■ Anubis , god and guide of the underworld, would weigh each dead person’s heart. ■ To win eternal life, the heart could be no heavier than a feather. ■ If the heart tipped the scale, showing that it was heavy with sin, a fierce beast known as the Devourer of Souls would pounce on the impure heart and eat it ■ . But if the soul passed this test for purity and truth, it would live forever in the beautiful Other World.
Egyptian Culture: Afterlife ■ People of all classes planned for their burials, so that they might safely reach the Other World. ■ Kings and queens built great tombs, such as the pyramids, and other Egyptians built smaller tombs. ■ Royal and elite Egyptians’ bodies were preserved by mummification , which involves embalming and drying the corpse to prevent it from decaying. ■ Scholars still accept Herodotus’s description of the process of mummification as one of the methods used by Egyptians. ■ Attendants placed the mummy in a coffin inside a tomb. ■ Then they filled the tomb with items the dead person could use in the afterlife, such as clothing, food, cosmetics, and jewelry. ■ Many Egyptians purchased scrolls that contained hymns, prayers, and magic spells intended to guide the soul in the afterlife.
Life in Egyptian Society ■ Like the grand monuments to the kings, Egyptian society formed a pyramid. ■ The king, queen, and royal family stood at the top. ■ Below them were the other members of the upper class, which included wealthy landowners, government officials, priests, and army commanders. ■ The next tier of the pyramid was the middle class, which included merchants and artisans. ■ At the base of the pyramid was the lower class, by far the largest class. It consisted of peasant farmers and laborers. ■ In the later periods of Egyptian history, slavery became a widespread source of labor. ■ Slaves, usually captives from foreign wars, served in the homes of the rich or toiled endlessly in the gold mines of Upper Egypt.
Egyptian Writing ■ As in Mesopotamia, the development of writing was one of the keys to the growth of Egyptian civilization. ■ Simple pictographs were the earliest form of writing in Egypt, but scribes quickly developed a more flexible writing system called hieroglyphics . ■ This term comes from the Greek words hieros and gluph, meaning “sacred carving.” ■ As with Sumerian cuneiform writing, in the earliest form of hieroglyphic writing, a picture stood for an idea. ■ For instance, a picture of a man stood for the idea of a man. ■ In time, the system changed so that pictures stood for sounds as well as ideas. ■ The owl, for example, stood for an m sound or for the bird itself. ■ Hieroglyphs could be used almost like letters of the alphabet.
Egyptian Writing ■ Although hieroglyphs were first written on stone and clay, as in Mesopotamia, the Egyptians soon invented a better writing surface— papyrus reeds.
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