Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

David Simmons, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Adam King, Ph.D.


This project compares mortuary practices in ancient Egypt and modern America in an effort to identify cross-cultural consistencies in the treatment of the dead. An analysis of the meaning and motivations behind these rituals reveals that they serve similar functions in both societies. Death provokes intense emotions of grief and long periods of mourning, which can debilitate the people who knew the deceased and even the society itself. Therefore, to promote survival of individuals and the community, mortuary rituals must address these disturbances. Focusing on ancient Egypt and modern America, this study finds that mortuary practices function to restabilize society by emphasizing national morals to create a sense of community, adjusting social organization to accommodate the loss of a member, and easing the grief of loved ones by enabling a final goodbye. Although these two civilizations are extremely separated in time and space, their comparison provides a foundation for identifying universal commonalities in the human response to death that persist across temporal or geographical distance.

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