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"The Book of Dead" is the common name for the ancient Egyptian funerary text known as "Spells of Coming" (or "Going") "Forth By Day." The Book of the Dead was a description of the ancient Egyptian conception of the afterlife and a collection of hymns, spells, and instructions to allow the deceased to pass through obstacles in the afterlife. The Book of the Dead was most commonly written on a papyrus scroll and placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased.

The name "Book of the Dead" was the invention of the Germanmarker Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius, who published a selection of the texts in 1842. When it was first discovered, the Book of the Dead was thought to be an ancient Egyptian Bible. But unlike the Bible, The Book of the Dead does not set forth religious tenets and was not considered by the ancient Egyptians to be the product of divine revelation, which allowed the content of the book of the dead to change over time.

The Book of the Dead was the product of a long process of evolution from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (writings on the crypt walls intending to help the dead person) to the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (similar writings, placed on the outside of a coffin). Eventually, many of these texts were written on papyrus and placed in the burial chamber, or inside the coffin with the mummy.

About one-third of the chapters in The Book of the Dead are derived from the earlier Coffin Texts. The Book of the Dead itself was adapted to The Book of Breathings in the Late Period, but remained popular in its own right until the Roman period.

Egyptian name

The name for the book in the Egyptian language was rw nw prt m hrw. This derives from the title of one of the most important spells, spell 17, prt m hrw.

Rw is the plural of r 'mouth'. R can also refer to a thing said, such as a piece of speech or in this case a ritual incantation.

Nw is a form of n 'of'. This 'genitival adjective' grammatically agrees with the preceding noun. Nw is the masculine dual/plural form.

Prt is an action-non derived from the verb prj 'emerge', 'arise'. It expresses the act of emerging or arising.

M is a preposition typically meaning 'in'. When dealing with time, it can mean 'during'.

Hrw means 'day', 'daytime'.

Thus a very literal translation is 'utterances of emergence during daytime'. A slightly looser translation for sense could be 'spells of going out in the daytime'.

Versions

Although during the New Kingdom the book of the dead was not organized or standardized in any meaningful way, versions dating to this period are known as the 'Theban Recension'. In the Third Intermediate Period leading up to the Saite period, the book of the dead became increasingly standardized and organized, and books of this period are known as the 'Saite Recension'.

Saite recension

Early versions of the book of the dead were not standardized and were not organized by thematic content; however, this changed by the Saite period :
  • Chapters 1–16 The deceased enters the tomb, descends to the underworld, and the body regains its powers of movement and speech.
  • Chapters 17–63 Explanation of the mythic origin of the gods and places, the deceased are made to live again so that they may arise, reborn, with the morning sun.
  • Chapters 64–129 The deceased travels across the sky in the sun ark as one of the blessed dead. In the evening, the deceased travels to the underworld to appear before Osiris.
  • Chapters 130–189 Having been vindicated, the deceased assumes power in the universe as one of the gods. This section also includes assorted chapters on protective amulets, provision of food, and important places. There are 192 unique chapters known, and no single papyrus contains all known chapters. Depending on the translation the verses are divided into Spell numbers as opposed to Chapter numbers.


Production



Books were often prefabricated in funerary workshops, with spaces being left for the name of the deceased to be written in later. They are often the work of several different scribes and artists whose work was literally pasted together. The cost of a typical book might be equivalent to half a year's salary of a laborer, so the purchase would be planned well in advance of the person's death. The blank papyrus used for the scroll often constituted the major cost of the work, so papyrus was often reused.

Images, or vignettes to illustrate the text, were considered mandatory. The images were so important that often the text is truncated to fit the space available under the image. Whereas the quality of the miniatures is usually done at a high level, the quality of the text is often very bad. Scribes often misspelled or omitted words and inserted the wrong text under the images.

Publication history

The earliest manuscripts were published in the aftermath of the Egyptian expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte in "Description de l'Ėgypte" (1821). Jean Francois Champollion was one of the early translators. In 1842 Karl Richard Lepsius published a version dated to the Ptolomaic era and coined the name "Book of The Dead", a title not known or used by the Ancient Egyptians, as well as the chapter numbering system which is still in use. Samuel Birch published the first English version in 1867. Edouard Naville published what was to become the first full standard edition in three volumes (1886). Using the papyrus texts in the British Museummarker E. A. Wallis Budge published editions including the Papyrus of Ani, which Naville had not dealt with, in 1890. Peter le Page Renouf's English edition was published in parts beginning in 1892. Budge's hieroglyphic edition was published in 1898 and is still widely used. Budge's 1901 English translation is still in print. More recent translations in English have been published by T. G. Allen (1974) and Raymond O. Faulkner (1972).

See also



References

Further reading

  • Thomas George Allen, The Egyptian Book of the Dead: Documents in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, Thomas George Allen, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago), c 1960.
  • Thomas George Allen, The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day. Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in Their Own Terms, Thomas George Allen, (SAOC vol. 37; University of Chicago Press, Chicago), c 1974.
  • E. A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead,(The Papyrus of Ani), Egyptian Text, Transliteration, and Translation, E.A.Wallis Budge, (Dover (Note: 240 pages of running hieroglyphic text. NB: Budge's translations and transliterations are extremely outdated and are not generally cited by modern Egyptologists)
  • Raymond O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated by Raymond Faulkner, edited by Carol Andrews (University of Texas Press, Austin), c 1972.
  • Raymond O. Faulkner, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going forth by Day. The First Authentic Presentation of the Complete Papyrus of Ani translated by Raymond Faulkner, edited by Eva von Dassow, with contributions by Carol Andrews and Ogden Goelet (Chronicle Books, San Francisco), c 1994.
  • Gunther Lapp, The Papyrus of Nu (Catalogue of Books of the Dead in the British Museum), by Gunther Lapp, (British Museum Press, London), c 1997.
  • Andrzej Niwinski, Studies on the Illustrated Theban Funerary Papyri of the 11th and 10th Centuries B.C., by Andrzej Niwinski, (OBO vol. 86; Universitätsverlag, Freiburg), c 1989.
  • Kolpaktchy, Gregoire. Le Livre des Morts des Anciens Egyptiens. (France, 1954)
  • Kolpaktchy, Gregoire. Das Agyptische Totenbuch. (Switzerland, 1954)

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