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The Egyptian Book of the Dead

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Author Topic: The Egyptian Book of the Dead  (Read 8696 times)
Josie Linde
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« on: December 21, 2008, 09:57:55 pm »

predecessor by re-opening the temples and by letting every man celebrate his own sacrifices and discharge his own religious duties.[1] His pyramid is the one now known as the "third pyramid of Gizeh," under which he was buried in a chamber vertically below the apex and 60 feet below the level of the ground. Whether the pyramid was finished or not[2] when the king died, his body was certainly laid in it, and notwithstanding all the attempts made by the Muhammadan rulers of Egypt[3] to destroy it at the end of the 12th century of our era, it has survived to yield up important facts for the history of the Book of the Dead.

Evidence of the Inscription on the coffin of Mycerinus.

In 1837 Colonel Howard Vyse succeeded in forcing the entrance. On the 29th of July he commenced operations, and on the 1st of August he made his way into the sepulchral chamber, where, however, nothing was found but a rectangular stone sarcophagous[4] without the lid. The large stone slabs of the floor and the linings of the wall had been in many instances removed by thieves in search of treasure. In a lower chamber, connected by a passage with the sepulchral chamber, was found the greater part of the lid of the sarcophagus,[5] together with portions of a wooden coffin, and part of the body of a man, consisting of ribs and vertebrae and the bones of the legs and feet, enveloped

[1. Herodotus, ii., 129, 1; Diodorus, i., 64, 9.

2. According to Diodorus, he died before it was completed (i., 64, 7).

3. According to 'Abd el-Latif the Khalif's name was Mâmûn, but M. de Sacy doubted that he was the first to attempt this work; the authorities on the subject are all given in his Relation de l'Égypte, Paris, 1810, p. 215-221. Tradition, as represented in the "Arabian Nights," says that Al-Mâmûn was minded to pull down the Pyramids, and that he expended a mint of money in the attempt; he succeeded, however, only in opening up a small tunnel in one of them, wherein it is said he found treasure to the exact amount of the moneys which he had spent in the work, and neither more nor less. The Arabic writer Idrîsî, who wrote about A.H. 623 (A.D. 1226), states that a few years ago the "Red Pyramid," i.e., that of Mycerinus, was opened on the north side. After passing through various passages a room was reached wherein was found a long blue vessel, quite empty. The opening into this pyramid was effected by people who were in search of treasure; they worked at it with axes for six months, and they were in great numbers. They found in this basin, after they had broken the covering of it, the decayed remains of a man, but no treasures, excepting some golden tablets inscribed with characters of a language which nobody could understand. Each man's share of these tablets amounted to one hundred dinars (about £50). Other legendary history says that the western pyramid contains thirty chambers of parti-coloured syenite full of precious gems and costly weapons anointed with unguents that they may not rust until the day of the Resurrection. See Howard Vyse, The Pyramids of Gizeh, vol. ii., pp. 71, 72; and Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night; 1885, vol. v., p. 105, and vol. x., p. 150.

4 Vyse, The Pyramids of Gizeh, vol. ii., p. 84. A fragment of this sarcophagus is exhibited in the British Museum, First Egyptian Room, Case A, No. 6646.

5 With considerable difficulty this interesting monument was brought out from the pyramid by Mr. Raven, and having been cased in strong timbers, was sent off to the British Museum. It was embarked at Alexandria in the autumn of 1838, on board a merchant ship, which was supposed to have been lost off Carthagena, as she never was heard of after her departure from Leghorn on the 12th of October in that year, and as some parts of the wreck were picked up near the former port. The sarcophagus is figured by Vyse, Pyramids, vol. ii., plate facing p. 84.]

{p. xx}

in a coarse woollen cloth of a yellow colour, to which a small quantity of resinous substance and gum adhered.[1] It would therefore seem that, as the sarcophagus could not be removed, the wooden case alone containing the body had been brought into the large apartment for examination. Now, whether the human remains' there found are those of Mycerinus or of some one else, as some have suggested, in no way affects the question of the ownership of the coffin, for we know by the hieroglyphic inscription upon it that it was made to hold the mummified body of the king. This inscription, which is arranged in two perpendicular lines down the front of the coffin reads:--[3]

Ausar suten net[4] Men-kau-Ra anx t'etta mes en pet aur

King of the North and South Men-kau-Ra, living for ever, born of heaven, conceived of

Nut a a en Seb[5] mer-f peses-s mut-k Nut her-k

Nut, heir of Seb, his beloved. Spreadeth she thy mother Nut over thee

[1. As a considerable misapprehension about the finding of these remains has existed, the account of the circumstances under which they were discovered will be of interest. "Sir, by your request, I send you the particulars of the finding of the bones, mummy-cloth, and parts of the coffin in the Third Pyramid. In clearing the rubbish out of the large entrance-room, after the men had been employed there several days and had advanced some distance towards the south-eastern corner, some bones were first discovered at the bottom of the rubbish; and the remaining bones and parts of the coffin were immediately discovered all together. No other parts of the coffin or bones could be found in the room; I therefore had the rubbish which had been previously turned out of the same room carefully re-examined, when several pieces of the coffin and of the mummy-cloth were found; but in no other part of the pyramid were any parts of it to be discovered, although every place was most minutely examined, to make the coffin as complete as possible. There was about three feet of rubbish on the top of the same; and from the circumstance of the bones and part of the coffin being all found together, it appeared as if the coffin had been brought to that spot and there unpacked.--H. Raven." Vyse, Pyramids, vol. ii., p. 86.

2. They are exhibited in the First Egyptian Room, Case A, and the fragments of the coffin in Wall Case No. 1 (No. 6647) in the same room.

3. See Lepsius, Auswahl, Taf. 7.

4. Or suten bat; see Sethe, Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XXVIII., p. 125; and Bd. XXX, p. 113; Max Müller, Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XXX., p. 56; Renouf, Proc. Son Bibl. Arch., 1893, pp. 219, 220; and Lefébure, Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XXXI., p. 114 ff.

5. It seems that we should read this god's name Keb (see Lefébure, Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XXXI., p. 12 5); for the sake of uniformity the old name is here retained.]

{p. xxi}

em ren-s en seta pet ertat-nes un-k em neter

in her name of "mystery of heaven," she granteth that thou mayest exist as a god

an xeft-k suten net Men-kau-Ra anx t'etta

without thy foes, O King of the North and South, Men-kau-Ra, living for ever!

Now it is to be noted that the passage, "Thy mother Nut spreadeth herself over thee in her name of 'Mystery of Heaven,' she granteth that thou mayest be without enemies," occurs in the texts which are inscribed upon the pyramids built by the kings of the VIth dynasty,[1] and thus we have evidence of the use of the same version of one religious text both in the IVth and in the VIth dynasties.[2]

Even if we were to admit that the coffin is a forgery of the XXVIth dynasty, and that the inscription upon it was taken from an edition of the text of the Book of the Dead, still the value of the monument as an evidence of the antiquity of the Book of the Dead is scarcely impaired, for those who added the inscription would certainly have chosen it from a text of the time of Mycerinus.

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