« PreviousContinue »
to mummies that had been heaped up in the rock-hewn tombs behind Akhmîm, but the greater number were found in a box with several small rolls of papyrus inscribed in demotic. There were no mummies in the tomb in which they were found, and it is possible that they represent the transactions of some Mummy Transport Agency, and were preserved by the successive agents for reference. The labels and the inscriptions on them have little historical interest, for the Greek inscriptions only record the names, ages, and dates of the deaths of a number of artisans, merchants and officials of quite humble station in life. The demotic inscriptions often contain prayers, either that the deceased persons may receive funerary offerings, or that their souls may appear before Osiris-Seker and be numbered among the souls of those who are his followers. Such inscriptions suggest that the mummies to which the labels had been attached had been despatched to Abydos and buried there. But philologically the labels are of great importance, especially those which are bilingual, for they supply a mass of information about the Graecized forms of Egyptian names, the pronunciation of the language, etc. The collection of mummy labels made by Dr. Forrer is described and translated by Spiegelberg, Aegyptische und Griechische Eigennamen aus Mumienetiketten der Römischen Kaiserzeit, Leipzig, 1901. The Berlin Collection is published by Krebs, "Griechische Mumienetikette aus Aegypten" in Aeg. Zeit., Bd. XXXII, 1904, p. 37; and a comprehensive selection of the collection in the British. Museum has been published and translated, with notes and explanatory introduction by H. R. Hall, in Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch., Vol. XXVII, 1905, pp. 13-20, 48-56, 83-91, 115-122, 159–165. Descriptions of other important collections will be found in Revillout, "Planchettes bilingues trouvées à Sohag," in Rev. Ég., tom. VI, pp. 43-45, 100-101; tom. VII, 29–38; Wessely, Holztäfelchen der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, Bd. V, 11 (1892); and Le Blant, "Tablai Égyptiennes," Rev. Arch., New Series, tom. XVIII, 1875.
THE BOOK OF THE DEAD
IN modern Egyptological works the writers, when they speak of the "Book of the Dead," are referring in reality to one Recension of one only of the Books of the Dead that were known to the Egyptians, and that one is the Theban Recension of the great collection of religious and magical texts which the Egyptians called "Chapters of Coming Forth by (or in) the Day,"
and which was compiled under the XVIIIth dynasty. The oldest collection of Egyptian religious texts known is found inscribed on the walls of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids of Unas, Teta, Pepi I, Merenrā and Pepi II, kings of the Vth and VIth dynasties at Sakkârah. The texts are all hieroglyphic, and many of the sections, or paragraphs, were copied from a very much
older collection of texts of a similar character, which were divided into Chapters. Unfortunately, none of the Chapters of this older collection has come down to us, and therefore it is useless to speculate as to its origin and age and authorship. But it is fair to assume that the Chapters that were repeated on the walls of the pyramids of the kings named above represented substantially the beliefs of the Egyptians of the Vth and VIth dynasties concerning the dead, and continuity of religious thought in the higher classes of Egyptians at least. The collection of texts in the royal pyramids is now commonly known as the Pyramid Texts. They were discovered more or less by accident. Until the time of Mariette's Directorship of the Service of Antiquities of Egypt it was generally assumed, though why it is hard to say, that pyramids never contained inscriptions. Determining to test this theory, Mariette ordered the pyramids of Sakkarah to be opened, and the discovery of the Pyramid Texts was the result. It is one of the ironies of fate that this great excavator of the Serapeum and of the finest temples in Egypt died without knowing the contents and importance of the texts that he had brought to light. After Mariette's death the excavation of the pyramids was continued by Maspero, with the generous financial help of Mr. J. M. Cook, of Messrs. Thos. Cook and Sons. Maspero directed E. Brugsch Bey to make paper "squeezes " of the inscriptions in the pyramids, a work that was attended with dire results as far as the green paste inlay of the hieroglyphs was concerned; when these were ready he began to publish the texts in the Recueil des Travaux, with translations of them in French. The text of Unas appeared in tom. III, pp. 177-224 and tom. IV, pp. 41-78; that of Tetà in tom. V, pp. 1-60, and the texts of Pepi I, Merenrā and Pepi II in tom. VII, pp. 145-176, tom. VIII, pp. 87-110, tom. IX, pp. 177-190, tom. X, pp. 1-28, tom. XI, pp. 1-30, tom. XII, pp. 53-95, 136-195 and tom. XIV. These sections were reprinted by him and appeared in a single volume entitled Les Inscriptions des Pyramides de Saqqarah, Paris, 1894. The translations made by Maspero showed that he possessed an unrivalled knowledge of the Egyptian language, and his faculty of divining the meanings of hapax legomena and the general significance of the darkest passages in the texts was almost uncanny; they represent one of the greatest triumphs of Egyptian decipherment. Some ten years later the paper squeezes in the Berlin Museum were carefully examined by K. Sethe, who prepared an edition of the Pyramid Texts, which appeared under the title Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte nach der Papierabdrucken und Photographien des Berliner Museums, 2 vols., 1908-10, Leipzig 4to. Supplementary volumes (III and IV) containing indexes, epigraphical notes, etc., were published by him in 1922; his long-promised translation1 has not, it seems, appeared.
1 A French translation has been attempted by Louis Speleers, Les Textes des Pyramides Égyptiennes, Vol. I, Brussels, 1923.
The second great collection of religious and magical texts was compiled under the Middle Kingdom, and many Chapters of it are found written in cursive hieroglyphs, or a kind of hieratic, on the rectangular wooden coffins of the XIth and XIIth dynasties. A considerable number of these are versions, more or less complete, of Chapters of the Pyramid Texts, but side by side with these are many Chapters that were composed at a later period. These represent beliefs and ideas of a religious character that were unknown to the Egyptians under the Vth and VIth dynasties, and they prove that a very considerable development of religious thought had taken place in the minds of the people since the Pyramid Texts were compiled. The Pyramid Texts were intended to benefit not the dead Egyptians in general, but their kings only; none of the maṣṭabah tombs contains copies of any of their Chapters, and no relatives of any Erpā or Ḥa or Smer, however important, imagined for one moment that their departed kinsman could or would share in the Tuat the greatness and glory of the kings of Egypt, or that the Pyramid Texts could be made to apply to him. On the other hand, the Texts of the Middle Kingdom might be used to benefit any and every dead person whose kinsfolk could afford to have them cut upon the walls of his tomb or written upon his coffin. In the oldest copies of the Pyramid Texts Ra is represented as paramount in heaven, but in the latest Osiris is the lord of heaven, and king and judge of the dead, and in this character he appears in the Texts of the Middle Kingdom. The spirits and souls of dead kings in heaven were now obliged to share their domain with the spirits and souls of such nobles and officials of high rank as succeeded in satisfying Osiris and his Tchatchau, or Assessors, in the Judgment when hearts were weighed in the Balance of Truth. No edition of the Texts of the Middle Kingdom has appeared as yet, but a good idea of their contents may be gathered from the following works: Lepsius, Aelteste Texte des Todtenbuchs, Berlin, 1867, 4to.; Birch, Coffin of Amamu, London, 1886; and the copy of Wilkinson's transcript from a coffin of the Middle Kingdom (which has disappeared), published by Budge in Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, First Series, Plates XXXIX-XLVIII, London, 1910. And a long series of hieroglyphic transcripts from the texts of the magnificent painted wooden sarcophagi and coffins from Al-Barshah in Upper Egypt, now preserved in the Museum in Cairo, was published by Lacau in Maspero's Recueil des Travaux (Textes Religieux), tomm. XXVIXXXIII. Transcripts of another group of Chapters from the tomb of Herḥetep in Cairo were published by Maspero in Mémoires de la Mission Archéologique, tom. I, pp. 136-144.
We have seen that the first and oldest collection of religious and magical texts, i.e., the Pyramid Texts, which were written for the exclusive use and benefit of dead kings, was inscribed upon the walls of the chambers and corridors in hieroglyphs; and that the second
collection of such texts, which were written for the benefit of nobles and officials of high rank, was written on rectangular coffins in cursive hieroglyphs or hieratic; and we may now add that the third collection of such texts was written upon rolls of papyrus, first of all in hieroglyphs, and at a later period in hieratic also. The home of this third collection was Thebes, and it is therefore known as the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead, or the Chapters of Coming Forth by Day." The total number of the Chapters that are now known is about 190. A few of them are derived directly from the Pyramid Texts, several of them are versions of Chapters found among the Texts of the Middle Kingdom, and the remaining Chapters are of Theban origin, and illustrate the great development that had taken place in the minds of the Egyptians concerning religious matters and eschatology in general. The whole work was believed to have been composed by Thoth, the personification of the mind of the Creator, the keeper of the words of the gods, and the inventor of writing. The Theban Recension, or the Book of the Dead, as it is now called, has been described as a collection of spells, but the description is misleading and inadequate. It does contain a large number of hekau,
or mighty words of power, which were written to enable the deceased to supply himself with everything he needed in the Tuat, or Other World, and to journey successfully to the realm of Osiris, and to overcome every enemy that might attempt to kill or injure him or to impede his progress. Besides these it contained a number of spells that would enable him to take the form of certain animals, birds and reptiles, and even of some of the gods, whenever it was necessary for him to do so. But all these spells and formulas were the products of beliefs held in bygone ages, and were only retained as the result of the innate ultra-conservatism of the Egyptians. No text that was thought to be of the least use for preserving their bodies or souls was ever abandoned entirely. The Book of the Dead proves beyond all doubt that from the time of the Middle Kingdom the Egyptians believed in the Last Judgment, and that the future of a man's soul in the Other World depended upon the manner of life that he had led upon earth. The soul of the sinner was annihilated, and the soul of the righteous man entered into everlasting life. The Assessors of Osiris, who were incorruptible and strictly just and impartial, weighed the hearts of men in the Great Balance, and the final decision of Osiris was in accordance with the finding of Thoth, the personification of truth and eternal justice. So important was this weighing of the heart that a picture of the Judgment Scene was attached to the great rolls of papyrus upon which the Book of the Dead was written, and this and the texts that accompany it form the chief characteristic of the Theban Recension of the great papyri written under