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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, 09:58:17 pm »

The Book of the Dead in the Vth dynasty.

In the Vth dynasty we have--in an increased number of mastabas and other monuments--evidence of the extension of religious ceremonials, including the

[1. See the texts of Teta and Pepi I. in Maspero, Recueil de Travaux, t. V., pp. 20, 38 (ll. 175, 279), and pp. 165, T73 (ll. 60, 103), etc.

2. So far back as 1883, M. Maspero, in lamenting (Guide du Visiteur de Boulaq, p. 310) the fact that the Bûlâq Museum possessed only portions of wooden coffins of the Ancient Empire and no complete example, noticed that the coffin of Mycerinus, preserved in the British Museum, had been declared by certain Egyptologists to be a "restoration" of the XXVIth dynasty, rather than the work of the IVth dynasty, in accordance with the inscription upon it; but like Dr. Birch he was of opinion that the coffin certainly belonged to the IVth dynasty, and adduced in support of his views the fact of the existence of portions of a similar coffin of Seker-em-sa-f, a king of the VIth dynasty. Recently, however, an attempt has again been made (Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XXX., p. 94 ff.) to prove by the agreement of the variants in the text on the coffin of Mycerinus with those of texts of the XXVIth dynasty, that the Mycerinus text is of this late period, or at all events not earlier than the time of Psammetichus. But it is admitted on all hands that in the XXVIth dynasty the Egyptians resuscitated texts of the first dynasties of the Early Empire, and that they copied the arts and literature of that period as far as possible, and, this being so, the texts on the monuments which have been made the standard of comparison for that on the coffin of Mycerinus may be themselves at fault in their variants. If the text on the cover could be proved to differ as much from an undisputed IVth dynasty text as it does from those even of the VIth dynasty, the philological argument might have some weight; but even this would not get rid of the fact that the cover itself is a genuine relic of the IVth dynasty.]

{p. xxii}

Evidence of the texts of the pyramid of Unas.

celebration of funeral rites; but a text forming the Book of the Dead as a whole does not occur until the reign of Unas (B.C. 3333), the last king of the dynasty, who according to the Turin papyrus reigned thirty years. This monarch built on the plain of Sakkâra a stone pyramid about sixty-two feet high, each side measuring about two hundred feet at the base. In the time of Perring and Vyse it was surrounded by heaps of broken stone and rubbish, the result of repeated attempts to open it, and with the casing stones, which consisted of compact limestone from the quarries of Tura.[1] In February, 1881, M. Maspero began to clear the pyramid, and soon after he succeeded in making an entrance into the innermost chambers, the walls of which were covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions, arranged in perpendicular lines and painted in green.[2] The condition of the interior showed that at some time or other thieves had already succeeded in making an entrance, for the cover of the black basalt sarcophagus of Unas had been wrenched off and moved near the door of the sarcophagus chamber; the paving stones had been pulled up in the vain attempt to find buried treasure; the mummy had been broken to pieces, and nothing remained of it except the right arm, a tibia, and some fragments of the skull and body. The inscriptions which covered certain walls and corridors in the tomb were afterwards published by M. Maspero.[3] The appearance of the text of Unas[4] marks an era in the history of the Book of the Dead, and its translation must be regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of Egyptological decipherment, for the want of determinatives in many places in the text, and the archaic spelling of many of the words and passages presented difficulties which were not easily overcome.[6] Here, for the first time, it was shown that the Book of the Dead was no compilation of a comparatively late period in the history of Egyptian civilization, but a work belonging to a very remote antiquity; and it followed naturally that texts which were then known, and which were thought to be themselves original ancient texts, proved to be only versions which had passed through two or more successive revisions.

[1. Vyse, Pyramids of Gizeh, p. 51

2. Maspero, Recueil de Travaux, t. iii., p. 78.

3. See Recueil de Travaux, t. iii., pp. 177-224; t. iv., pp. 41-78.

4. In 1881 Dr. Brugsch described two pyramids of the VIth dynasty inscribed with religious texts similar to those found in the pyramid of Unas, and translated certain passages (Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd., xix., pp. 1-15); see also Birch in Trans. Son Bibl. Arch., 1881, p. iii ff.

5 The pyramid which bore among the Arabs the name of Mastabat el-Far'ûn, or "Pharaoh's Bench," was excavated by Mariette in 1858, and, because he found the name of Unas painted on certain blocks of stone, he concluded that it was the tomb of Unas. M. Maspero's excavations have, as Dr. Lepsius observes (Aeg. Zeitschrift, Bd. XIX., p. 15), set the matter right.]

{p. xxiii}

The Book of the Dead in the VIth dynasty

Evidence of the text of the pyramid of Teta;

Continuing his excavations at Sakkâra, M. Maspero opened the pyramid Of Teta,[1] king of Egypt about B.C. 3300, which Vyse thought[2] had never been entered, and of which, in his day, the masonry on one side only could be seen. Here again it was found that thieves had already been at work, and that they had smashed in pieces walls, floors, and many other parts of the chambers in their frantic search for treasure. As in the case of the pyramid of Unas, certain chambers, etc., of this tomb were found covered with inscriptions in hieroglyphics, but of a smaller size.[3] A brief examination of the text showed it to be formed of a series of extracts from the Book of the Dead, some of which were identical with those in the pyramid of Unas. Thus was brought to light a Book of the Dead of the time of the first king 4 of the VIth dynasty.

and of the pyramid of Pepi I., Mer-en-Ra, and Pepi II.

The pyramid of Pepi I., king of Egypt about B.C. 3233, was next opened.[5] It is situated in the central group at Sakkâra, and is commonly known as the pyramid of Shêkh Abu-Mansûr.[6] Certain chambers and other parts of the tomb were found to be covered with hieroglyphic texts, which not only repeated in part those which had been found in the pyramids of Unas and Teta, but also contained a considerable number of additional sections of the Book of the Dead.[7] In the same neighbourhood M. Maspero, cleared out the pyramid of Mer-en-Ra, the fourth king of the VIth dynasty, about B.C. 3200;[8] and the pyramid of Pepi II., the fifth king of the VIth dynasty, about B.C. 3166.[9]

[1. The mummy of the king had been taken out of the sarcophagus through a hole which the thieves had made in it; it was broken by them in pieces, and the only remains of it found by M. Maspero consisted of an arm and shoulder. Parts of the wooden coffin are preserved in the Gizeh Museum.

2. The Pyramids of Gizeh, vol. iii., p. 39.

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