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Burial customs: the tombs

An Ancient Egyptian tomb is separated in two parts:

1. The underground chamber with the burial of the dead. This part was normally closed permanently after the burial.

the underground parts may have different forms

a simple hole in the ground
a chamber in the ground
several chambers
a decorated chamber


Badari 5351 Badari 5390
Badari 3731
Tarkhan 1877


Badari 5313
Harageh 125
Meydum 57
Qau 1089


Harageh 290
Thebes B 21
Gurob 36


Harageh 671

2. An overground structure for the cult of the dead.
This part was more or less accessible for the living. Here the cult for the dead was celebrated. Almost all of the overground parts have now disappeared, especially for simpler graves: in most cases these might have been low mounds. Even more complex structures built in stone or mudbrick have, more often than not, been totally lost. The most famous 'overground' structures are the pyramids.
Many of these structures are decorated with reliefs, paintings statues or stelae. For the kings and some very high officials in the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) the underground parts are separated from the overground structure, which takes the form of a long temple. The same separation of burial place and cult place can be seen earlier, in the tombs and enclosures of the First and Second Dynasty kings at Abydos.

different kind of overground structures
a pyramid
a temple like structure
a rock cut tomb chapel
a 'soul house'

the Meydum pyramid

Gurob 36
Nebwenenef (Thebes)

Sedment 274
Qau el-Kebir
Thebes TT 344




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