Egypt: Quest for Immortality

I’ve been learning about Egyptian civilization lately in my art class and it has been rather interesting.

Our professor had us watch Egypt: Quest for Immortality and the film/documentary caught my flighty attention.

The Egyptians impacted humanity and art far more than they could have imagined.

True, their civilization may have lasted little more than 3,500 years, but the remnants of their greatness and splendor are still with us in the 21stcentury.

Although the pyramids may have been vandalized and the mummified remains of the pharaohs have decayed, there is no doubt, that their architectural wonders, engineering feats, and artistic creations, have been immortalized.

The Egyptian pharaohs’ fervent, perhaps almost desperate search for immortality intrigued me.

According to the film, “they wished to live forever”. The most powerful men of that time period feared death and put forth remarkable effort to placate their gods and avoid the unknown. This desire to escape the clutches of death was materialized in the complex burial rituals and their amazing entombments.

For a teenager, King Tutankhamen was quite insightful.

He seemed to think of all the possibilities that might arise in his afterlife down to the minutest details, so his tomb contained a myriad of items “as lavish as the court he left behind”. To accomplish all that was done for his burial, it almost seems as if he had to have actively prepared for his death while living.

Today, people grow old before writing wills and then move on with their last few years of their life; however, the Egyptians seemed to live life so that they could prepare for the afterlife. The construction of a pyramid was begun long before the pharaoh died and I’m sure that each pharaoh was personally involved in his pyramid’s construction.

Every complex detail had a specific reason. The mummification process was so complex, from the removal and separate containment of the organs to the jewels on the death mask, but each step was so important in ensuring that the trip to the afterlife was flawless.

The magnificence of the pyramids and temples dazzled me, especially since I am employed in the engineering/construction industry. I envy Imhotep, the designer of The Stepped Pyramid of Djoser, and I can definitely understand why the Egyptians held him in such high regard.

What better achievement to have the pyramids accredited to your ingenuity?

Although the film does offer some insight into how these monumental structures were constructed, I can only imagine how the Egyptians even came up with the design idea.

Even by today’s standards and with our technological advancements, these pyramids are still “wonders of the world”. I try to comprehend what made him stack massive blocks of rock one on top of the other? Was he attempting to protect the pharaoh from outside forces? Was he trying to gain the notice of the gods so that the pharaoh would not be forgotten? Was there perhaps a slightly selfish motive in making sure that he, the designer, was remembered as well?

It seemed that the pharaohs’ greatest fear was the chance that they might be forgotten, so they built their pyramids with gigantic proportions hoping that bigger was more enduring.

To a certain extent they were right. Thousands of years later, we view these pyramids and temples, trying to understand and appreciate the people who build them and the pharaoh who was buried there.

Before I watched this film, I was unaware of the Egyptians’ infatuation with death and the after-life. The film conveyed the complexity of burial process, the foresight that went into the construction of the pyramids and temples, and it also explored the reasons for why the Egyptians’ sought immortality.

For me personally, watching this film made the Egyptians come alive rather than just being some random civilization that I learned about in 5th grade.


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