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Raven Shaw

Egyptians used the same poses and symbols over and over the course of thousands of years. Their rituals and behavior ensured that the gods would continue to provide them with a predictable life. This belief system was tied into the regular flooding of the Nile river. There must have been years that the flooding wasn’t adequate, and then the ruler is blamed for the misfortune of all of his subjects.

Egyptian rulers needed to be seen as tightly tied to the gods, worshiping and doing their bidding — not just their own. Public opinion needed to be in their favor, so they needed to appear devout and on the side of keeping everything working. Much Egyptian art depicts rulers making offerings and performing rituals to the gods. They also built impressive temples and tombs, ones that needed to be looked up at, even from far away, to remind their people of the connection between King and god.

Egyptians had an obsessive need for belief in permanence, which makes sense if you live between a flooding cycle and shifting sands that threaten to engulf everything you’ve built. Their tombs at Beni Hasan look like homes for the dead. They are buried with their possessions, and provisions for a permanent afterlife. Whole lives were dedicated to their afterlife.

Egyptians depicted foods, slaves, and tools on their tomb walls that the dead would use in the afterlife. They created a bridge between humans and their gods using representative symbols — which seems like the bridge between our head and our hand when bringing ideas into the physical world. The Egyptians needed to bring divine ideas into physical reality to have a functioning society, and it makes sense the bridge would go both ways — taking what lives in our world into the next.

It was very interesting to see the chapel doorway that was carved with the life story of Tahshepsis, which said that his king let him kiss the foot instead of kissing the ground. This showed how direct contact with the king was close to direct contact with a god, and not available to everyone.