Book of the Dead
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'The Book of the Dead' is the common name for the ancient Egyptian funerary text known as 'The Book 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 German 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 thus the product of a long process of evolution from the Pyramid texts of the Old Kingdom to the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom. About one-third of the chapters in The Book of the Dead are derived from the 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.
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.
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.
 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.
- ^ "Feature story: The Book of the Dead" by Caroline Seawright
- ^ a b c Goelet, Ogden (1998). A Commentary on the Corpus of Literature and Tradition which constitutes the Book of Going Forth By Day. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 139-170.
 External links
- Egyptian Book of the Dead
- Budge, E. A. Wallis, "Book of the Dead, The Papyrus of Ani".
- Online Readable Text, with several images and reproductions of Egyptian papyri