Why No Nose? The Ancient Breath of Life and Remarkably Powerful ‘Living Statues’
Why was is so important for bodies and images to remain intact after death in Ancient Egypt? And what was the power of ancient statues and reliefs – that they would be a danger to a Pharaoh?
For the ancient Egyptians, a person's life was composed of five distinct aspects: the physical body (Khat), the shadow (Shuyet), the name (Ren), the physical part of the soul (Ba) and the spiritual part of the soul (Ka).
The Egyptian concept of life and death is not always clear and sometimes two more aspects are added: the heart (Ib) and the fully united soul, consisting of the fusion of the Ka and the Ba after a person's death (Akh).
All of these aspects had to be preserved after death and were only applicable to important individuals who could afford to be mummified such as important officials, priests and members of the royal family.
Image 1. Pharaoh Amenemhet III - 12 th dynasty (1840-1800 BCE) ( ©Willem Witteveen)
The body had to be kept in good condition to function as a 'new body' in another world in which all of the above-mentioned aspects could be reunited. When a body dies, all aspects are separated. Therefore, to keep the physical body in good condition, it was mummified.
The shadow is directly linked to the body or image, which represents the deceased and is therefore always present. According to the ancient Egyptians, the shadow contains everything that a person represents, and murals or statues of a deceased person were also referred to as shadows. Those without shadows do not exist and therefore some pharaohs had a so-called 'shadow box' in their tomb in which part of their shadow was stored.
Image 2. Soul aspects: Ba - Ka – Akh ( ©Willem Witteveen)
The name of the deceased was an important aspect that was given at birth and it was believed should always be displayed on murals and statues of the person concerned. Everything was put in place to protect and maintain the name through writings and cartouches.
The 'Book of Breathings' as a derivative of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was an important means to ensure the survival of a person's name. Removing a name from a temple, tomb or image, as happened many times by a subsequent pharaoh, was a terrible event for the deceased. There are countless examples in ancient Egyptian temples and monuments where the pharaoh's names were removed by their successors, so they could easily own a temple without building a new one. Therefore, the name of a pharaoh was often repeated and displayed in as many places as possible to ensure that the name continued to be read and spoken.
- The Great Pyramid of Giza: A Modern View on Ancient Knowledge, Earth and Water – Part I
- The Great Pyramid of Giza: A Modern View on Ancient Knowledge, Air and Fire – Part II
- Why are Noses Missing from so Many Egyptian Statues?
In today's funeral rituals, the deceased's name is the only aspect of a person that continues to exist through a tombstone or plaquette. In our modern society, the other aspects are of no significance.
The Ba and the Ka are the two main aspects of a person's soul. The Ba is the physical part of the soul that was displayed as a bird with the head of a human being, and as such was able to travel as a soul between heaven and earth. The Ba is thus the only aspect of the deceased which can move freely. In order to be able to move and survive in the afterlife, the Ba needed food which was realised by offerings to the deceased. It was felt the Ba often swirled among relatives and friends in the physical world, and was the only 'connection' between the real world and the afterlife in which they were able to assume different forms. In fact, the Ba was the moving part of the deceased's soul, while the Ka represented the life force and the spiritual part of the soul administered at birth as the first breath of life. Only during the day the Ba was allowed to leave the tomb to be among the living, while the Ka remained in the tomb.
Image 3. Ram-headed creator god Khnum at his potter's wheel. ( ©Willem Witteveen)
Becoming One with the Stars
The Ba and the Ka formed the soul during a person's earthly life and were separated after death. In the afterlife, the soul of the deceased was formed by the reunification of the Ba and the Ka, and was called the enlightened soul or Akh. The Ba and the Ka were united to resuscitate or alleviate the soul. A soul was ‘enlightened’ or freed when the Ba reunited with the Ka and an enlightened soul made the deceased become part of the starry sky (Akh-Akh) together with all the other deceased, gods and birds.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the Akh was still able to influence events on earth through illnesses, emotions, guilt and nightmares. The hieroglyph of the Akh is a crested ibis (as seen in image 2, the bird on far right).
Image 4. The undamaged Ka-statue of pharaoh Auibre Hor. ( ©Willem Witteveen)
Actually, the Ka or spiritual part of the soul, symbolized the life force of a person and was created at birth as the first breath of life by Khnum, a creator god from Egyptian mythology (above, image 3). The ancient Egyptians believed that Khnum was creating a child's body on his potter's wheel before it was inserted into the womb of the mother. Of great importance is that the Ka was associated with the first breath of life during childbirth. In essence, the Ka is the double or replica of the deceased, and therefore a statue that accurately represents the deceased is also called a Ka-statue, in which the life force of the person in question can survive. When someone died, it was believed the Ka left the body and remained in the deceased's tomb and became the extension of one's life. This extension of one's life was thus represented as its double or Ka-statue in which the deceased's life force continued to last as long as the statue remained in good condition.
The Living Statue
The Ka is represented by two raised arms at an angle of 93 degrees which symbolize the life force of a human body and sometimes these raised arms are part of the Ka-statue. The famous wooden statue of pharaoh Auibre Hor from the thirteenth dynasty is a fine example of a Ka-statue in a perfect condition and is located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (above, image 4). In fact, a Ka-statue in perfect condition is a 'living statue' in which the life force of the deceased is still present. Such a statue is remarkably powerful.
Image 5. 'Adapted' wall relief with missing facial features. ( ©Willem Witteveen)
Killing a Statue – Removing the Nose
The Egyptian concept of life and death is very complicated and therefore there are several interpretations of the Ba, Ka and Akh aspects. It is a fact that the Ka statues are the so-called doubles or shadows of the deceased and that the Ka forms an important internal part of these statues and murals.
- Archaeologists identify Temple of Hatshepsut, the female Pharaoh the ancients tried to erase
- Depicting Man or Beast? Can You Solve the Riddle of the Great Sphinx of Giza?
- The Crowns of the Pharaohs
In ancient times, one believed that nasal breathing was 'breathing into the soul' in order to increase one's Universal Life Force or Prana; the 'shadows' of individuals did not constitute an exception.
For the successive pharaoh, it was therefore vital that these statues and murals could not exert any negative effect in the world of the living—especially the world of the ruling pharaoh. The statues themselves were allowed to remain undamaged, only the Ka inside the statues had to be made harmless by ensuring that the Ka could no longer breathe and would die. Since the human nose is the main external respiratory organ, it was carefully removed to prevent the statue from 'breathing.'
Image 6. 'Adapted' Ka-statue, clearly missing nose ( ©Willem Witteveen)
The removed nose as a symbol of the breath of life made the statue or mural harmless and made it impossible for a former ruler (pharaoh, priest or official) to exert any influence on the living. In fact, Ka means nothing but breath, and removal of the nose was the only option to ensure that the Ka and the Ba could not reunite in the afterlife. There will be no resuscitation of the Akh and the influence of the deceased on the living is reduced to zero. A thus-violated Ka-statue is therefore harmless! For this reason, the noses of the vast majority of ancient Egyptian statues, murals and wall reliefs have been removed intentionally. The first and last Breath of Life is the greatest secret of all and the only and shortest connection to our soul.
Willem Witteveen has been published in several excellent magazines and on various websites and his book, The Great Pyramid of Giza – a modern view on ancient knowledge is available now. You can learn more about Ancient Egyptian Connections and Witteveen’s work at his website willemwitteveen.com
Images ©Willem Witteveen
Top Image: Busts of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. (kairoinfo4u/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 );Deriv
Laurie H, there is no need for you to be disrespectful to me, especially since I had not replied to anything you have posted. It seem as though it is you who has a thorn stuck on your backside because an intelligent Black man such as myself questioned this poorly written and “unrealistic” article about ancient Black history. Also, remember that Black people can never be truly written out of their history, because the past has already been created, and lies can only distort it, and since you know this to be a fact, it upsets you to know that black scholars like myself will not tolerate white lies, so therefore, you are filled with so much ignorant anger...As far as “HATHOR” not replying to me, IT WAS EXPECTED, and nothing has been lost, since I made my intelligent point. As for you as concerned, I NEVER CONTACTED YOU ABOUT ANYTHING, AND I WOULD PREFER THAT YOU REFRAIN FROM ANY FURTHER REPLY’S TO ME, AS WELL...later
@charles bowes - rather it seems to me you have a thorn in your side about "black people" being left out of historical accounts of the development of world civilization. First you want someone else to explain the meaning of the article to you, then (presumably after reading it) you shamelessly mock the subject of the article and inappropriately carry your argument into the recent past in a bizarre antagonistic manner.
If you wish archeology to recognize how "black people" contributed to development of civilization, perhaps a better way is to educate yourself regarding both mainstream and alternative reconstructions of civilization, inclusive of "black people". From that vantage, you might be able to make a meaningful contribution, not only to the subject of "black people"'s contribution to history, but also to your own personal development, instead of so clearly revealing your childlike, uneducated immaturity.
It is understandable why Hathor abandoned trying to interact intelligently with you. Neither will I respond to any retort you may have to my words, having called you out regarding your hostile, antagonistic babbling. You contribute nothing in your exchanges. Unfortunate.
I GUESS THAT THE SPINX WHICH HAD ITS NOSE DAMAGED AFTER A DUTCH ARTIST REPORTED THAT IN THE 17TH CENTURY A.D. THE NOSE OF THE SPINX WAS FULLY ATTACHED, BUT WAS BLOWN OFF DURING THE FRENCH OCCUPATION. I WONDER DID NAPOLEON WANTED THE SPINX TO STOP BREATHING AND DIE, OR DID HE JUST WANTED TO DISFIGURE THE BLACK PHARAOH HE HE HE. IT SEEM AS THOUGH EVERYBODY WANT TO KILL THE BLACK MAN AND THEIR HISTORICAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO WORLD CIVILIZATION HE HE HE……. LATER
SO THE NEW PHARAOH BELIEVED THAT THE PREDECESOR'S STATUE HAD POWER IF LEFT IN FULL FORM, AND IF THE NOSE WAS CAREFULLY DAMAGED, THAT WOULD MEAN THAT HE COULD NOT BREATHE AND DIE, THEREFORE, THEY WOULD NOT HAVE ANY POWER OF INFLUENCE IN THE WORLD OF THE LIVING. THE STATUES WHICH ARE DAMAGED INDICATE THAT ONLY PIECES OF THE NOSE WAS KNOCKED OFF, AND NOT THE ENTI/RE NOSE, WHICH MEAN THAT A DAMAGED OUTTER STRUCTURE OF A NOSE WOULD NOT STOP A PERSON FROM BREATHING, BUT WOULD CAUSE SUBSTANTIAL COSMETIC DAMAGE...i GUESS THAT THE pHARAOHS WOULD THINK THAT BY KNOCKING OFF A LEFT OR RIGHT NOSTRIL WOULD STOP THE NATURAL AIR FLOW FROM AND TO THE BODY HE HE HE…. WELL, THESE SMART EGYPTIANS WHO UNDERSTOOD THE BODY, SUPPOSEDLY THOUGHT THAT A DAMAGED BROAD NOSTRIL WOULD STOP THE AIR FLOW. IT SEEM TO ME THAT TO STOP THE AIR FLOW TO THE BODY WOULD BE TO COMPLETELY REMEOVE THE NOSE, SO THAT IT WOULD BE GUARANTEED THAT NO AIR COULD EVER ENTER…..THIS ARTICLE STILL DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE TO ME, BUT I CAN SEE WHY IT WOULD MAKE SENSE TO SOME PEOPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE SUCH STUPIDITY…..LATER
Yes, this article is ridiculous. And the way you explained why creating a nose in the first place is frivolous, makes the perfect sense. This article is a clear attempt to disregard the black/African presence of kemet. Its no different then Europeans trying to say kemet, meaning the black land, didn't refer to its inhabitants, but rather the black rich soil. I even read much more ridiculousness previously trying to say that Ethiopian, which has always been known to mean burnt face, has nothing to do with color, but rather being shunned from the land they were in! Anything indicative of a black presence any ancient and magnificent kingdom is purposely whitewashed in an attempt for Europeans to claim it as their own or exclude us from its history. One of the things Europeans will always have a hard time conceptualizing is how the black people of today could've been the Egyptians, pharaohs, moors, and creators of civilizations in the past. "How could those thugs, criminals, and people who cant even build their own civilization today be the descendants of such great people? Yet this is what the emerald tablets explained of how the people of the land would lose their magnificence and sink into the halls of Amenti or darkness (a state of ignorance). They would be Egyptians in body (i.e, physical attributes), but another race in mind. Who does this sound like when it comes to having their identity stripped, taken away in slavery, and made to support and take on the identity of the oppressor?