Did ancient Egyptians have funerals?
A Journey to Eternity
Funeral banquets soon became an obligatory necessity of the Egyptian burial ceremonial. After the burial, the relatives and relatives of the deceased gathered, probably in the courtyard of his tomb, to celebrate a banquet whose “positive energy” – so to speak – would strengthen the deceased to facilitate his rebirth in the afterlife.
The scene is depicted above all in the tombs of the New Kingdom, where it became part of the usual elements of decoration. In fact, the remains of some of these banquets are known, such as the one celebrated after the burial of Tutankhamen. His remains were buried in what is known as Pit 54, relatively close to the entrance to the tomb (KV62) and inside which were large ceramic jars, linen, natron sachets, bandages, cups, animal bones and floral necklaces.
Recently, the Hieracómpolis cemetery (HK11C) seems to have been identified as a kitchen dedicated to providing the food consumed at this type of banquet when someone was buried in the nearby cemetery of the city’s predynastic elite.
It is a large building (9 × 7.5 m) with three corners at right angles and the fourth rounded corner where its excavators found, although excavation continues, a dozen fireplaces between 50 cm and one meter in diameter. Around them there were numerous animal remains, mainly scales and spines of large fish (Nile perch up to a metre and a half long), as well as abundant remains of bovine bones.
Not only this, but also feathers, locks of hair, remains of skin and even the horns of mammals. A large majority of them combustion frames, which clearly indicates that they were exposed to high temperatures, ie cooked.
It is interesting to see the wide variety of species consumed, including 13 fish (especially Nile perch), two reptiles, three birds and seven mammals (including a hippopotamus and several gazelles, but especially bovids, goats, sheep and to a lesser extent pigs, ie pets).
These bones and spines have a notable feature, that of belonging to the parts with less meat of the animals. In the case of fish, the remains that appear belong mainly to the head, with very few vertebrae; while in the case of domestic animals they are skulls and the ends of the legs.
The conclusion of all these signs is quite clear: large quantities of food were cooked in this building and then consumed elsewhere. Since the less appetizing parts were not included in the dishes, we can assume that they were foods of a certain social relief.
If we add to this the fact that in the vicinity of this kitchen there is a similar structure dedicated to beer production (325 liters in one go!) and the proximity of the cemetery of the elite HK6, it is most likely that it was there where all these food and drinks were consumed during the banquets of the various burials.
The problem is that between the tombs and other structures no remains of this consumption have been found, which therefore might have been carried out in a concrete area of the cemetery not yet excavated… or perhaps it was that the remains were carefully cleaned and buried in another place. Excavations continue and the new campaign, soon to begin, may have the key.