Weird History

10 Gruesome Ways People Died In Ancient Egypt  

Keith Burnside
201.8k views 10 items

Despite popular internet theories, ancient Egyptians weren't truly obsessed with death. Rather, they were obsessed with life - specifically the afterlife. Preservation of the body and preparation for the next world were massively important concepts to most ancient Egyptians. So, how did people die in ancient Egypt? Frequently, they passed much like many do today - awaiting something better on the other side.

This hope for improvement in the next life - and this hope's adjacent anxiety - was not unfounded given the standards of the culture; as the "Violence" entry in the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology states, "However violent reality was, it pales in comparison to the violence potentially experienced as part of the afterlife."

Here are some of the craziest and most gruesome ways people died in ancient Egypt. Hopefully, those who suffered the fates below were able to avoid a second, more painful destiny in the afterlife. 

POWs Were Impaled On Enormous ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 10 Gruesome Ways People Died In Ancient Egypt
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
POWs Were Impaled On Enormous Spikes

According to the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Pharaoh Akhenaten - reportedly impaled 225 Nubian POWs during his reign. Another Pharaoh, Merenptah, gave "a great number" of Libyans the same treatment.

Soldiers Were Beheaded And Ema... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 10 Gruesome Ways People Died In Ancient Egypt
Photo:  Patrick Gray/Flickr/Public Domain Mark 1.0
Soldiers Were Beheaded And Emasculated

The Narmer Palette, a carved siltstone, was discovered at the site of the ancient capital city of Hierakonpolis or Nekhen at the end of the 19th century. Dating back to c. 3200-3000 BCE, the Palette is one of the most important and priceless artifacts surviving from ancient Egypt.

The Palette celebrates the exploits of Pharaoh Narmer and might be highlighting a victory over a group of unspecified foes. This victory included the beheading and emasculation of 10 enemy soldiers.

Children Were Dismembered And ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 10 Gruesome Ways People Died In Ancient Egypt
Photo: British Library/PICRYL/Public Domain
Children Were Dismembered And Burned Alive On A Bed Of Thorns

Diodorus Siculus, a first-century Greek historian, frequently wrote about Egyptian history and customs. In one of his writings, he recounts the truly horrific treatment allotted to young parricides - children who had slain their own parents.

According to Siculus, this punishment was so extreme because Egyptians considered the parricides' crime - taking the lives of those who gave them life - to be the worst action a human being could possibly commit.

Servants Were Slayed And Burie... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 10 Gruesome Ways People Died In Ancient Egypt
Photo:  British Museum/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Servants Were Slayed And Buried As Human Sacrifices

In The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Toby Wilkinson claims that the elites of ancient Egypt would order the construction of "subsidiary graves" for their pets and human servants.

In other sites, remains were found scalped, strangled, and beheaded, possibly as human sacrifices for the next world. Djer, the third pharaoh of ancient Egypt's First Dynasty, was buried with 318 others when he perished around 2900 BCE.