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Following OsirisPerspectives on the Osirian Afterlife from Four Millenia$
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Mark Smith

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199582228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582228.001.0001

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Prelude to Osiris I: Conceptions of the Afterlife in Prehistoric and Predynastic Egypt

Prelude to Osiris I: Conceptions of the Afterlife in Prehistoric and Predynastic Egypt

Chapter:
(p.8) 1 Prelude to Osiris I: Conceptions of the Afterlife in Prehistoric and Predynastic Egypt
Source:
Following Osiris
Author(s):

Mark Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582228.003.0002

This chapter surveys the evidence for afterlife beliefs in prehistoric and predynastic Egypt, prior to the earliest attestation of Osiris. It also explores two further questions: (1) is it possible to infer belief about the afterlife from artefacts in the absence of written sources, and (2) is it legitimate to project religious ideas from later periods back into earlier ones from which there is no textual evidence. It is concluded that (1) apart from a few very basic concepts, artefacts alone do not inform us in a meaningful way about predynastic ideas concerning the hereafter, and that (2) projecting Pharaonic religious concepts back into the predynastic period is only justified if (a) continuity can be demonstrated between a concept and its hypothetical antecedent, or (b) the context in which the presumed antecedent appears is sufficiently rich to leave no doubt of the connection between the two.

Keywords:   prehistoric Egypt, predynastic Egypt, grave, cemetery, belief in afterlife, treatment of bodies

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