Royal Mortuary Temples

Royal Mortuary Temples

Royal Mortuary Temples were associated with pyramids. In them, the king was worshiped while he was alive and after he was dead. The ceremonies in these temples may have given worship to the king so that he could direct this worship to the gods.

The royal mortuary cults were carried on, sometimes for hundreds of years, after a king's death. Considerable numbers of people served as mortuary priests during the Old Kingdom. In exchange, they received food and sometimes land. Such service increased their incomes and enhanced their social status.

Because many people were employed at these temples, and a great deal of wealth passed through them, careful records were kept of people and goods. Some of these records have survived on fragile papyrus. Though fragmentary, and sometimes hard to understand, they give us a real sense of what went on at a pyramid temple.

The papyri from the Fifth Dynasty temples at Abusir list the offerings actually presented to the dead rulers, and name various responsibilities to be undertaken by ritual practitioners. For example, a letter which was probably written by King Isesi, states that the temple is in poor repair, and calls for renovations.

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