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BOOK OF THE DEAD

Egypt
Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332-30 B.C.
Papyrus and ink
30.0 cm H, 72.0 cm W (scene pictured)
Gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, 1919
OIM 10486

The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells, hymns, and prayers intended to secure for the deceased safe passage to and sojourn in the other world. The sections of papyrus on display to the left and right are from one of these long scrolls, which was cut into fifteen sections in modern times.

The illustration to the left shows the judgement of the soul before Osiris, the god of the dead, who determines the deceased's worthiness to enter the next life by assessing his earthly deeds. The heart of Yartiuerow (the deceased) is being weighed in the balance against the feather of the goddess Maat, representing truth and justice. The jackal-god Anubis tips the balance in Yartiuerow's favor while the falcon-headed god Horus looks on and the ibis-headed Thoth, the secretary of the gods, records the favorable verdict. Yartiuerow himself stands on the right, his hands raised in jubilation, accompanied by the goddess Maat. Before him is a monster-part hippopotamus, part crocodile, and part lion- which would have annihilated him had the judgement been unfavorable.

The title of the Book of the Dead and its method of use are stated in the horizontal line at the top of the section exhibited to the right: "Beginning of the spells for going forth by day which raise the glorious ones (i.e., the dead) in the cemetery. To be said on the day of burial of entering in after going forth, by Osiris Yartiuerow, deceased." The vignette below shows part of the funeral procession. The sledge bearing the coffin is drawn by oxen. Two smaller sledges, each drawn by a man, follow. The one behind the coffin bears the canopic box containing the four jars in which the viscera were preserved. On its lid lies a figure of the mortuary god Anubis in jackal form.


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Revised: November 12, 1997
Copyright 2006 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
http://oi.uchicago.edu