What Pharaohs Put in Their Tombs

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The pharaohs, or kings, of ancient Egypt were buried in accordance with lavish and complex funeral rites. Priests and mourners placed a wide variety of objects in pharaohs' tombs, including offerings the deceased was supposed to use in the afterlife. The types of objects placed within the grave varied over time, reflecting changing social customs as well as changing beliefs relating to death and the afterlife.

1 Coffins

Following death, a pharaoh was mummified and his body was placed into a coffin, which was placed inside the tomb. Initially simple in shape, coffins became more complex during the New Kingdom period, which lasted from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC. A series of coffins enclosed the body. The outer coffin was decorated with a stylized image of the deceased's face and placed within a sarcophagus. The pharaoh was often represented on the coffin holding a crook and flail in his hands. These were symbols of royal authority.

2 Ushabti and Tools

During the New Kingdom period, tombs began to house small figurines called ushabti. Initially, it was common for a tomb to have one ushabti, but eventually multiple figurines became common; some tombs contained hundreds. These figurines were intended to do work in the afterlife in place of the deceased.

Other items intended to be used for work in the afterlife included tools. Burials during the Old Kingdom period, which lasted from the 27th to the 22nd centuries BC, often contained sets of replica tools made from copper, such as knives and axes.

3 Furniture and Vehicles

Furniture was included in many ancient Egyptian burials. The tomb of Tutankhamun, for instance, contained three beds, chests, chairs, vases and other furniture. A special chest contained the canopic jars, which held organs removed during the process of mummification.

Archaeologists also discovered the components of four chariots in the tomb of Tutankhamun, along with models of boats. A full-sized boat was excavated from near the Great Pyramid in Giza and is believed to have been intended to symbolically carry the spirit of the deceased pharaoh Khufu.

4 Food, Drink and Other Items

Tombs also contained offerings of food, drink and other perishable substances, usually presented in pottery jars or bowls. In the tomb of an ordinary person, this might amount to nothing more than a bowl or jar placed in the grave, but the tomb of Tutankhamun contained an entire room filled with food and wine, as well as various oils, ointments and perfumes. These offerings were probably intended to sustain the deceased in the afterlife or on the journey.

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.