controlled by supernatural powers related to the gods, demons, the moon, the sun or other external driving forces. Ancient people sought protection for survival and power to maintain order with the tribes by practicing rituals which were aimed to invoke the spirit of the deceased. However, as civilizations evolved with time, their beliefs became more complex and profound. Take ancient Romans and Egyptians for instance, they both believed in the afterlife and shared similar underlying ideas; nevertheless, their way to prepare the deceased for the next life and funeral services differed in many ways. To illustrate their practices, I have chosen two artifacts displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met): a coffin from Ancient Egypt and a cinerary urn from Ancient Roman’s times. Both pieces reflect different ways of treating the corpses of their deceased and prepare the dead for the journey to the afterlife which undoubtedly was a long and elaborated process.
Ancient Romans and Egyptians demonstrated their firm conviction in the afterlife through solemn funeral services and burial rituals. Unlike the Egyptians who treasured the dead bodies and preserved them in sarcophagus or coffins, Romans cremated the dead bodies and kept the ashes in urns because they perceived the life in physical world to be short and temporary. When a person died, the spirit was released from the body and traveled to the afterlife. The only purpose of the physical body was to host the soul for a period long enough to prepare one to live a life free of suffering in the other world. Souls were sent to different...
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Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2000-2013). www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved May 9, 2013, from The Metropolitan Musum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/galleries
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