The Book of the Dead Egyptian is probably one of the best known ancient texts to the general public, if only by name. Discovering these writings on intact papyri in a funerary context is something rare, and above all valuable for research. Following a complete restoration, a 16-meter-long copy was discovered in a tomb at the foot of the Pyramid of Djoser at the Saqqara site. If the excavation of the site dates back to 2022, the restoration work on this papyrus from 50 BC was completed in early 2023.
The Book of the Dead is actually called Book for going out, and the texts that can be found there make it possible to better understand the stakes of the great post-mortem journey of the ancient Egyptians. It is in a tomb, near a deceased, that a new copy of this text, 16 meters long, was discovered in 2022. If the size of this papyrus may surprise, some can measure more than 30 meters long. ! Already in 2022, another papyrus of this type was discovered on the site, but its size was less and it was fragmented. This finding is therefore important for research.
The Book of the Dead, quite an adventure
Yes Book for going out proves so important to understand the thought of the ancient Egyptians, it is that we find there information and magic formulas for the great journey following death. We know that the preparation of death and death are important moments in the thought of these times, hence the many mummifications that can be found during the Egyptian dynasties. the Book of the Dead is a work that will physically accompany the deceased, since it will be personalized for the most fortunate and slipped next to the remains. It is a book that also aims to accompany the deceased spiritually in the trials that await him once deceased. During this trip, he will meet divinities, pass tests including the weighing of the heart to become a Ah, a blessed spirit. Note that the formulas can also be found on other media in the ancient Egyptian world.
Rare complete copies
Such a discovery arouses interest in the Egyptological community, since the texts of these collections are still being studied. It had been a hundred years since a discovery of this type had taken place. On the one hand, the complete papyri or the imposing size of the Book of the Dead are rare. We know them mostly fragmented, a legacy of the 19the century, where some copies were broken up to allow the sale of several pieces. Lost at the whim of private collections, it is all the work of researchers and curators to bring them together when they come out into the light of day.
It is important to remember that before we could decipher the hieroglyphs, we were simply unable to know what the texts were about with this writing system as well as its cursives, the hieratic and the demotic. It is therefore not surprising that adventurers and other antique dealers of the past were responsible for these unfortunate cutouts. Moreover, the first translation dates from 1842, and it is the work of the German Egyptologist, Karl Richard Lepsius.
Carefully monitored works
In the museum setting, copies of the Book of the Dead are given special attention. There is a collection of Egyptian papyri at the National Library of France which have been digitized, to the delight of the public. At the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Switzerland, a copy of the Book of the Dead has been carefully restored over several years, its presentation to the public took place in 2022 during two special days before joining the secure reserves of the site. Other museums around the world keep copies of the papyri, like the British Museum. This new copy dating from the Ptolemaic period should eventually join one of the Egyptian collections.
The authorities have not yet announced who is the owner of the last discovered papyri, since these are often personalized. In addition, no images have yet been presented to the press. Announcements which should in principle not take long to reach us through the press.
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