In 1864, with the help of the Giza Museum in Cairo, Edward Ayer began to assemble the Museum’s Egyptian Collections. His purchases included important funerary objects such as coffins, Books of the Dead, two intact chapel rooms from the tombs of Unis-ankh and Netcheruser—and dozens of mummies.
While little is known about the archaeological context of many of these artifacts, they still tell us quite a bit about Egyptian culture. For example, the ancient Egyptians believed there were three types of beings: gods, living humans, and the dead who had achieved the afterlife.
But the afterlife had to be achieved through a special set of circumstances:
- Most importantly, the body had to be preserved through a lengthy mummification process.
- Next, prayers, spells, and symbols on the coffin helped guide the soul to the afterlife and ensured favor with the gods.
- And finally, grave goods and tomb offerings that include food, furniture, clothing, jewelry—and even mummified animals—provided all the necessities for the afterlife.
To the Egyptians, these funerary rituals were the best way to honor deceased family and friends and ensure that they enjoyed life beyond the grave.