Pyramids and Mummies
Images like that of King Tut, and other pharoahs and tombs, come to mind the second Ancient Egpyt is mentioned. It's this aspect of Egyptian cosmology- the view Egyptians held about the order of life and death- that many find to be the most interesting and unique feature of Egyptian culture. The Egyptians felt a close connection between themselves and thier gods. Osiris was their guide to the land of the dead, and despite this ominous sounding title, he was held in high respect.
The pyramids of course were built to house the pharoahs' bodies and all of their worldly possessions so that the pharoah might have his wealth, family, and servants upon his arrival in the afterlife. The pyramids took many generations to build and we still do not know exactly how the ancient Egyptians were able to construct the enormous structures- the precision with which the many ton blocks were placed.
Here are some schematics that show what was involved in the area surrounding the pyramids. They were designed to both house the pharoah's body and prepare for his departure, but they also represented the grandeur of Egypt and the pharoah's closeness with Ra. They said to all of the world, "Look how great our civilization is!", not to mention keeping the people bound and united with Egypt through these awe-inspiring wonders of the world.
So what about this whole mummification thing? During the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) only pharoahs were embalmed, but by the time of the New Kingdom (1500-1000 B.C.) it was available for all acording to how much money that could use for that purpose.
First, the organs were removed, since they decompose the fastest, and were placed in jars of embalmatic fluid so that they might be regained in the afterlife. The heart alone was left because it was believed to be the seat of the intellect and the emotions. The brain was considered useless and, extracted via a hook through the nose, was discarded.
Next, the body was packed and covered with natron, a salty drying agent, and left to dry out for forty to fifty days. At the end of this period, the body's liquid had been absorbed and only the hair, skin, and bones were left.
The body was then stuffed with resin, sawdust, or linen and shaped to restore the deceased's form and features. Depending on how much money was available, better materials were used so that they would last longer and more correctly restore the individual's features.
Last, the body was tightly wrapped in layer upon layer of linen. Good luck charms were often added as well as amulets or other things held close by the individual or believed to hold special powers. The scarab beetle is an example of these. It was often placed over the heart. Priests recite prayers throughout the practice. Afterwards, the body was placed in a shroud. The entire mummification process took about 75 days to complete.
Some believe that the pyramids were constructed including "air shafts" aligned astronomically with constellations important to the Egyptians, perhaps allowing the dead's soul to escape to the afterlife easily in the right direction. Indeed, it seems likely that those on the pharaoh Khufu's pyramid point towards Thuban (the North Star of the Old Kingdom) and Osiris (Orion). Some have even suggested that the pyramids of Giza are oriented with the stars of Orion's belt.