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. On the right of the piece we can observe the image of the deceased onaboat and harpooning an animal. Even with the loss of detail, we can know that this creature is a snake. The central area of the fragment is made up of seven horizontal lines of hieratic script. And finally, on the left, the image of the deceased appears offering prayers to Osiris.

The image of worship corresponds to Chapter 18 of the “introduction” in which the deceased presents himself beofe Osiris to the great divine Ennead. The other scene corresponds to Chapter 39 in which the deceased must fight off the serpent, Renek, in the Kingdom of the Dead. In contrast, the text makes reference to Chapters 38B and V39, which consist of the formula to live from the breath of life in the Reign of the Dead as well as that previously mentioned.

Although this is a small fragment, certain elements can be distinguished which enable us to knw the name of the owner, Nefer-ib-pa-Ra, who has the priestly title of father of the God, priest of the lady of the Sycamore. It also mentions the name of the mother: Nefer-Sobek. The fragment comes from two strips of linen from mummies conserved in the Antwerp Museum, inv. 4941, M. E. Philadelphia 430 B and Uppsala Museum VM MB 224.

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 EGIPCIO DE LOS MUERTOS. EL PAPIRO DE ANI. Sirio. 2007.
- KEMP, Barry J. Como leer el Libro de los Muertos. Crítica. 2007.

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