Previous page Page 0 of 0  
Index |  History |  Highlights |  WhatWhenWhere

Bookmark and Share
The Book of the Dead

From about 1500 BC the custom develops of placing an illustrated scroll of papyrus in or near the coffin in Egyptian tombs - a cheaper (but it is to be hoped equally effective) version of the full-scale murals and inscriptions in royal tombs.

Each papyrus, or 'book of the dead', follows the same pattern, providing the sacred texts required for the journey into the next world and depicting the stages of the dead person's progress.


A standard scene in books of the dead is the weighing of the soul. In a particularly beautiful papyrus of about 1300 BC (found in the tomb of Hunefer, a royal scribe) Hunefer is led into the scene by Anubis, a god identified by his jackal's head. Anubis then balances the scales which will weigh Hunefer's heart on the left against the feather of truth on the right. The crocodile-headed beast is hoping to eat the heart and so ruin Hunefer's chances of a future life. He looks up to where another god, Thoth with his ibis head, notes down the result of the weigh-in.

Luckily the crocodile beast is frustrated. Hunefer passes the test, and is led away to the next stage of the journey by falcon-headed Horus.


Previous page Page 0 of 0  
Up to top of page BOOK OF THE DEAD