BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Complete Book of the Dead Discovered at Saqqara

Excavators uncover an unbroken copy of the Egyptian funerary text

Book of the dead

Close-up of the Book of the Dead showing Ammit sitting before Osiris. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

While excavating near the Step Pyramid of Djoser, in Saqqara, archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered a complete copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The lengthy scroll is the first full copy of the text found in the Saqqara necropolis in over a century, containing a treasure trove of knowledge of ancient Egyptian funerary practices and religious beliefs.

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The Book of the Dead

Book of the dead

Unrolling the Book of the Dead. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The newly discovered copy of the Book of the Dead comes from the tomb of a wealthy Egyptian named Ahmose who lived around 300 BCE. The scroll, which measures around 52 feet long, was found within the sarcophagus of its owner where it would have served to protect and assist the deceased in his treacherous journey into the afterlife. Written in red and black ink using the Egyptian hieratic script, the scroll also contains many artful depictions of scenes from the netherworld.

Not a single text, the Book of the Dead is the modern name for a collection of mortuary texts that contained spells and incantations. The core of the collection was likely compiled during the New Kingdom period (c. 1550–1070 BCE), although later additions were made to the collection as well. In total, there were around 200 chapters of the Book of the Dead, although no single scroll contains them all.

Book of the Dead

The scroll is filled with inscriptions and various illustrations. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The inclusion of a Book of the Dead in graves was a common practice in ancient Egypt for those who could afford it. The idea was that the deceased could read from it instructions and recite protective spells to make the perilous transition to the next life. Several fragmentary scrolls have been found in Saqqara in recent years including one that measured around 13 feet long and belonged to a man named Pwkhaef, and another one measuring around 30 feet long. Despite its impressive length, Ahmose’s Book of the Dead is not the longest copy we have, as some known scrolls of this funerary text reach over 100 feet in length.

Book of the dead

The Book of the Dead before being unrolled. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

 


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Hundreds of Egyptian Sarcophagi Uncovered in the Saqqara Tombs

Hidden Corridor Found Inside the Pyramid of Khufu

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

Pharaoh’s Man, ‘Abdiel: The Vizier with a Semitic Name

Exodus Evidence: An Egyptologist Looks at Biblical History

Moses’ Egyptian Name

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

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4 Responses

  1. Dennis B. Swaney says:

    Article title and body conflict. The title reads: “Complete Book of the Dead …” and the body states that “In total, there were around 200 chapters of the Book of the Dead, although no single scroll contains them all.” However, the text also uses the singular “scroll” to describe what was found in Ahmose’s tomb. So what is it, a 200 chapter “Complete Book of the Dead” on multiple “scrolls” or an “Incomplete Book of the Dead” on a single scroll?

    Furthermore, how many of the 200 chapters are on this 52 feet (15.85 meters) scroll, and how many on the 100+ feet (30.48+ meters) scroll?

    1. William says:

      Although there are 200 chapters each one is singularly referred to as “the book of the dead.” The Book of the Dead isn’t a collection of books like the bible is but a TYPE.

      This is a complete book of the dead in the sense that it has a complete chapter and is an unbroken scroll, meaning nothing that was written on it is missing.

  2. Marty Atkinson says:

    You’re confusing him with Joseph Smith who claimed he found the material he used to write the Book of Mormon. The record of his ‘findings’ were recorded in a book entitled, No Man Knows My History”, by Fawn M. Brodie.

  3. Phil Covington says:

    Wasn’t it Charles Taze Russell, of the Jehova’s Witness cult, that falsely claimed his astute, in-depth knowledge and translations of languages, that tried to pass-off a piece of text he claimed was “supernaturally” received…..but was later found out he had simply copied an earlier ‘Book of the Dead’ scroll ??!!
    Truth was….he had no knowledge or training in ANY foreign language(s) !!!

Write a Reply or Comment

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4 Responses

  1. Dennis B. Swaney says:

    Article title and body conflict. The title reads: “Complete Book of the Dead …” and the body states that “In total, there were around 200 chapters of the Book of the Dead, although no single scroll contains them all.” However, the text also uses the singular “scroll” to describe what was found in Ahmose’s tomb. So what is it, a 200 chapter “Complete Book of the Dead” on multiple “scrolls” or an “Incomplete Book of the Dead” on a single scroll?

    Furthermore, how many of the 200 chapters are on this 52 feet (15.85 meters) scroll, and how many on the 100+ feet (30.48+ meters) scroll?

    1. William says:

      Although there are 200 chapters each one is singularly referred to as “the book of the dead.” The Book of the Dead isn’t a collection of books like the bible is but a TYPE.

      This is a complete book of the dead in the sense that it has a complete chapter and is an unbroken scroll, meaning nothing that was written on it is missing.

  2. Marty Atkinson says:

    You’re confusing him with Joseph Smith who claimed he found the material he used to write the Book of Mormon. The record of his ‘findings’ were recorded in a book entitled, No Man Knows My History”, by Fawn M. Brodie.

  3. Phil Covington says:

    Wasn’t it Charles Taze Russell, of the Jehova’s Witness cult, that falsely claimed his astute, in-depth knowledge and translations of languages, that tried to pass-off a piece of text he claimed was “supernaturally” received…..but was later found out he had simply copied an earlier ‘Book of the Dead’ scroll ??!!
    Truth was….he had no knowledge or training in ANY foreign language(s) !!!

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