The Pervasiveness of a Material and Multimodal Conceptual Metaphor in Ancient Egypt


  • Lilith Apostel RUHR-Universitat Bochum



Sleep, death, afterlife, ancient Egypt, awakening, resurrection, burial customs


In ancient Egypt, both textual and archaeological sources point to a tie between sleep and death. This connection takes different shapes such as the usage of beds and headrests in burials, the role of the sun in beliefs about the afterlife and the linkage between the netherworld and the world of dreams. It is argued here that the complementary conceptual metaphors death is sleep and awakening is resurrection allow for a unitary explanation of these observations. The theoretical background of conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending offers a useful approach to elucidate past imaginations due to its grounding in embodied realism. By recognizing material and multimodal metaphors in Egyptians burial customs, the infusion of magical agency into funerary rituals can be better understood. Especially the headrest acquired a reputation as an aid in entering the afterlife through a conflation of several layers of symbolism, thereby touching upon the mental, bodily and social aspect of religion.

Author Biography

Lilith Apostel, RUHR-Universitat Bochum

Lilith Apostel is a research associate at the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. She holds an MA in Scientific Study of Religion and Prehistory from the Freie Universität Berlin, and a PhD in Prehistory from the University of Cologne, both in Germany. The present article builds on her doctoral dissertation that was funded by the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne as well as through a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service for a research stay at the Sleep/Wake Research Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.


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How to Cite

Apostel, L. . (2022). DEATH IS SLEEP: The Pervasiveness of a Material and Multimodal Conceptual Metaphor in Ancient Egypt. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1-2), 65–97.