Excavators uncover an unbroken copy of the Egyptian funerary text
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.
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.
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.
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