13 Jul 2022


Death and the Afterlife: What Happens When We Die?

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Academic level: College

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Death and the Afterlife in terms of the Stonehenge 

The Stonehenge is an ancient stone monument found in Wiltshire, England and a mystery that many a scholar has tried to unravel (Wallis, 2015). According to Sheffield University’s Mike Parker the massive monument was center of an ancient funeral ritual where those who were about to die celebrated their ancestors as well as the recently dead (Wallis, 2015). In this context therefore, death is the end of life on earth and a path to the ancestral world. This eliminates the probability of a resurrection or the concept of rebirth as the dead were being celebrated as ancestors. Further, there was a connection between the living and the dead in that the living venerated the dead and celebrated them just before joining them (Wallis, 2015). 

Death and the Afterlife in terms of the Epic of Gilgamesh 

The Epic of Gilgamesh is celebrated as perhaps the oldest literary work ever recorded as is estimated to have been written around 2100BCE (Kline, 2016). The 12 th tablet seems to connect the main character of the epic to wit Gilgamesh with another Gilgamesh who is the king of the Netherworld (Lee, 2014). This brings to fore the concept of death in ancient Mesopotamia. It entailed a belief that there were two parallel world that existed contemporaneously and when someone died, they went to the Netherworld (Kline, 2016). In the Netherworld, the dead individual would remain the same and even retain their names but leave a parallel life (Lee, 2014). The epic also suggests a possibility for moving out of the Netherworld and back to the real world (Lee, 2014). 

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Death and the Afterlife in terms of the Ancient Egypt 

The ancient Egyptians had arguably the greatest civilizations in the ancient world more so in the areas of culture, governance, and religion (Robinson, 2016). In their culture, life and death were not mutually exclusive as they considered life in a social form and in a literal form. It was therefore possible for the body to be alive but the individual be dead socially (Shaw, 2016). Their afterlife was considered as a consequence of the life that one had lived on earth (Robinson, 2016). The dead would either be punished for the evil they did on earth or feted for the good works that they had undertaken on earth (Shaw, 2016). This means that the dead simply transited to another world in the afterlife. 


Kline, J. (2016). The Oldest Story, the Oldest Fear, the Oldest Fool: The Religious Dimension of the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Jung Journal 10 (2), 24-36. 

Lee, J. H. (2014). The Great Returning: Death and Transformation in the Zhuangzi. In  The Ethical Foundations of Early Daoism  (pp. 99-119). Palgrave Macmillan US 

Robinson, A. (2016). Designs upon death in ancient Egypt.  The Lancet 387 (10030), 1806 

Shaw, G. (2016). A matter of life and death: the popular view of ancient Egypt as a culture obsessed with death is challenged by two exhibitions, which argue that funerary objects were as important in daily life as they were in the afterlife. In  Apollo  (Vol. 183, No. 639, pp. 62-69). Apollo Magazine Ltd. 

Wallis, R. J. (2015). Paganism, Archaeology and Folklore in Twenty-first-century Britain: A Case Study of ‘The Stonehenge Ancestors'.  Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 28 (2) 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Death and the Afterlife: What Happens When We Die?.


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