Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes)

Period:
Early Ptolemaic Period
Date:
ca. 332–200 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt; Probably from Middle Egypt, Meir
Medium:
Papyrus, ink
Dimensions:
Approximate measurements (framed): L. 219 m (71 ft. 10 3/16 in); H. 35 cm (1 ft. 1 3/4 in.). Length previously estimated at 63 ft. (192 m).
Credit Line:
Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1935
Accession Number:
35.9.20a–w
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 134
An Egyptian Book of the Dead is a compilation of incantations, spells, and prayers designed to assure the deceased admittance to the Hereafter, a good existence after death, and protection from evil powers such as serpents, crocodiles, and various demons. Beginning in Dynasty 18 a papyrus roll containing a selection of these spells was placed in the owner's tomb, usually either within a statuette of Osiris or within the coffin.
This hieratic papyrus, which is arranged in a series of columns to be read from right to left, contains over 100 spells from the Book of the Dead (known to the ancient Egyptians as Coming Forth by Day). A continuous frieze of vignettes along the top, as well as larger drawings filling the height of the papyrus, illustrate or subsitute for individual incantations.
This papyrus, along with a second (35.9.21a–o), belonged to the Priest Who Supports The Body of Horus, Imouthes (Imhotep), the son of Psintaes (Pshentehe). His mother was a Musician of Hathor, Lady of Cusae (Meir), Tjehenet. Since the family held priestly offices in Middle Egypt, where Imhotep's coffin was found, the two papyri probably come from his burial.
Excerpts from the text:

Spell 1*: jr Sd mDA.t tn Hr-tp tA jw=f jr s(t) m zXA.w Hr qrs(.t) jw=f pr=f m hrw nb n mr.t=f anx=f Hr-tp tA nn Sna.tw=f...

As for the one who recites this text upon earth or makes it in writing upon burial, he can go forth on any day as he wishes, living upon earth without being turned back...

Spell 9: j bA aA-Sf.yt mk Wsjr jy-m-Htp pn mAa xrw jw(.w) wbA=f dwA.t mAA=f it=f Ra sHri n=f kkw ntf mr{wt}=f... wn (n)=f wA.t nb.t jm.j(.t) p.t jm.j(.t) tA...j nTr nb nTr.t nb(.t) jr n=f wA.t

O Ba great of awe, behold, this Osiris Imhotep true of voice has come, so that he may open the netherworld and see his father, Re, having driven away darkness. It is he whom he loves... Open for him every way that is in heaven and on earth...O every god and every goddess, make way for him.

Spell 17: jnk nTr aA xpr Ds=f mw pw Nw.w jt nTr.w

ptr jr=f sw nTr aA xpr Ds=f pw Nw.w jt nTr.w

ky Dd Ra pw qmA rn=f m nb xr nTr.w

ptr jr=f sw ra pw qmA Ha.w=f xpr nn nTr.w jm.jw-xt Ra...

jnk sf rx.kw dwA.w

ptr jr=f sw jr sf Wsjr jr dwA.w Ra pw hrw pf n Htm sbj.w n.w nb-r-Dr Hna sp.n.tw=f sA=f Hr.w

I am the great god who came into being of himself. It is water. (It is) Nun, the father of the gods.

Who is it then? Nun is the great god who came into being of himeslf, father of the gods.

Another saying It is Re who created his name as lord before the gods

Who is it then? It is Re who created his body, when these gods who are in the following of Re came into being...

I am yesterday and I know tomorrow.

Who is it then? As for yesterday - (it is) Osiris. As for tomorrow - it is Re on that day in which the rebels against the Lord of All were destoryed, as he - his son Horus - was appointed.

Spell 18: j DHwtj smAa-xrw wsjr r xft.jw=f smAa=k xrw wsjr jy-m-Htp ms(.w) n THn.t tn mAa(.t)-xrw r xft.jw=f mj smAa=k xrw wsjr r xft.jw=f m-bAH DADA.t aA.t jm.jw Dd.w grH pf n saHa Dd m DD.w

jr DADA.t aA.t jm.jw Dd.w wsjr As.t nb.t-Hw.t Hrw pw nD-Hr-jt=f wsjr

jr saHa Dd m Dd.w qaH(.w) pw n.tt Hr.w xnt.j xm jw sn HA wsjr {mrH} n Hbs

O Thoth justifier of Osiris against his enemies, may you justify Osiris Imhotep born of this Tjehenet true of voice against his enemies like you justify Osiris against his enemies before the great tribunal which is in Djedu (Busiris) on that night of erecting the Djed-pillar

As for the great tribunal which is in Djedu - it is Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and this Horus protector of his father, Osiris.

As for the erecting of the Djed-pillar in Djedu - it is the forearms of Horus, foremose of Khem, being around Osiris like binds of cloth.

Spell 32: k(y) r' n Hsf msH.w jy r jT(.t) jb n wsjr Hr.w-Dsr-Ha.w jy-m-Htp pn mAa-xrw jr. n nb.t-pr THn.t mAa-xrw m Xr.t-nTr Dd mdw jn wsjr jy-m-Htp pn mAa-xrw sA n pA-Sri-n-tA-jH.t pb mAa xrw ms n THn.t mAa(.t)-xrw

xr wr Hr gs=f sAq s(w) psD.t=f jy bA Hna jt=f nHm=f wr pn m-a msH.w jptn jnk jw=j rx=kw st m rn=sn Hna anx=sn jnk nHm jt=f m-a=sn

HA=k anx m jxm-wrD jw bw.t=k m X.t=i am.n=j m wsr.t wsjr...

Another spell for repelling the crocodiles that come to steal the heart of this Osiris Horus who Sanctifies the Body Imhotep true of voice born of mistress of the house, Tjehenet, true of voice in the god's land. Words spoken by this Osiris Imhotep true of voice son of Pasherientaihet true of voice born of Tjehenet true of voice:

The great one fell on his side, but his Ennead has pulled him together. The ba has come with his father, while he saves this great one from these crocodiles. As for me, I know them by their names and by (that on which) the live. I am the one who saves his father from them.

Get back! one who lives (feeds) on the circumpolar stars. Your abomination is in my belly, having swollen from the power of Osiris...

* Text written in red ink is represnted here with bold font

Niv Allon 2015
Purchased in Cairo in 1923 by Albert Lythgoe for Edward S. Harkness. Loaned to the Museum in 1924. Donated to the Museum with the Harkness Collection, 1935.

Phillips, Dorothy W. 1942. Ancient Egyptian Animals, Picture Books (Metropolitan Museum of Art), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 27.

Glubok, Shirley 1962. The Art of Ancient Egypt. New York: Atheneum, p. 47.

Logan, Thomas J. 1978. "Varia Metropolitana II." In Göttinger Miszellen: Beitrage zur Ägyptologischen Diskussion, 27, pp. 33-35.

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