FUNERARY CUSTOMS OF THE EARLY PERIOD AND OF THE NEW KINGDOM
SINCE the excavations of the last ten years have acquainted us with the earliest cemeteries of Egypt, we have known that even in that country, where such elaborate provision was made for its dead, burial was at first a simple matter. A narrow trench in which the body was laid with the knees drawn up to the body on the left side. There the body decayed, and after a few years any one molesting such a grave would merely find a skeleton with the bones detached. A remembrance, moreover, of this oldest form of burial, in which the body decayed and fell to pieces, influenced the later Egyptian, without his being aware of it; his prayers for the dead still included the wish that the limbs of the deceased should once more unite themselves, and that his head might again be attached to his body.
In the later period, when the Egyptian knew how to preserve the body from decay, by means of mummifying, he still made use of these expressions, employing them as allusions to the body of Osiris rent in pieces by his foes, and it is very possible that the legend of the dismemberment of the body of Osiris may earlier have grown out of this ancient ritual, which in its original form referred to limbs fallen apart from each other.
At this time it was customary to place something in the hand of the deceased, which was considered likely to be of use to him. Thus in one hand we find a flat palette, used during his lifetime for rubbing the green paint with which he adorned his body, and in the other hand a leather bottle. Near the body a large number of objects are laid, jars and bowls with food and drink, that the deceased may not go hungry; harpoons