Fragment from the Book of the Dead

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A fragment from the bandages of a mummy showing inscriptions and figures which come from the Book of the Dead. We find two clearly differentiated registers. The upper one shows three figures, a sphinx and two seated deities with a corpse wrapped in a shroud, all of whom would appear in the voyage of the deceased to the Other World. In the lower register there figure three lines of hieratic script, a cursive rendition of hieroglyphics.

This fragment could come from chapters 9, 17 and 15 of the Book of the Dead:
- A formula to open the cave.
- The beginning of the transfigurations and glorifications, from the exit from the world of the dead to the return to it.
- The worship of a god N according to distinct versions that exist which, in this case, cannot be specified.

Although this is a small fragment, the name of the owner, Kha-hep, and of his mother, Renpet-nefret, can be made out. This fragment comes from a roll of bandage which is conserved in University College in London. n. 32399 and n. 32414, as well as in Vienna in the National Library, Aeg. 8341.

The bandages on mummies were generally decorated with spells and, at times, with sketches from the Book of the Dead, so as to offer the wished-for magical protection to the deceased. The practice of placing these inscribed bandages directly on the corpse was essential to ensure access to the Other World.

The Book of the Dead is the modern name for a funerary text of Ancient Egypt which was used from the beginnings of the New Kingdom. The original Egyptian name is conventionally translated by Egyptologists as the “Book of the Break of Day”. The text consisted of a series of magic spells destined to help the deceased get successfully past the judgement of Osiris, to assist them in their voyage through the Duat, the Underworld, and travel to Aaru, in the other life.

This small strip of material has been made from material of a high quality and belongs to a group of well-known objects known as Inscribed Mummy Bandages. The original beige colour has become discoloured to a darker brown. The two extremes ends of the piece of bandage are cut irregularly. The images and the inscription have been made in black ink, made from soot mixed with gelatine, glue and beeswax.

Most examples of the Book of the Dead from the Late and Greco-Roman Periods have been written on papyrus, but from the 5th Century BC onwards, the formulas of this funerary text were also inscribed on mummy bandages, a practice that began in the city of Memphis.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- Le Livre des Morts des anciens Egyptien. Traducción de Paul Barguet. Littérature ancienne du Proche-Orient - L.A.P.O. 1967.
- Budge, Wallis. El Libro de los Muertos. Papiro de Ani. Sirio. 2007.
- KEMP, Barry J. Como leer el Libro de los Muertos. Crítica. 2007.

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