Booty of Jewels and Gold
Treasure first comes to mind upon mention of the things inside the pyramids in Egypt. In fact, booty of gold and jewels was the motivation used by an Arabian, Al Manun, in begging his workers to dig into the massive walls of the Great Pyramid of Giza in AD 820. Working amid the heat of the desert sands, such a worker’s motivation had to be spurred because of the hostile working conditions, plus more: The technology that the Arab and his gang were using were crude by today’s standards, merely consisting of chisels and battering rams to tunnel through massive slabs of granite limestone that enveloped the pyramid that served as the tomb of the pharaoh, Khufu.
It would be easy to think that treasures indeed could be found inside the pyramids of Egypt. Upon the death of a pharaoh, the Egyptian king had to be mummified and given the same royal treatment, or perhaps even better, than when the monarch was still living. Religious fervor was behind this grand custom.
For A Multi-Tasking Pharaoh
The ancient Egyptians believed that the reign of a pharaoh did not necessarily end upon the ruler’s death. In fact, what happened was he assumed more roles. First, he turned into the king of the dead, Osiris. His other afterlife manifestation was Horus, a deity of the heavens. In addition, the dead pharaoh became a protector of Ra, the Egyptian sun god. Ancient Egyptian writings told that the dead pharaoh buried in his royal tomb constituted a cyclical turnover of functions manifested by the sunrise and sunset, incorporated into the pyramid’s construction.
To carry out this “multi-tasking” of sorts, a dead pharaoh supposedly retained some parts of his spirit. The learned among the ancients referred to this surviving spiritual part the pharaoh’s ka that needed to be taken care of; otherwise, the dead pharaoh wouldn’t be able to carry out his new functions. If that happened, the cycle envisioned for the pharaoh wouldn’t be completed, with disastrous results to Egypt and its early peoples.
Artifacts Tell the Story
Several steps were taken so that the cycle wasn’t broken. First, the pharaoh was mummified and his preserved remains placed in a sarcophagus amid much ritual and ceremonies. These rituals would not be complete without the inclusion of a cornucopia of things that the deceased ruler would carry as his tools of the trade in the afterlife.
Necessarily, these items would include the treasures of royalty such as gold, jewels, furniture, all assortments of jars and vessels available at that time, and food for the king’s journey to the after-world. The royal send-off would also include figures the ancient Egyptians called ushabti. They were doll-like models of servants who were supposed to minister to the dead pharaoh’s needs. There were even tales of some loyal servants being entombed alive in the pyramids in order to continue their service to the departed king.
Certainly, finds inside the pyramids in Egypt constituted great value, but not only in the material sense. What the Arab Al Manun believed as he and his workers tunneled into the Pyramid of Khufu was that the pyramid contained the past and future history of the world. To a certain extent, Manun was correct, for whatever could be found in the pyramids constituted a link to an ancient history that helped shape the world as it is today.
National Geographic, The Pyramids at Giza.