We've all heard the fantastic tales of King Tut and the stories of Nefertiti, and how they wound up encased in brilliant tombs filled with treasure only to be uncovered thousands of years later. Their tombs are the stuff of legend, and there are few mysteries greater than those of the pyramids (how were the pyramids built, anyways?), but some of what was found inside these mystical tombs was a bit stranger than one might expect. Golden jewelry? Makes sense. Entire boats? Come again?
This collection of artifacts, some pilfered and some honestly excavated, shine a light on the daily life of Ancient Egyptians, as it shows us what they considered important enough to bring with them into the afterlife. It has to make you wonder what they would think about our comparatively simple processes of cremation and burial, but for now just try to wrap your head around these odd artifacts. Would you want these things with you in the afterlife?
Egyptian pharaohs needed to sail through the night on a barge, so of course some had boats buried with them. In particular, the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Khufu, buried in the Great Pyramid at Giza, had his burial excavated, only for archaeologists to uncover more than 1,200 pieces of a giant boat nearby. Today, they've reassembled the ship, which is now on display in Egypt. It's 144 feet long, made mostly of cedar imported from Lebanon, and doesn't contain a single nail, using some fancy joining techniques that would put modern engineers to shame.
King Tut was buried not just with a lot of stuff, but also with two unborn fetuses. In fact, they were his own biological children, possibly stillborn twins that his wife, Queen Ankhesenamun, gave birth to. One fetus was aged five months, the other between seven and nine months. Alternatively, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass doesn't believe these were Tut's kids, but someone else's children that would be reborn in the afterlife.
Every good pharaoh needed servants in the afterlife, but it wasn't practical - or humane - to sacrifice a lot of people and stick their corpses in the tomb. Instead of commiting mass murders, the clever Egyptians crafted tons of tiny human figurines, called ushabti, that would come alive to serve their kings in the afterlife. Originally, the ushabti were depicted as mummies, but they eventually took on more unique forms and professions, like nobles or farmers.
Naturally, the ancient kings needed people to be their servants or slaves in the afterlife. How did they do that? The first pharaohs might have sacrificed real-life humans, who would in theory come back to life in the afterlife. For example, one of the very first rulers, King Aha, supposedly died after being gored to death by a hippo. To accompany Aha into the afterlife, some courtiers, retainers, and slaves downed poison and were buried with him.