Other texts often accompanied the primary
texts including the hypocephalus (meaning
'under the head') which was a primer version
of the full text.
The Book of the Dead is the common
name for ancient Egyptian funerary
texts known as The Book of Coming
[or Going] Forth By Day. The name
"Book of the Dead" was
the invention of the German Egyptologist
Karl Richard Lepsius, who published
a selection of some texts in 1842.
The "book" was nothing
like a modern book the text
was initially carved on the exterior
of the deceased person's sarcophagus,
but was later written on papyrus
now known as scrolls and buried
inside the sarcophagus with the
deceased, presumably so that it
would be both portable and close
The Book of the Dead constituted as a collection of spells,
charms, passwords, numbers and magical formulas for the use
of the deceased in the afterlife. This described many of the
basic tenets of Egyptian
mythology. They were intended to guide the dead through
the various trials that they would encounter before reaching
the underworld. Knowledge of the appropriate spells was considered
essential to achieving happiness after death. Spells or enchantments
vary in distinctive ways between the texts of differing "mummies"
or sarcophagi, depending on the prominence and other class
factors of the deceased.
The Book of the Dead was usually illustrated with pictures
showing the tests to which the deceased would be subjected.
The most important was the weighing of the heart of the dead
person against Ma'at, or Truth (carried out by Anubis). The
god Thoth would record the results and the monster Ammit would
wait nearby to eat the heart should it prove unworthy.
The earliest known versions date from the 16th century BC
during the 18th Dynasty (ca. 1580 BC1350 BC). It partly
incorporated two previous collections of Egyptian religious
literature, known as the Coffin Texts (ca. 2000 BC) and the
Pyramid Texts (ca. 2600 BC-2300 BC), both of which were eventually
superseded by the Book of the Dead.
|The text was often individualized
for the deceased person - so no two
copies contain the same text - however,
"book" versions are generally
categorized into four main divisions
the Heliopolitan version, which
was edited by the priests of the college
of Annu (used from the 5th to the
11th dynasty and on walls of tombs
until about 200); the Theban version,
which contained hieroglyphics only
(20th to the 28th dynasty); a hieroglyphic
and hieratic character version, closely
related to the Theban version, which
had no fixed order of chapters (used
mainly in the 20th dynasty); and the
Saite version which has strict order
(used after the 26th dynasty).
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