Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imouthes (Imhotep)

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
350–250 B.C.
From Egypt, Middle Egypt, Meir (Mir)
Papyrus, ink
h. 35.2 x w. 1930.4 cm (13 7/8 x 760 in.) approximately based on sum of sections; originally a continuous roll about 72 feet long
Credit Line:
Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1935
Accession Number:
  • Description

    An Egyptian Book of the Dead is a compilation of incantations 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 (35.9.19a–o), belonged to the Priest Who Supports The Body of Horus, Imouthes (Imhotep), the son of Psintaes (Pshentehe). His mother was the Musician of Hathor, Lady of Cusae (Meir), Tjehne. Since the family held priestly offices at Meir, where Imhotep's coffin was found, the two papyri probably come from this Middle Egyptian town.

  • Provenance

    Purchased in Cairo in 1923 by Edward S. Harkness. Loaned to the Museum in 1924. Donated to the Museum with the Harkness Collection, 1935.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History