Egyptian Book of the Dead Online

Pharaonic Roll no. 8, a 6th century BCE Egyptian Book of the Dead and one of the oldest books in the Princeton University Library, has just been re-released as part of “Treasures of the Manuscripts Division,” in the PUDL (Princeton University Digital Library), here. It was originally digitized in the late 1990s as part of the APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System) Consortium Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Pharaonic Roll no. 8 is actually comprised of two complete rolls of the Saite recension of the Book of the Dead, including chapters 67–165. The rolls measure 28.5 cm (height) x 1160.0 cm (total length). Written in Hieratic script, a simplified version of Hieroglyphics, the text contain contains hymns, prayers, spells, magical formulae, and images to guide and protect the deceased through the netherworld. Among the accompanying vignettes in black ink are the Weighing of the Heart and the Elysian Fields. The rolls are made of linen cloth, far less common than papyrus for funerary texts placed in the coffins with the mummy. The Saite recension is the standardized version of this ancient Egyptian funerary text and remained in use, with some changes, from the 26th Dynasty or Saite Period (ca. 685–525 BCE) through the Ptolemaic Period (323–30 BCE).

This Book of the Dead includes the name of the owner, Hekaemsaf (or Heka-m-saf), whose mother was Tinetmehenet; and of its royal scribe Ankh-hetep, son of Nefer-en-Shepet. Hekaemsaf was an Egyptian naval officer who served as Chief of the Royal Ships under Pharaoh Amasis II [or Ahmose II] (570–526 BCE), 26th Dynasty. The Chief of Royal Ships was then also responsible administratively for the taxation of goods transported on the River Nile. In 1904, the intact tomb of Hekaesaf was discovered at Saqqara, the necropolis of the ancient capital of Memphis, located about 30 kilometers southeast of Cairo. A total of 401 blue-green faience shabti (ushabti, shawabti) funerary figures or statuettes of Hekaesaf were excavated from his tomb, some of which are preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other leading museums with Egyptology collections. The beaten-gold mask and embroidered covering for Hekaemsaf’s mummy is preserved in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. On 8 August 1928, the British coin and antiquities dealer Spink & Son, Ltd. (King Street, St. James, London) offered this Book of the Dead for sale to Robert Garrett (1875–1961), Princeton Class of 1897. He was then staying at Bisham Abbey, a historic English manor house in Berkshire. The next day, Garrett agreed to purchase the Book of the Dead for £700, which was payable in monthly installments. At the time of purchase, the two linen rolls had already been mounted on ten cardboard strips, as they have remained to the present. Pharaonic Roll no 8 was part of Garrett’s 1942 donation of his manuscript collection to the Princeton University Library. Garrett was the donor of nearly all the Pharaonic rolls in the Manuscripts Division. They are in the Robert Garrett Collection (C0744), but housed with the Princeton Papyri Collections. For descriptions of other Pharaonic rolls, as well as the rest of Princeton’s collections of papyri, go to the Princeton University Library Papyrus Home Page, at www.princeton.edu/papyrus/

Re-release of the images in the PUDL takes advantage of the increased speed and zoom capacity of Loris, an image server that implements the IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) Image API, developed at the Princeton University Library by Jon P. Stroop, Digital Initiatives Programmer/Analyst; and OpenSeadragon, an open-source JavaScript library for displaying large tiled images and creating a “slippy” deep-zoom experience in web browsers. OpenSeadragon was originally developed in Princeton by Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Princeton Class of 1998.

For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts: dcskemer@princeton.edu

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