The Egyptian Book of the Dead

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The work PER-T EM HRU received many additions in the course of centuries, and at length, under the XVIIIth dynasty, it contained about 190 distinct compositions, or "Chapters." The original forms of many of these are to be found in the page 6"Pyramid Texts" (i.e., the funerary compositions cut on the walls of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids of Kings Unas, Teta, Pepi I Meri-Rā, Merenra and Pepi II at Sakkârah), which were written under the Vth and VIth dynasties. The forms which many other chapters had under the XIth and XIIth dynasties are well represented by the texts painted on the coffins of Amamu, Sen, and Guatep in the British Museum (Nos. 6654, 30839, 30841), but it is possible that both these and the so-called "Pyramid Texts" all belonged to the work PER-T EM HRU, and are extracts from it. The "Pyramid Texts" have no illustrations, but a few of the texts on the coffins of the XIth and XIIth dynasties have coloured vignettes, e.g., those which refer to the region to be traversed by the deceased on his way to the Other World, and the Islands of the Blessed or the Elysian Fields. On the upper margins of the insides of such coffins there are frequently given two or more rows of coloured drawings
of the offerings which under the Vth dynasty were presented to the deceased or his statue during the celebration of the service of "Opening the Mouth" and the performance of the ceremonies of "The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings." Under the XVIIIth dynasty, when the use of large rectangular coffins and sarcophagi fell somewhat into disuse, the scribes began to write collections of Chapters from the PER-T EM HRU on rolls of papyri instead of on coffins. At first the texts were written in hieroglyphs, the greater number of them being in black ink, and an attempt was made to illustrate each text by a vignette drawn in black outline. The finest known example of such a codex is the Papyrus of Nebseni (Brit. Mus. No. 9900), which is 77 feet 7½ inches in length and I foot I½ inches in breadth. Early in the XVIIIth dynasty scribes began to write the titles of the Chapters, the rubrics, and the catchwords in red ink and the text in black, and it became customary to decorate the vignettes with colours, and to increase their size and number. The oldest codex of this class is the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus. No. 10477) which is 65 feet 3½ inches in length, and 1 foot 1½ inches in breadth. This and many other rolls were written by their owners for their own tombs, and in each roll both text and vignettes were usually, the work of the same hand. Later, however, the scribe wrote the text only, and a skilled artist was employed to add the coloured vignettes, for page 7which spaces were marked out and left blank by the scribe. The finest example of this class of roll is the Papyrus of Ani (Brit. Mus., No. 10470). which is 78 feet in length and 1 foot 3 inches in breadth. In all papyri of this class the text is page 8written in hieroglyphs, but under the XIXth and following dynasties many papyri are written throughout in the hieratic character; these usually lack vignettes, but have coloured frontispieces.

Vignette and text of the Theban Book of the Dead from the Papyrus of Nu.

Vignette and text of the Theban Book of the Dead from the Papyrus of Nu.

[Brit. Mus., No. 10477.] XVIIIth dynasty.

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images from the Egyptian Book of the Dead