ARCE New England: Tales of the Otherworld: Death and the Duat in ancient Egypt

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Presented by: Dr. Silvia Zago

  • 1:00 PM ETNew England (Boston)
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Lecture Information

The belief in the existence of life after death is one of the most defining aspects of the ancient Egyptian culture. Rather than being an absolute end, death was thought to be the beginning of a transition to a new state of being and into another, metaphysical dimension: the Duat. This term refers broadly to the realm of the dead and is commonly translated as “underworld” or “netherworld”- words inherently pointing to a certain meaning, namely the otherworld as a subterranean dimension. Yet, this was only one of many alternative scenarios for post-mortem existence available to the ancient Egyptians, and indeed encoded in the word Duat. Since the earliest attestations of this concept in the funerary literature, the Duat always possessed celestial and chthonic features at once, which were intertwined at all times with further cosmological notions. Moreover, new ideas were introduced over time, adding layer upon layer to the core ideological framework established in earlier periods. Based on the analysis of funerary texts and images from the late Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom, this lecture will look at what the Duat encompassed and where it was thought to be located, exploring the multimillennial development of this central notion of the Egyptian afterlife beliefs system.  

Speaker Bio

Silvia Zago is a lecturer in Egyptology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology of the University of Liverpool. She holds a PhD in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations from the University of Toronto, where she taught courses on ancient Egyptian history, culture, and language for several years. She moreover holds an MA in languages and cultures of the Near and Middle East from the University of Pisa and a BA in Heritage Studies from Ca’Foscari University of Venice. She was appointed Member of the Royal Historical Society in 2021, and as of 2022 she is Visiting Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Civilisation and Knowledge at the University of Pisa.