Essay by CTM November 2003

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The Egyptians believed that their kings were gods. Even after they had died, the

rulers continued to affect daily life through their supernatural powers. In his new life in

the underworld, the king would need everything he needed while alive, and he needed his

home to last for eternity.

While alive, Egyptian kings lived in palace of mud-brick, wore linen roves, and

slept in wooden beds. In their gentle climate, more substantial comforts were not

needed. But eternity last a whole lot longer than life. So the tombs of the kings needed

to be durable and well-supplied. The tombs also needed to protect the body and its

supplies and gifts from thieves. They also were the focus of the Egyptian religion and so

needed to be extremely visible. The massive stone pyramid met all these criteria.

However, there was still the problem of supplying the king with essentials. Since

entombing a never-ending supply of food and servants was not very practical, the

Egyptians decided on the principal of "substitution by means of a representation."


the dead king now existed in spirit, rather than physical form, he was not bound by

physical limitations. A picture or word could feed him as well as a real slab of meat.

Servants did not have to be killed and laid around his tomb; statues could take their


Because the king was a god to his people, they needed to be able to come and

worship him. But if his body were accessible to the whole nation, the king and his

treasures would be too accessible to robbers. So, instead they built a statue resembling

the king which they placed in a temple open to the public. His ka, or spirit could leave

the tomb and come live in his statue for awhile.