National Geographic : 1941 Oct
A Wealthy Theban Is Buried in His Tomb in the Western Cliffs IN 1318 B. c. the aged Ramesses gave way to his son, the brilliant Sethy I, who, after twenty-6ne years as king, was replaced by his son, Ramesses II-probably the best known of all Egypt's pharaohs (page 482). The kings who followed Ramesses II-including Mer en-Ptah, often identified as "the pharaoh of the Exodus" -sink into insignificance beside his titanic figure; but it was not until many years after his death that the New Kingdom came to an end and dynastic Egypt entered upon its last, long drawn out death struggle. With this briefest of historical outlines as a background, we are now ready to resume our inspection of the existences of the people who experienced life and death under the pharaohs just named. Let us start with a death. The funeral procession, leaving the city of the living on the east bank of the Nile, has crossed the river, wound deep into the western cliffs, where lie the "eternal dwell ings" of the dead, and halted before the portico of a freshly prepared tomb. The ox-drawn hearse, reproducing in its form the barque of the sun-god Re(, stands empty at the left of the picture, and behind and past it come the bearers of the tomb furniture and other funerary equipment. Beyond the hearse we see the "Canopic" chest, also mounted upon a sledge, and containing, in four stone jars, the four vital organs of the dead man, removed from his body during the process of mummification. At the left end of the portico the "Muu," apair ofmummers, wearing burlesque crowns of reeds, areperforming their curious funeral dance. The body of the dead,encased inacoffin made inthe form of the god Osiris, hasbeen stood upright before the door of the tomb, supported byamasked priest, imperson ating the dog-headed god Anubis, thedivine embalmer. The "Sem," or chief mortuary priest, wearing theleopard skin of his office and assisted byagroup ofother priests, is "opening the mouth" of(i.e., restoring speech to)the deceased by touching the lips ofthecoffin with aceremonial instrument shaped like anadze. This act of magic, oneof thefinal rites intheburial service, is witnessed in gloomy silence bythemale relatives of the dead man, who sit brooding attheright ofthescene. It is greeted with wails ofanguish and violent gestures of grief by the female mourners, many ofwhom areundoubtedly professionals hired for theoccasion. The sorrow of the woman who clings tothelegs of the coffin, however, is genuine, forsheisthewidow ofthe deceased, and even her conviction, that, indying, hehas but passed to a new and better life, issmall comfort. High above on the capstone ofthepyramid thespirit-of the dead man is depicted singing themorning hymn tothe sun-god, Re', a song of praiserepeated each dawn asthefirst rays of the sun warm the granite pinnacle ofthetomb.