Ancestors


Ancestors
Previous kings of Egypt.
    The concept of the Royal Ancestors was probably as old as the monarchy. They were the body of legitimate rulers whom the ruling king worshipped collectively; at death, he became one of them. Each king, whether he was the direct heir or had usurped the throne, regarded the former kings as his ancestors and was able to rule Egypt only with their agreement. Thus, they were considered to be present at each important ceremony such as the coronation, to affirm the king's right to rule and to support his efforts. Indeed, the stability of the kingship over some three thousand years probably owed much to the cult of the Ancestors.
    As the god's son, pharaoh was expected to perform certain rituals in the temples to sustain this unique relationship. As the Ancestors' heir, he also had obligations towards them and, by means of a mortuary cult, he supplied them with the necessary provisions for the afterlife. This took the form of a temple ritual in which the king, or the high-priest as his delegate, presented offerings of food and drink to the Ancestors. Even in his own lifetime, the king was represented in his temple as one of the Ancestors and he would have performed the ritual to include his own future, dead, deified self.
    This ritual is preserved in various papyri in addition to being depicted on the walls of the special temples (mortuary temples) in which the rites were performed. In Papyrus Chester Beatty IX and the Cairo-Turin Papyrus (which both date to the time of *Ramesses II), *Amenophis I and *Ramesses II are represented as the officiants; thus, this is sometimes known as the 'Ritual of Amenophis I'. However, the 'Ritual of the Royal Ancestors' is a more accurate title since it will have been performed by all the kings. It is evident that, in certain temples, once the food had been offered up to the temple deity at the conclusion of the Daily Service, it was taken and presented to the Ancestors before being removed from the temple and divided up amongst the priests as their daily rations.
    The Ancestors were given a presence in these temples in the form of the King Lists; these were tables of the names of all the pharaohs from the first king down to the current ruler, but they excluded those kings who were not considered to be legitimate rulers such as the *Hyksos and the Amarna pharaohs. The most famous are those carved on the interior walls of the temples of Abydos and of Karnak; another list—the Saqqara Table—was discovered in the tomb of Tjuneroy, an overseer of works. With *Manetho's history and the Turin Canon (a hieratic papyrus from the reign of *Ramesses III), these lists provide invaluable evidence for the chronology of Egypt although originally their purpose was to ensure the kings' presence at their temple ritual.
BIBL. Gardiner, A.H. The Royal Canon of Turin. Oxford: 1959; David, A.R. A guide to religious ritual at Abydos. Warminster: 1981; Fairman, H.W. Worship and festivals in an Egyptian temple. BJRL 37 (1954) pp. 165-202.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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