Surely one of the most evocative titles ascribed to an ancient text, the Egyptian Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text. Created sometime around the beginning of Egypt’s New Kingdom the text was in active use to around 50 BCE.Written by a succession of priests over a period of approximately 1,000 years the Book of the Dead was one of a series of sacred manuals serving the needs of the spirits of the elite dead to flourish in the afterlife. The text is not a book, as we understand it today. Rather, it is a collection of spells intended to assist a newly departed soul to navigate the perils the Egyptians associated with their Duat or afterlife.1. The Egyptian Book of the Dead is not a single book and was not written by a single person. It is actually a collection of text written down over centuries.2. Since the texts were written over hundreds of years, different texts have different authors.3. The original text was known as ‘pert em hru’ (according to Encyclopedia) or ‘rw nw prt m hrw’ (according to Wikipedia) in Egyptian which literally translates into either ‘manifested in the light’ or ‘coming forth by day’.4. Over centuries, several texts were appended and modified by Egyptian priests, eventually totaling to 200 chapters.5. None of the chapters in the book are related. They are completely independent. Interestingly none of the chapters are complete because the papyri from which the texts were collected were not found complete.6. Originally written in hieratic script or hieroglyphic, the Book of the Dead is actually a collection of magical spells that were supposed to help the dead pass safely through the underworld and eventually emerge into the afterlife.7. The book or preferably called, the collection of texts was used during the New Kingdom’s beginning (somewhere in 1550 BCE) but, the whole collection was actually developed through thousands of years before that.8. In fact, the tradition of using funerary text started back in Old Kingdom and the first ever funerary text were the Pyramid Texts first seen in around 2400 BCE in pyramid of the 5th dynasty king – King Unas.
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