2008 年 51 巻 1 号 p. 87-109
It is generally stated that in the Egyptian New Kingdom burials the bodies were placed with their heads pointing toward the West because of the Egyptians’ funerary belief that the deceased needed to face the rising sun for their resurrection.
However, this statement does not fully reflect the actual archaeological data. A survey of the plans of New Kingdom royal tombs shows that some changes in the head orientation took place during this period. Before the New Kingdom Period, bodies were normally placed with their heads pointed to the north. However, the tombs of the 20th Dynasty have a symbolic east-west axis that causes the westward head orientation of royal mummies, whereas in the 18th Dynasty tombs some of the decoration scheme and sarcophagus placements show compromising orientations between the north and west.
Non-elite burials in the Memphite and Heracleopolitan regions show a tendency different from the royal tombs in that there is more diversity of head orientation. Although about fifty percent of the burials in a given cemetery have the western head orientation, the considerable number of bodies are directed to the north, east and south. Since the burials of the previous periods in these regions do not show such diversity, it seems to be a noticeable feature of non-elite burial customs in the New Kingdom Period.
A seriation analysis shows that the diversity of head orientation in non-elite tombs is not the result of a historical transition as seen in the royal tombs since it is found among burials of the same period. B. J. Kemp suggests that lower-class people did not ignore the formal concepts of funerary belief, even though they often chose “unsuitable” head orientations. Instead they followed their own sense to decide what was appropriate for them. It might be fair to assume that the diverse head orientations in the New Kingdom burials reflect the ancient Egyptians’ trait of accepting the existence of alternative concepts.