What Tools Were Put Into Egyptian Tombs?

Written by molly thompson
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What Tools Were Put Into Egyptian Tombs?
Egyptians didn't believe the saying, "You can't take it with you." (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Egyptian tombs contained those things the dead were believed to need in the afterlife. In many cases, these were the same things you use or need during your life. Tools, or small models of tools, were included to enable the dead to continue their earthly activities or professions. Carpenters' tombs contained replicas of axes and chisels; scholars' tombs contained writing tools; farmers were buried with scythes and models of ploughs. Many tombs contained numerous small statuettes called shabti because ancient Egyptians believed these figures would be magically transformed in the afterlife to do your work for you.

Tomb Contents Reflect Role in Society

Egyptians believed strongly in the afterlife, and tombs were filled with items the deceased might need in the afterlife. The items selected for inclusion and the level of opulence in the decor were a direct reflection of the deceased's lifetime role in society. Tools needed for daily living -- writing implements, food preparation tools -- were included in most tombs. Warriors were buried with fighting tools. Farmers and craftsmen were buried with the tools of their trade.

Tools, Tool Models and Tool Paintings

In large opulent tombs, there was sufficient room to include full-size tools and implements, or large ceremonial replicas. More commonly, however, only smaller tools were included. Larger tools used in life, such as hoes, ploughs and swords were represented in the tomb by small models of the actual tools, often made of copper. In other cases, when full-size items were too large for the tomb, Egyptians painted replicas of them on tomb walls.

Ceremonial Tools

Some tombs included ceremonial items for use in rituals associated with passing into the afterlife. One of the most important was the Opening of the Mouth ceremony to reanimate the deceased and revive his sensory capabilities. Egyptians believed the deceased then would be able to watch over his family, communicate with them and partake of the food they brought to the tomb, as well as pass successfully into the afterlife. Tools required for this ceremony, such as wooden or copper models of the netjeri blade and pesesh-kaf, were placed into the tomb.

Shabti and Other Models

Ancient Egyptians also included shabti, small figures of stone, faience or wood that were roughly shaped as people, in the tombs. They believed these shabti would be magically transformed in the afterlife into fieldworkers or other labourers to assist the departed. Tombs of less wealthy individuals contained only a few shabti; wealthy landowners often were buried with dozens of shabti, including an overseer shabti, one for every 10 labourers. Along with the shabti, the small models of tools would be transformed into the real thing in the afterlife.

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