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The Major Egyptian Books of the Underworld

Amduat - The Book of the Secret Chamber

The oldest of the royal funerary books is the Amduat. Amduat literally means
"That Which Is In the Afterworld" - is an important Ancient Egyptian funerary
text of the New Kingdom. Like many funerary texts, it was written on the
inside of the tomb for reference by the deceased. Unlike other funerary texts,
however, it was reserved only for pharaohs or very favored nobility.

It tells the story of Re, the sun god, traveling through the underworld, between
the time the sun sets in the west and rises again in the east. It is understood that
the dead pharaoh is taking this same journey, ultimately to unify with the sun
god and become immortal.

The underworld is divided into twelve hours of the night, each presenting
various allies and enemies for the pharaoh/sun god to encounter.

The Amduat names all of these entities, totalling many hundreds of gods and
monsters. In fact, a prime purpose of the Amduat to provide the names of these
creatures to the spirit of the dead pharaoh, so he can call upon them for aid or
use their name to defeat them.

The earliest complete version of the Amduat is found in KV34, the tomb of
Thutmose III in the Valley of the Kings.

Pyramid Texts
The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the
time of the Old Kingdom, mostly inscriptions on the walls of tombs in
pyramids. They depict the Egyptain view of the afterlife, and the ascent into the
sky of the divine Pharaoh after death. They were written upwards of five
thousand years ago; thus, they are some of the oldest known writings in the

The Pyramid Texts are also the oldest collection of religious spells known to us
from ancient Egypt. This collection forms the basis of much of the later
religious theology and literature of ancient Egypt. The passages were
eventually separated and categorized, as well as illustrated and eventually
evolved into the Book of the Dead, or more properly, The Book of the Coming
forth by Day.

The oldest of these text come from that Pyramid of Wenis, or more popularly
these days, Unas at Saqqara. However, the first Pyramid Text that were actually
discovered were from the Pyramid of Pepy I.

This collection forms the basis of much of the later religious theology and
literature of ancient Egypt. From Unas, the last king of the 5th Dynasty,
varying selections of spells were carved in all the royal pyramids of the Old
Kingdom, particularly the sarcophagus chamber and antechamber. There were
some 227 spells in the Pyramid of Unas, and each subsequent pyramid
provided fresh new additions, though no single pyramid contained the whole
collection of spells.

The maximum number was 675 utterances from the pyramid of Pepy II. With
Teti's pyramid, the text also appeared on the sarcophagus itself, and in the
pyramid of Pepy I the inscriptions extend beyond the antechamber. During the
rule of Pepy II we begin to find the text in the tombs of queens, and after the
Old Kingdom, they even appear on the walls and coffins of officials.
Specifically, in the Old Kingdom the text appears in the pyramids of Unas, Tei,
Pepy I, Merenre I, Pepy II and Ibi, along with those of queens Wedjebten,
Neith and Iput.

It is difficult to date the Pyramid Texts. Their origns have aroused much
speculation regarding their origin because they emerge, as a fully-fledged
collection of mortuary texts, without any precedent in the archaeological
record. The fact that the texts are made up of distinct utterances which do not
have a strict narrative sequence linking them together has led scholars to
believe that many of them were not composed specifically for the purpose of
being inscribed in the pyramids but may have had earlier uses. In fact, spells
such as Utterances 273-4, called the Cannibal Hymn, and which only appears in
the Pyramids of Unas and Teti, refer to aspects of the funerary cult that seem to
no longer been in practice at the time the pyramids were built.

Early analysts attempted to date the text as early as possible; even from the
predynastic period. A very early dating of these texts remains a strong
possibility, though today, scholars place the text's origins with the date of the
monuments where they reside. In reality, we have very little idea of the date of
their initial invention, perhaps other than the antiquated language employed.

What might also be called Pyramid Spells, were discovered when Gaston
Maspero was working on the pyramid of Teti. He began publishing translations
of the text as early as 1882, starting with those of Unas. Kurt Sethe also
published pyramid texts in his "Dictionary of the Egyptian Language" in 1899.
In 1924, a further translation was rendered by Louis Spleleers in French.
Gustave Jequier advanced our knowledge of pyramid text considerably during
his investigations in southern Saqqara between 1924 and 1936.

He added many spells from the pyramid of Pepy II, and also discovered the
versions in the pyramids of Wedjebten, Neith, Iput and Ibi. A systematic
investigation of the 6th Dynasty pyramids was initiated by Jean-Philippe
Lauerand Jean Sainte-Fare Garnot in 1951. Later, Lauer teamed with Jean
Leclant to unearth an additional 700 spell fragments from the tomb of Teti and
over 2,000 more from that of Pepy I. In 1952, Samuel A. B. Mercer delivered a
full English translation of the text then known, but that has since been
superseded by a translation of Raymond O. Faulkner. In addition, the extensive
commentaries and translations of Sethe were published after his death,
appearing between 1935 and 1962.

The Pyramid Text differ considerably in length, and were not illustrated.
Individual spells are not titled, with the sole exception of spell 355, the
"Opening the Double Door of the Sky". The individual signs are outlined in
green, hopeful for the regeneration of the deceased. Each column begins with a
notation 'words to be spoken', though in the tomb of Unas this only appears at
the beginning of the composition.

The spells are separated by a hieroglyph for house, in all the pyramids with the
exception Unas, where they are marked by a horizontal line. All together, Sethe
found 714 spells, while Faulkner increased the number to 759, though with
some duplicates. We call these spells, 'utterances', because we believe they
were meant to be spoken by priests in the course of the royal mortuary rituals.
They are usually numbered by their position within the pyramid, progressing
from the burial chamber outward.

We are not really sure in which order the spells are to be read. Sethe started
with the north wall of the sarcophagus chamber, but other scholars such as
Siegfried Schott and Alexandre Piankoff thought they began at the entrance to
the antechamber. There seems no correlation with the text and the four
coordinal points. In fact, considerable debate exists as to their actual use and
the associated rituals, though there seems to be no question of their ritualistic
content. It has been assumed that they were selected from a larger collection of
spells for very specific reasons and arranged according to a distinctive point of

The language, while Old Egyptian, does seem antiquated, displaying

differences from other text of the period, including highly redundant language.
It is the earliest use of what is referred to as retrograde writing, where the
normal sequence of columns is reversed. There is an avoidance of complete
figures of animals and people, believed due to the fear that such signs might
come to life and pose a danger.

The main theme in the Pyramid Texts is the king's resurrection and ascension to
the Afterworld and this is described in many different ways. In some of the
texts, the king boards the sun-boat of Re and passes through different regions in
the sky, encountering many gods. In other texts, the king reaches the sky by
flying up as a bird, such as a falcon or a goose. At other times the king climbs
up the ladder of the sky. What all these texts have in common is an emphasis
on the eternal existence of the king and the location of the sky as the realm of
the Afterlife, which is dominated by the sun-god Re. The night sky is also
described, particularly the imperishable stars.

Generally, the text is supposed to provide services to the deceased king in his
ascent into the sky and with his reception in the world of the divine. Every
possible means is given for this assistance, including a ladder or ramp leading
to the sky, clouds, storms hail, incense and sunlight. The god, Shu, who holds
up the sky is there for his assistance, while the text communicates knowledge to
the pharaoh of the customs and places in the hereafter. It also warns him of
dangers. There are dialogues with gatekeepers and ferryman where the king is
given the specific knowledge that he will need in order to name the correct
names and answer all the questions needed to prove his legitimacy and make
his way though the afterlife.

Many of the locations remain unclear to us, but the Field of Reeds, the Field of
Offerings, the Lake of the Jackal and the Winding Waterway are clearly
important. The waterways of the heavens are navigated by boat, so the king is
dependent on the efforts of his ferryman. Though the afterworld is celestial in
nature, it does not seem to be all that desirable of a place to stay. Not even Re is
happy here, only seemingly able to bear out the time before sunrise when he
could be freed. The king arrives in this realm violently, and then is repeatedly
identified with the creator god Atum.

There are many references to various problems such as repelling the attacks of
various supernatural beings and we find, for example in spell 244, the
"smashing of the red pots" specifically intended to annihilate one's enemies.
But more mundane topics are also approached. On earth, the king had needed a
boat to travel throughout Egypt along the Nile; in the next world, he would
need a boat as well. Some of the prayers call for food and provisions; some
assert that the king will not lose the power of his limbs, that he will still move,
breathe, eat, and copulate in the next world.

We find an expressed plea for the king to overcome death by entering the
eternal course of the cosmos together with the sun god in his solar barque, but
we also find the king with a strong, general association with Osiris. Here, we
find the earliest known reference to Osiris as the ruler of the underworld. In
spell number 239 this relationship is especially evident, and we find
considerable reference to the Osiris legend. Almost all of the myth's elements
may be found within this text. Osiris' son, Horus, along with Osiris' two sisters,
Isis and Nephthys, search for the murdered god (Osiris). Horus finds his father
and revives him. It also provides a version of the contention of Horus and Seth.

A number of specifically ritualistic text stand out, such as the 'Opening of the
Mouth' ceremony, which to the best of our knowledge is here presented for the
first time. There are also offering and statue rituals.

The Book of the Dead

Book of the Dead is the common name for ancient Egyptian funerary texts
known as The Book of Coming or Going Forth By Day. The name "Book of the
Dead" was the invention of the German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius,
who published a selection of some texts in 1842.

The Books were text initially carved on the exterior of the deceased person's
sarcophagus, but was later written on papyrus now known as scrolls and buried
inside the sarcophagus with the deceased, presumably so that it would be both
portable and close at hand. Other texts often accompanied the primary texts
including the hypocephalus (meaning 'under the head') which was a primer
version of the full text.

Books of the Dead constituted as a collection of spells, charms, passwords,

numbers and magical formulas for the use of the deceased in the afterlife. This
described many of the basic tenets of Egyptian mythology.

They were intended to guide the dead through the various trials that they would
encounter before reaching the underworld. Knowledge of the appropriate spells
was considered essential to achieving happiness after death. Spells or
enchantments vary in distinctive ways between the texts of differing
"mummies" or sarcophagi, depending on the prominence and other class factors
of the deceased.

Books of the Dead were usually illustrated with pictures showing the tests to
which the deceased would be subjected. The most important was the weighing
of the heart of the dead person against Ma'at, or Truth (carried out by Anubis).
The heart of the dead was weighed against a feather, and if the heart was not
weighed down with sin (if it was lighter than the feather) he was allowed to go
on. The god Thoth would record the results and the monster Ammit would wait
nearby to eat the heart should it prove unworthy.

The earliest known versions date from the 16th century BC during the 18th
Dynasty (ca. 1580 BC 1350 BC). It partly incorporated two previous
collections of Egyptian religious literature, known as the Coffin Texts (ca. 2000
BC) and the Pyramid Texts (ca. 2600 BC-2300 BC), both of which were
eventually superseded by the Book of the Dead.

The text was often individualized for the deceased person - so no two copies
contain the same text - however, "book" versions are generally categorized into
four main divisions - the Heliopolitan version, which was edited by the priests
of the college of Annu (used from the 5th to the 11th dynasty and on walls of
tombs until about 200); the Theban version, which contained hieroglyphics
only (20th to the 28th dynasty); a hieroglyphic and hieratic character version,
closely related to the Theban version, which had no fixed order of chapters
(used mainly in the 20th dynasty); and the Saite version which has strict order
(used after the 26th dynasty).

It is notable, that the Book of the Dead for Scribe Ani, the Papyrus of Ani, was
originally 78 Ft, and was separated into 37 sheets at appropriate chapter and
topical divisions.

Papyrus of Ani

This is a beautiful color version of the Papyrus of Ani, one of the books of the
dead which were often buried with the dead person who could afford to have
one written, to ease his/her way into eternal life. Above is a picture from the
book. Ani (man with his wife bowing to the gods), while Anubis weighs his
heart against Maat's feather of truth, and Thoth records the event, and Ammit
the devourer waits patiently. There are several books by E. W. Budge about this
papyrus. But Faulkner's version is better and more beautiful. And, considering
the page after page of beautiful color pictures, this paperback version is
amazingly inexpensive. You may find yourself just sitting and marveling at it
for hours and hours, maybe years and years.

Book of the Dead - Wallace Budge

Archaeologists found this papyrus in the burial of Nany (NAH-nee), a woman

in her seventies. She was a chantress (ritual singer) of the god Amun-Re and is
referred to as "king's daughter" (probably meaning she was daughter of the high
priest of Amun and titular king, Pinodjem I). As was customary during the
Third Intermediate Period, her coffin and boxes of shawabtis (figures of
substitute workers for the afterlife) were accompanied by a hollow wooden
Osiris figure, which contained a papyrus scroll inscribed with a collection of
texts that Egyptologists call the Book of the Dead. The ancient name was the
Book of Coming Forth by Day. It is more than seventeen feet long when
unrolled. The hieroglyphic inscriptions were written by a scribe, and the
illustrations were drawn and painted by an artist.

The scene depicted here shows the climax of the journey to the afterlife. Nany
is in the Hall of Judgment. Holding her mouth and eyes in her hand, she stands
to the left of a large scale. Her heart is being weighed against Maat, the goddess
of justice and truth, who is represented as a tiny figure wearing her symbol, a
single large feather, in her headband. On the right, Osiris, god of the
underworld and rebirth, presides over the scene. He is identified by his tall
crown with a knob at the top, by his long curving beard, his crook, and by his
body, which appears to be wrapped like a mummy except for his hands.

At his back hangs a menat as counterweight for his collar. In front of him is an
offering of a joint of beef. Jackal-headed Anubis, overseer of mummification,
adjusts the scales, while a baboon--symbolizing Thoth, the god of wisdom and
writing - sits on the balance beam and prepares to write down the result. Behind
Nany stands the goddess Isis, both wife and sister of Osiris. She is identified by
the hieroglyph above her head. Nany has been questioned by the tribunal of
forty-two gods about her behavior in life. She has had to answer negatively to
every question asked in this examination, often called the negative confession.

In this scene Nany has been found truthful and therefore worthy of entering the
afterlife. Her heart is not heavier than the image of the goddess of Truth.
Anubis says to Osiris, "Her heart is an accurate witness," and Osiris replies,
"Give her her eyes and her mouth, since her heart is an accurate witness."In the
horizontal register above the judgment scene, Nany appears in three episodes:
worshiping the divine palette with which all is written, praising a statue of
Horus, and standing by her own tomb. Nany had a second papyrus roll with
texts entitled What Is in the Underworld (Amduat) wrapped into her mummy in
the area across her knees.

The Book of the Dead, the ceremonies, rituals and magic were all done in the
hopes that one could reach the Land of the West and a happy afterlife, filled
with good things. To live forever with the gods. To, once more, come forth by
day as a living man would awaken with the sun.

The Coffin Text - The Book of Two Ways

The Coffin Text, which basically superseded the Pyramid Text as magical
funerary spells at the end of the Old Kingdom, are principally a Middle
Kingdom phenomenon, though we may begin to find examples as early as the
late Old Kingdom. In effect, they democratized the afterlife, eliminating the
royal exclusivity of the Pyramid Text.

If the dating of examples in the Dakhla Oasis at the Balat necropolis is correct
(Old Kingdom), these would be the oldest known coffin texts, though we can
be certain of the text found in the First Intermediate Period pyramid of Ibi (8th
Dynasty) at South Saqqara. While examples of the text have been discovered
from the Delta south to Aswan, our major sources of the text are found in the
later necropolises, especially of regional governors (nomarchs), of the 12th
Dynasty, particularly at Asyut, Beni Hasan, Deir el-Bersha, el-Lisht and Meir.

The necropolis which probably yielded the largest number of coffin text spells
was Deir el-Bersha, the necropolis of the ancient city of Hermopolis. By the
end of Egypt's Middle Kingdom, the coffin texts were refined into the corpus of
the Book of the Dead (Book of Coming Forth by Day), though we may
continue to find the spells in burial chambers of the New Kingdom, Third
Intermediate Period and early Late Period. Spells 151, 607 and 625 were
particularly popular during these later times.

Mostly, as the modern name of this collection of spells implies, the text was
found on Middle Kingdom coffins of officials and their subordinates. However,
we may also find the spells inscribed on tomb walls, stelae, canopic chests,
papyri and even mummy masks.

The earliest known research on the coffin text was done by C. R. Lepsius, who
in 1867, published the first copies from coffins that had been removed to
Berlin. Afterwards, there were several publications made of the text from
individual coffins, but between 1904 and 1906, Pierre Lacau published many of
the Middle Kingdom coffins as part of the Cairo Museum's Catalogue generale.
Based on this work, he set out individual spells of the coffin text in a series of
articles entitled, "Texts religieux" in a publication called Receuil de travaux
between 1904 and 1915.

Early on, one part of the coffin text known as the Book of the Two Ways,
received special attention. Found on the floor of the coffin of Sen, Hans
Schack-Schackenburg published this text in 1903 and in 1926, Kees detailed it
in a publication.

Using Lacau's work from the Textes religieux, James Henry Breated (1912)
and Hermann Kees (1926) both made early evaluations of the coffin text, but
the first (relatively) complete publication of the coffin texts was supplied by
Adriaan de Buck in seven volumes that were produced between 1935 and 1961.
This work was based on the earlier research done by James Henry Breasted and
Alan H. Gardiner just after World War I. Though new spells have been added
since then, most present day divisions of the spells relies on de Buck's work.

Adriaan de Buck's work was used by Louis Speleers, who translated de Buck's
first two volumes into French in 1947, and between 1973 and 1978, Raymond
O. Faulkner produced the first complete translation into English. He used de
Buck's order of spells, while a later translation in French by Paul Barguet
produced in 1986, divided them into thematic groups.

Today we face many of the same problems in dealing with the coffin text that
de Buck faced, which mostly concerns their order. He had no established
chronological order and the beginnings or ending of the text were not consistent
from one source to the next. Furthermore, the text could be written on all six
surfaces in the interior of the coffin, and their progression within any given
coffin could vary.

Though many are unique to individual coffins, de Buck divided the coffin text
into 1,185 spells, with some being assigned to larger compositions such as the
Book of the Two Ways. These spells, which always refer to the deceased in the
first person singular, attempt to imitate the language of the Old Kingdom,
though they are actually produced in the classical language of Middle Egypt.
They are inscribed using hieroglyphs, or occasionally early hieratic. Unlike the
Pyramid text, they are almost always titled, though at times the title may come
at the end of the text.

Usually written in vertical columns, the columns are sometimes split in order to
save space. Red ink is utilized for emphasis and as divisions between the spells.
However, some important spells are completely written using a red pigment.

For the first time in funerary literature, the coffin text use graphic depictions,
though very infrequently. In both the Book of the Two Ways and in spell 464
known as the Field of Offerings, we find detailed plans. At other times (spells
81 and 100) there are textual descriptions of figures that were meant to
strengthen the magical results of the text.

Yet the ancient Egyptians were cautious of graphic depictions. One holdover
from the Pyramid Texts that we find at least in the early Coffin Text is the
mutilation of most of the hieroglyphic signs representing animate objects.
Sometimes the glyphs are actually carved as two separate pieces divided by a
blank space. At other times, snakes, other animals and various other creatures
are inscribed with knives in their backs. This was all intended to ensure that the
intact figure would not be able to somehow threaten the deceased person
interred nearby.

Within the coffin text, the composition that today we refer to as the Book of the
Two Ways is the most comprehensive. Usually placed on the inside bottom of
coffins examined at Deir el-Bersha, various Egyptologists have divided it into
four, or nine sections which can consist of a long version (spells 1,029 through
1,130) or a short version consisting of spells 1,131 through 1,185 but which
also includes spells 513 and 577.

While the coffin text were available as a tool for the afterlife to all Egyptians,
the spells were primarily employed by the local governors and their families of
Middle Egypt. The content of the coffin text spells basically continued the
tradition of the Pyramid Text, though the afterlife is better defined, and its
dangers are portrayed more dramatically. They were intended to aid the
deceased during his afterlife. The spells providing protection against
supernatural beings and other dangers and helped assure the deceased
admission into the cyclical course of the sun, and thus, eternal life. Other spells,
such as number 472, were used to activate ushabti figures so that they could
perform various labor related duties for the deceased during the afterlife.
However, we also find interesting new components not found within the older
Pyramid Text. Now, we find spells (268-295), meant to allow the deceased
king ascent to the sky in the form of a bird, but which may also be used to
transform the deceased into anyone of a number of different deities. For
example, spell 290 reads: "into every god into which one might desire to
transform". However, with other spells the deceased could become fire, air,
grain, a child or perhaps even a crocodile. This may explain why, during the
Middle Kingdom, the scarab beetle, representing transformation, was one of the
most popular amulets. Other newly created spells also allowed the deceased to
be reunited with his loved ones and family during the afterlife.

Significantly, for the first time we also find within the coffin texts spells to deal
with Apophis, a huge serpent who had to be combated as the enemy of the sun.
Apophis would continue to play a major role in the refined funerary books of
Egypt's New Kingdom.

In the coffin text, we now find that all of the deceased must be subjected to the
"Judgement of the Dead", based on the actions during his or life, rather than on
a person by person indictment.

Many of the coffin text spells play on the concepts of creation, so we find the
deceased portrayed as a primeval god and creator and once series of spells
references the creator god and his children, Shu and Tefnut, who were given
the responsibility of creation. At other times the deceased takes on the form of
Osiris, or that gods helper, while he may also be portrayed as his devoted son,
Horus, who rushes to his fathers aid as in spell 312.

One reason that the composition within the coffin text known as the Book of
the Two Ways, perhaps originally composed at Hermopolis, has received so
much attention is that, for the first time, it describes a cosmography. It was
perhaps originally titled, the "Guide to the Ways of Rosetau" and the ancient
Egyptians believed the composition was discovered "under the flanks of

Rosetau is a term regularly translated by Egyptologists as the Underworld or

Netherworld, which would be misleading in this case. Here, the journey is
made through the sky. It takes the deceased on a journey to the Kingdom of
Osiris on a route with the sun god, first from east to west along a waterway
through the inner sky and then back again from west to east by land through the
outer sky (the two ways). Between the two ways was a Lake of Flames, where
the ambivalent fire could consume (the damned) but also serve the purpose of
regeneration (to those blessed followers of the sun god, Re).
Though not nearly as elaborate as later New Kingdom books of the
netherworld, it was meant to depart to the deceased the necessary knowledge
needed to navigate their way to the afterlife while avoiding the many dangers
of their journey. While this guide was not as systematic as, for example, the
later Book of Gates, it nevertheless provided warnings and a schematic plan
making it the first real guide to the afterlife.

Unlike the later funerary books, the Book of the Two Ways does not begin with
the sunset, but rather with the sunrise in the eastern sky. Hence, the journey
takes place in the sky rather than the underworld. The deceased is faced with
many obstacles, such as the threatening guardians at the very gates of the
hereafter that must be dealt with before the entering. Other dangers include the
"fiery court", which is the circle of fire about the sun. At other times, total
darkness followed by walls of flame seem to continuously block the deceased

In fact, within the very middle of this composition we find a region known a
Rosetau, which is "at the boundary of the sky". According to spell 1,080, it is
here that the corpse of Osiris resides and the region is locked in complete
darkness, as well as surrounded by fire. If the deceased can reach this region
and gaze upon Osiris, he cannot die. Consistently there are regions that the
deceased wishes to reach, but must overcome dangers to do so. Another of
these is the Field of Offerings (peace, or Hetep), a paradise of abundance, but
again the path is full of obstacles. By the end of the book, the deceased
encounters confusing paths that cross each other, many leading nowhere.

An important concept found within the Book of the Two Ways (spells 1,100
through 1,110) is that of seven gates, each with three guardians. Though
primitive, this is obviously an early text that would later evolve into the New
Kingdom Books of the Netherworld such as the Amduat. At these boundaries,
the deceased must display his knowledge to the guardians in order to establish
their legitimacy to proceed in the afterlife.

By the center of the last section of this text, we find three boats, all of which
may perhaps be intended as the solar barque, from which the serpent Apophis
must be repelled.

Book of Caverns
Final Section

This books gives us a vision of the underworld as a series of six pits, or caverns
over which the sun god passes. Most of the underworld is illustrated, while the
text primarily praises Osiris. It stresses the destruction of the enemies of the sun
god, and references afterlife rewards and punishments. The dead King, in order
to complete his journey through the underworld, must know the secret names of
the serpents and be able to identify his guardian deities. We only know of a
nearly complete version in the tomb of Ramesses VI, though it appears in the
upper parts of others.

The Book of Caverns appears to have originated in the Ramessid Period (the
20th Dynasty). As an underworld book, it seems almost to emphasize that
previous text had been too soft on those deceased who fail their judgment in the
afterlife, while at the same time focusing also on the rewards of those who do.
It is, in fact, one of our best sources on the ancient Egyptian concept of Hell.

The Osireion, a well known cenotaph of Seti I located at Abydos, along with
his mortuary temple, has the first known version of The Book of Caverns that is
nearly complete (having its upper register damaged. It is found directly across
from the rendering of the Book of Gates within the entry corridor on the left
wall. Hence, it appears to be a relatively late funerary text of the New
Kingdom, not showing up at all until the 19th Dynasty, and not making it into
the tombs within the Valley of the Kings until the following reigns. A deviated
version of the final depictions are given a dominant position in the decorative
theme of the sarcophagus chamber in the tombs of Merneptah (KV8), Tausert
(KV14) and Ramesses III (KV11), so versions of this book may have also been
inscribed on earlier gilded shrines around the sarcophagi. Unfortunately, these
earlier shrines are lost to us, so that possibility may never be known.

In the third corridor of the tomb of Ramesses IV (KV2) in the Valley of the
Kings, Ramesses IV employed the earliest versions of the first and second
sections of The Book of Caverns, rather than the traditional Amduat passages,
and then repeats these passages twice more in the room behind his sarcophagus
chamber. By the reign of Ramesses VI (KV9), we find an almost complete
version of the book, here as in the Osireion, opposite the Book of Gates in the
front half of the tomb, though due to the limited wall space, some passages had
to be continued on pillars and in the upper pillared hall as well. While in the
tomb of Ramesses VII (KV1), we find a similar arrangement to that of
Ramesses VI on the right wall, here only the first corridor is decorated, with a
small excerpt from The Book of Caverns second section. Later though, in the
Tomb of Ramesses IX (KV6), there were selections from the first four sections
on the right wall of the first and second corridors. However, in the sarcophagus
chamber we also find parts of the two remaining sections of the book.

Jean Francois Champollion apparently first described the version of the book in
the tomb of Ramesses VI, and even provided some translations in his thirteenth
letter he sent from Egypt. However, no scholars seemed particularly interested
in the book until a century later when a second complete version was
discovered in the Osireion. Henri Frankfort tried to compose the first
translation of that text, assisted by Adriaan de Buck in 1933. However, it was
not until the period between 1941 and 1646 that Alexandre Piankoff executed
an edition of the text based on several versions which he translated into French.
He also translated the text from the tomb of Ramesses VI into English in 1954.
Not until 1972 was a version translated into German by Erik Hornung, and a
synoptic edition of the text has never been published.

The name we give this text, The Book of Gates, is a modern invention based on
the netherworld being divided into "caves" or actually "caverns" from the
Egyptian "qerert", for no original title has ever been discovered. However, it
should be noted that Piankoff translated qerert to mean "envelope" or "cocoon".
Unlike the Amduat and the Book of Gates, this book is not divided up into
regions of the night, though an attempt is made to follow the general divisions
divided up between three registers. However, these registers often had to be
staggered due to space limitations. In all, every version divides the two initial
sections into five registers. We also end up with problems in the version of the
book in the tombs of Ramesses VI and Ramesses IX, for apparently the initial
design of these versions was meant for a left hand wall, but transposed on the
right hand wall.

The Book of Caverns is divided into two halves by two large depictions of the
ram headed sun god, and each half is further divided into three parts. Hence
there are a total of six sections. The text of the first two sections of the book are
separated from the representations, with the text placed after the
representations, though this order is reversed in the version found in the tomb
of Ramesses VII. Here, the sun god invokes the individual beings or groups of
gods depicted in the representations within a long monologue. The remaining
sections combine representations and captions, as well as a descriptive formula
of the earlier books. Each section within the second half of The Book of
Caverns is preceded by several litanies, with section five having a total of

Like the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, with the exception of the final
representation, divides the text into registers with further pictures. It should
also be noted that it is more literary then previous funerary books of the New
Kingdom, having a higher percentage of text to pictures. In section five, the
depictions are of Nut and Osiris, with the image of Nut alluding to the theme of
the Books of the Sky, which describes the nightly journey of the sun through
the body of Nut.
The solar bargue is only found within the final representations. In sections three
through six in which the damned and their punishment (occupying the lower
registers) are not depicted, the individual scenes have a sun disk. The beings
who are portrayed in the various caverns are often enclosed in ovals, while
there are sarcophagi that enclose the bodies of gods and goddesses. In the
single example found in the tomb of Ramesses VI, some two hundred remarks
were added referring to the king.

The obvious theme of this book, like other such text, is the sun god's nightly
passage through the netherworld. Interestingly, the distinction between Osiris
and Re are clouded, and both actually seem to be viewed as attributes of a sole
deity. A principle motif of the book is established primarily in section three.
Here, Osiris, who is more prominent then in most prior funerary text, is
encountered by Re as a corpse in his "coffer". In section four the god begins to
regenerate. Less prominent is the battle with Apophis found in the Amduat and
the Book of Gates.

At the very beginning of the book, two vertical strips depict the solar disk and
Re as a ram headed sun god. This is "Re who is in the sky", and his mission is
to enter the primeval darkness in order to defend and and provide care to Osiris.
Afterwards, depictions of section one are divided into five registers. The
separate text is a monologue of Re directing various groups of entities. Here,
the three snakes of the Duat's first cavern guard the cavern entrance. Re faces
Osiris with his hand extended to him in the third register. We see Osiris within
his shrine, protectively surrounded by a serpent, as are his followers inside their
sarcophagi. In the bottom register, Osiris' enemies are shown beheaded though
still guarded by another three serpents. They are to be punished in the "Place of
Annihilation", an ancient Egyptian concept of Hell, as Re condemns them to

In section two, Re must reach the various gods and goddesses in their
sarcophagi who are guarded by several serpents. He meets various forms of
Osiris in the second register and beseeches them to "open their arms to
me...receive me". In the third register, Re encounters Osiris in his coffer, which
sits aside the ram and jackal headed posts of the sun god found also in the Book
of Gates. Other forms of Osiris are encountered in the fourth register, while in
the lowest register, we again find Osiris' enemies who are bound and beheaded.
Some of these figures are depicted hanging head first with their hearts torn out.
Once again, Re condemns them to nonexistence, sending them to the Place of
Annihilation where their punishment is carried out by guards with knives. Now,
Osiris is told by Re that he will enter the "cavern where Aker is".
Hence, in the third section, Re enters the cavern that contains Aker and finds
the ithyphallic body of Osiris lying beneath Aker, an earth god. Here, in the
first register, Osiris is depicted as the dead king in his sarcophagus, which is
guarded by several serpents. After that scene we find depicted several figures
with the heads of catfish. They are the helpers of Aker who we will encounter
again, and represent the deepest and darkest regions of earth and water. In
addition, Re also finds other manifestations of himself within sarcophagi, while
the end of the register is filled with divine sarcophagi "in the cavern of Osiris-

In the middle register of the third section, we initially encounter Re once again
in his manifestation as the Eldest One, who leans on a staff. He addresses four
forms of Osiris as the "lords of the Duat". The center scene in this register
depicts Aker as a double sphinx surrounded by the gods of the Ennead. The
next scene seems to stress the unity of Re and Osiris, with the corpse of Osiris
in his sarcophagus, along with a Ram's head, and the eye of Re in sarcophagi.
Surrounding all of this is a ouroboros. Next, Osiris is once again shown
surmounting a serpent as "the one who has become two".

In the lower register of section three, we once again encounter those who are in
hell. In this case, the "enemies" are all upside down and some have been
decapitated. Here, in the first two groups who are pleading for mercy, we find
for the first time, female enemies. Now the wicked are in the primeval darkness
of the Place of Annihilation, and by the end of the register, even their ba (souls)
are upside down, and thus being punished. Interestingly, the ithyphallic corpse
of Osiris is also here among the enemies, but the sun disk sits above him, and
he is protected by a serpent.

The second half of the Book of Caverns begins with section four. Initially we
find an erect serpent named Great One on His Belly, with the solar disk and the
ram headed sun god to either side. Here, the opening text in vertical columns
consists of three litanies praising the sun god, praising his beauty as he
illuminates the region of darkness. Re faces Osiris and his followers and makes
a number of promises. In the upper register, we first encounter Isis and
Nephthys who lift the body of Osiris so that he may be resurrected. This is
followed by a scene depicting Osiris being cared for by his two "sons", Anubis
and Horus and following this, Osiris is portrayed as the Bull of the West,
accompanies by Horus-Mekhentienirty, a mongoose (ichneumon) who is his

The second register of section four begins with Re, one more leaning on a staff,
facing the three forms of Osiris. This is followed by a scene depicting Horus
and Anubis protecting the double corpse of Osiris, and another scene where
they stand in a pose symbolic of protecting Osiris and his ba.

In the lower register, we once again encounter the enemies in hell, who are
found and standing on their heads, which this time have not been cut off.
However, between them are the "annihilators in the Place of Annihilation,". In
this initial scene, the punishing demon is Miuti, the "cat-formed one, from
whose clutches there is no escape". We are told that there bodies have been
robbed of their souls, and that they can neither see nor hear Re.

At the beginning of the fifth section of the Book of Caverns, Tatenen, the
litanies reveal a little known but important deity as both an earth god and the
father of the gods, who rejuvenates the sun. The initial depictions portrays Nut,
the goddess of the sky, who lifts the ram headed sun god and the solar disk on
her upraised palms. She faces the three registers and is surrounded by motifs
representing the course of the sun, including on one side a scarab pushing the
solar disk, then a ram, a disk, a ram headed deity and a child, while on the other
side, a series of crocodiles pushes a ram's head, a scarab, an utchat eye and a
disk. There is also human headed, bearded serpents that rear up on either side
of Nut. Her arms are stretched towards the heavens in order to receive the solar
child. Here, Nut is called the Mysterious One and "she with the mysterious

The upper register of section five begins with Osiris, whose hands are extended
out to Re, along with four human headed serpents. In the next scene, we
encounter a representation of Tatenen, who is propped up by the corpses of
Atum and Khepri. Next, we find two sarcophagi, one of which encases the two
manifestations of Re as a child.

In the middle register, initially we find represented the four falcon headed
mummies who are forms of Horus, which is followed by Anubis in his role as
guardian and a coffin containing the scepter of Atum, which embodies the
creative power of the sun god, and therefore "created the netherworld and
brought forth the realm of the dead". At the end of this register, we find four
unknown goddesses in sarcophagi.

The bottom register of this section opens once again with the ancient Egyptian
concept of Hell, where a female deity who carries two stakes in her hand is
about to punish two bound prisoners who kneel before her. In the following two
scenes the enemies are being punished in large cauldrons. We see in the first
cauldron their heads and hearts (which the ancient Egyptians thought of more
as the mind), and in the second we find the decapitated, bound, upside down
enemies themselves. A uraei fans the flames beneath the cauldrons, which are
being held above the fire by the "arms of the Place of Annihilation.

The three registers of section five are interrupted by an image of Osiris, once
again depicted in his ithyphallic guise, together with his ba that is symbolized
by a bird atop his head. He is guarded by a protective serpent. As the registers
continue, we first find an oval containing the four "flesh" hieroglyphs which
refer to the corpse of Osiris. His corpse is now cared for by the light and voice
of Re. Below this, the goddess Tayt greets the sun god and Osiris, which is
followed by a scene depicting the head of Re in its ram manifestation being
adored by Osiris and Horus. Another cauldron, in the lower register, contains
the flesh, the souls and the shadows of the enemies of Re and Osiris. Once
again, the arms of the Place of Annihilation hold the cauldron which is being
heated by two goddesses.

It should be noted that the shadow held important connotations to the ancient
Egyptians. It was considered to be a major component of an individual, as well
as a separate mode of existence. We find the mention of shadows mostly in
funerary text such as this, with early references appearing in the Coffin Text of
the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom.

Between section five and six, the final part of the Book of Caverns, there is a
long text consisting of thirteen litanies which refer to the prior section (five).
Here, Re addresses all the entities, including his enemies, portrayed in the
section five. The sun god gazes upon his own corpse with the intent of effecting
the resurrection of Osiris-Imenrenef, who is "he whose name is hidden".

The first scene in the upper register of part six depicts the funerary god,
Anubis, caring for corpses ("the bodies which are in the earth") in their
sarcophagi, which is followed by a second scene where Anubis tends to the sun
god, who in his sarcophagus, is depicted as a ram with a falcon head. In the
third scene, the sun god, in several manifestations is now being watched over
by two goddesses, each of whom stand on the symbols for flesh. Here, he is
presented with a ram's head, as a scarab and in his role as "he of the
netherworld". In the final scenes of this register, Osiris-Orion leans over a
mound containing a fettered and decapitated figure, followed by a god who
prays before a falcon. Osiris is shown protecting Horus, his son, as well as the
sun god who is within Horus.

In the middle register, initially we find a scene portraying a scarab beetle

pushing the sun disk before it out from "between the two mysterious caverns of
the West" (the mountains of sunrise). This cavern contains both Osiris and Re,
who are met by four standing gods. Here, text addresses the rebirth of the god,
which is heralded by the scarab. Yet, even now there remains a final threat,
depicted as the great serpent encircling the solar beetle. This obstacle is
overcome by the "two old and great gods in the Duat", who cut the serpent into
pieces and place a spell upon it. While this serpent seems malicious, another
represented in the third scene appears to regenerates Re, who emerges from the
mound in a ram head manifestation, to sit upon the tomb of Tatenen. In a fourth
scene, two sarcophagi holding falcon headed gods are encountered by Re,
while in the next scene, he meets several gods who are headless. Re restores
their head with his creative power.

The motif of the lowest register, consistently followed throughout the Book of
Caverns, is once again present in this final part of the sixth section. Again, we
find scenes of punishment in the place of Annihilation, where at first,
goddesses wielding knives torture supine, beheaded figures with their heads set
at their feet and who's hearts have been torn from their bodies. The
accompanying text also explains that the soul and shadows of these enemies
have also been punished. In the second scene, we encounter four bound female
enemies who are guarded by two jackal headed goddesses. Re has condemned
these enemies, once again, to the "Place of Annihilation, from which there is no
escape". Next, four more headless, kneeling and bound enemies are guarded by
a god and goddess, and finally in the last scene, the enemies are thrown head
first into the depths of the Place of Annihilation, while Osiris rises out of the

A final representation after the sixth section of the Book of Caverns shows Re
emerging from the "two mounds", which are each protected by a god. We also
find the solar barque, towed out of the netherworld by twelve gods, while seven
more rejoice to either side. While the boat is not yet completely revealed, we do
see the ba, the scarab and the ram headed morning form of the sun god, and in
front of the barque, we see a ram headed scarab beetle, along with the sun as a
child. A symbolic representation of the route through the netherworld,
consisting of two triangles, is sown leading to a large representation of the sun
disk. The triangles each are half black (the netherworld) and half blue,
representing water. In the end, we finally witness Re at the end of his nightly
journey, entering the eastern mountains from where he will rise once more to
provide light for the living world.

Book of Gates
The Book of Gates is the principal guidebook to the netherworld found in 19th
and part of the 20th Dynasty tombs of the New Kingdom, though it makes its
first appearance to us with the last king of the 18th Dynasty. It was meant to
allow the dead pharaoh to navigate his way along the netherworld route
together with the sun god, so that his resurrection could be affected. It
emphasizes gates with guardian deities who's names must be known in order to
pass them. This is actually a very old tradition dating to at least the Book of the
Two Ways in the Coffin Texts, where there are seven gates with three keepers
at each. The Book of Gates narrates the passage of a newly deceased soul into
the next world, corresponding to the journey of the sun though the underworld
during the hours of the night.

We first know of the 'Book of Gates' in the late 18th Dynasty, but passages
from the book appear in the burial chambers and first pillared halls of most
tombs thereafter. Like the Amduat, but somewhat of a more sophisticated text,
this book references the hours of the night, but referred to as the 12 gates and
emphasis is placed on the gates as barriers. It deals with the problems of the
underworld, such as Apophis, justice, material blessings and time.

The infinity of time was symbolized by an apparently endless snake or doubly

twisted rope being spun from the mouth of a deity. Time is thought of as
originating in the depths of creation, and eventually falling back into the same
depths. The most complete texts we find in tombs appears on the tomb of
Ramesses VI and on the sarcophagus of Seti I.

The soul is required to pass though a series of 'gates' at different stages in the
journey. Each gate is associated with a different goddess, and requires that the
deceased recognise the particular character of that deity.

The text implies that some people will pass through unharmed, but that others
will suffer torment in a lake of fire.

The goddesses each have different titles, and wear different colored clothes, but
are identical in all other respects, wearing a five pointed star above their heads.

Most of the goddesses are specific to the Book of Gates, and do not appear
elsewhere in Egyptian mythology, and so it has been suggested that the Book of
Gates originated merely as a system for determining the time at night, with the
goddess at each gate being a representation of the main star appearing during
the hour.

Book of The Heavens

The Book of Gates is the principal guidebook to the netherworld found in 19th
and part of the 20th Dynasty tombs of the New Kingdom, though it makes its
first appearance to us with the last king of the 18th Dynasty. It was meant to
allow the dead pharaoh to navigate his way along the netherworld route
together with the sun god, so that his resurrection could be affected. It
emphasizes gates with guardian deities who's names must be known in order to
pass them. This is actually a very old tradition dating to at least the Book of the
Two Ways in the Coffin Texts, where there are seven gates with three keepers
at each.

Sources of the Book of Gates

We are not sure exactly when the Egyptian afterlife text known as the Book of
Gates was composed. While some authorities, such as Hartwig Altenmuller,
believe that, because of its similarity to the Amduat, it sprang from a time prior
to Egypt's New Kingdom, others think it may better be attributable to the
Amarna period. Irregardless, the first example Egyptologists are aware of is
that incomplete version in the tomb of the last pharaoh of Egypt's 18th
Dynasty, Haremhab, who had the text placed in the sarcophagus chamber
where, until then, the Amduat had been customary. The founders of the 19th
Dynasty also employed the Book of Gates.

Ramesses I included it alone in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the West
Bank at Ancient Thebes (Modern Luxor), while his successor, Seti I', decorated
the sarcophagus chamber of his tomb with the Amduat, reserving the Book of
Gates for his two great pillared halls. This version includes only the first half of
the book. However, Seti I's alabaster sarcophagus is adorned with the earliest
complete and continuous version of the book. The famous Ramesses II also
used the text in the upper pillared halls, sarcophagus chambers and subsidiary
rooms of his tomb and his son, Merneptah, decorated the right wall of the
corridor of his grandfather, Seti I's cenotaph at Abydos with a complete Book
of Gates. There, he also placed the Book of Caverns on the left wall.

From Merneptah, the following kings until the reign of Ramesses IV had the
text recorded on the walls of their sarcophagus chambers. A number of kings,
such as Ramesses III also had selected text from the book placed on their
sarcophagus, and some commoners, such as Tjanefer, a priest of Amun under
Ramesses III, were also allowed to use a selection of the scenes. Ramesses VI
broke from this tradition, replacing the text with the Book of the Earth in the
sarcophagus chamber, but included a complete Book of Gates in the upper part
of his tomb. However, Ramesses VII was actually the last pharaoh to include
any of the Book of Gates, using the first and second hours in a single corridor.
By Ramesses IX, it disappeared entirely from royal tombs.

After the New Kingdom, portions of the book continued to show up only
sporadically, perhaps because the composition is so oriented to the specific
person of the king. We find the concluding representations in the Book of the
Dead of Anhai, which may date to the 20th Dynasty, as well as in the
mythological papyrus of Khonsumes that dates from the 21st Dynasty and in
the 26th Dynasty tomb of Mutirdis. Other extracts from the text are also found
in the tombs of Petamenophis at Thebes and Horiraa at Saqqara, while the first
hour and judgement hall occur often on late, non-royal sarcophagi.

Research on the Book of Gates

Because, in the tomb of Seti I and the Judgement of the Dead in the tomb of
Ramesses VI, the Book of Gates depicted foreigners, it aroused the interest of
scholars at an early date. These particular text were frequently copied.
However, it was Jean-Francois Champollion who provided the first description
of the Book of Gates, along with some translations in his 13th letter from
Egypt, dated May 26, 1829. He mostly relied on the tomb of Ramesses VI for
this translation. Yet the standard publication for many years was from an 1864
documentation of the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I by Bonomi and Sharpe. In
the ancient Egyptian text, the book is not named, so it was Gaston Maspero
who originally designated it Livre de Portes (Book of Gates).

He also referred to it as the Livre des Pylones, or "Book of Pylons, and Eugene
Lefebure called it Livre de l'Enfer, or "Book of the Netherworld". Lefebure also
provided a brief survey of its contents for an essay in 1888. Previously, he had
already published the first translation of the text on from the Seti I sarcophagus
in 1878 and 1881.

In 1905, Budge described and translated the sarcophagus version and made a
comparison between its hours of the night and those in the Amduat. However,
because by this time the lid of the sarcophagus had been destroyed, his analysis
was erroneous. The incomplete version of the Book found in the tomb of
Horemhab was published in 1912 (after having only been discovered in 1908).
More recent editions of the Book of Gates include that published by Charles
Maystre and Alexandre Piankoff, who created a broader textual basis with their
work of 1939-1962. However, this version was replaced by that of Erik
Hornung in 1979. Today, the complete English version of the text by Pankoff
has been available since 1954, while the German translation created by
Hornung has been around since 1972.

Structure of the Book

The Book of Gates portrays the gates of the netherworld far more visibly and
systematically than other similar compositions. It compares most readily with
the gates in the Book of the Dead, spells 144 and 145, which the Ramesside
Period Egyptians considered a substitute for the Book of Gates in tombs that
did not belong to pharaohs, such as that of Nefertari and others in the Valley of
the Queens. In fact, gates in the Book of the Dead spells and elsewhere have
caused some confusion with the Book of Gates even among some scholars. The
concept of gates in the afterlife was a reoccurring theme amongst many of the
books of the afterlife.
On the sarcophagus of Seti I, the hours are in a continuous sequence resulting
in the concluding scene occurring directly behind the head of the deceased. The
Osireion and the tomb of Ramesses VI also provide a continuous text, though
in other tombs the hours are distributed over various walls and rooms.

The Book of Gates encompasses a total of one hundred scenes, many of which
fill an entire register, though the last two hours contain a number of brief
individual scenes. The Middle Egyptian of dialect of the text displays hardly
any influences from the Late Egyptian written language, though it has been
established that this composition contains an especially rich vocabulary.

The structure of the Book of Gates is very similar to that of the Amduat, with
twelve nocturnal hours each divided into three registers. As in the Amduat, the
first hour of the night has a special position with a structure that differs from
the remainder of the composition. However, in the last three hours, the main
figure (Atum or Horus) is omitted from the lower registers, which show only
deities and not the blessed dead. Also absent are long concluding texts. Instead,
we find depictions of the Judgment of the Dead and the course of the sun, not
divided into registers, in the middle and at the end of he composition. Also
absent are notations concerning the use of the Book, but are replaced by
remarks about offerings, which as a rule are located at the end of a scene
(though not in the final three hours).

The Book of Gates also differs from the Amduat by the means of the gates
depicted at the end of each hour. In the Book of Gates, each gate has a guardian
in the form of a serpent on its door, as well as two further guardians with scary
names and fire spitting uraei. Also, in the solar barque, only two gods, Sia and
Heka are found depicted together with the sun god, while there are many crew
members in the Amdaut. In the Book of Gates, the cabin of the barque in each
hour is protected by a mehen-serpent and four male figures are portrayed like
hieroglyphs towing the barque. In the sarcophagus chambers of Haremhab,
Ramesses I and Seti I, the clothing and beards of these figures clearly mark
them as human, rather than divine beings.

The judgement hall of Osiris is given a special, central position inserted into the
fifth gateway of the Book of gates. Situated just prior to the union with the
sun's corpse in the sixth hour, the texts are specifically cryptic. However,
beginning with the tomb of Seti I, this judgment scene is replaced by one
depicting the king before the enthroned (and later standing) Osiris, so that no
longer are the dead judged, but rather the king is identified with the ruler of the
More than a thousand deities and deceased persons, representing many more
than in the Amduat, are depicted within the Book of Gates. However, they are
more regularly combined into groups, and they bear fewer individual names.
Many of these groups represent deceased persons rather than deities.


This text, like other netherworld compositions, is concerned with the nocturnal
journey of the sun. Compared to the Amduat, the hours are somewhat
displaced. For example, in the Book of Gates, the drowned appear in the ninth
rather than the tenth hour. Also, because of the grouping of deities and
deceased persons, they are more clearly distinguished from each other then in
the Amduat, and the dead appear bound to their respective regions in the hours
of the night. Here also, the dead king's special status is more clearly defined, as
he accompanies the sun god to his rebirth in the morning. In fact, most versions
contain additions to the texts and representations that refer directly to the king.

Hour One

As the sun god inters the ream of the dead, he is greeted by the collective dead,
who are assigned the title of "gods of the west:", rather than individual deities.
Actually, as in the Amduat, this first hour is an interstitial place that precedes
the actual netherworld after the first gate. Here, there are two steaks
surmounted by a ram's head and a jackal's head that both punish and reward
those who dwell here.

Hour Two

In the second hour, the dead are clearly separated between those in the upper
register of the composition, who have followed Ma'at and who are now blessed,
and those in the bottom register who have not, and are now reprimanded by
Atum. The four Weary Ones are depicted, along with the "enemies". In the
middle register separating these extremes is the barque, which encounters the
"gods in the entrance".

Hour Three

The third hour of the Book of Gates appears to emphasis a few motifs that are
central to the nightly journey, including mummies in the upper register, which
are awakened from the dead and reanimated in their shrines. Here also is the
ambivalent Lake of Fire, where the damned will meet flame. However, the
blessed dead are provisioned from the same flames. The middle register depicts
the sun god being towed along in the "barque of the earth"., a symbolic
condensation of his entire journey through the depths of the earth. At the end of
the register he is dressed in sparkling white linens which is also symbolic of
renewal. However, Aphophis the snake makes his first appearance in front of
Atum as well. Atum must be assisted by two Enneads in order to overcome this

Hour Four

Perhaps variations of the Lake of Fire from the third register, two bodies of
water dominate the top register in the fourth hour of the Book of Gates. They
are called the Lake of Life, which is guarded by jackals, and the Lake of Uraei.
In the middle register, shrines containing mummies of the dead, not yet risen,
stand before the barque. The sun god causes their resurrection and
provisioning. Their renewed life in the hereafter occupies an entire hour of the
night. The passing of the hours is laid out in the following scene, with its many-
coiled serpent representing time and its twelve goddesses embodying the hours.
The enshrined Osiris is protected on all sides by the gods of his entourage in
the lower register, while Horus cares for his deceased father. Osiris' enemies
are punished in the fiery pits at the end of the register.

Hour Five

Hour Five is one of the most complex hours within the composition. In the
upper registers, the gods are portrayed with a surveying cord, because the
deceased are allotted space (in the form of fields) within this hour. The
deceased are also allotted time, and hence the gods also carry the body of a
serpent and the hieroglyphs meaning "lifetime" in the lower register. In order to
accomplish this, the Apophis fiend, known as "the Retreater, must once again
be battled and fettered. Behind Apophis we notice the ba-souls of the blessed
dead, and at the beginning of the lower register are found the four "races" of
mankind, including Egyptians, Asiatics, Nubians and Libyans. Each race is
represented by four individual figures, who are assured existence in the
afterlife. They are placed in the care of Horus and Sakhmet. It should be noted
that the Great Hymn of Akhenaten, Aten is said to care even for foreign people,
and hence, they are sheltered in the realm of the dead, according to the Book of

The Judgment Hall

Just before the sixth hour, we find the portrayal of the Judgment hall,
empathized by its insertion as a special scene. This is the only representation of
the Judgment of the dead in any of the Books of the Netherworld, and so it is
distinguished by the use of cryptographic writing. In the earlier versions, Osiris
is enthroned on a stepped dais while the personified scale in front of him,
unlike that in the Book of the Dead, bears empty pans. Therefore, the blessed
dead stand on the steps of the dais, while the enemies who are consigned to the
"Place of Annihilation" lie beneath their feet. Here also, we see another
mincing power in the form of a pig being driven off.

Hour Six

The judgment of the Dead is therefore the prelude to the union of the Ba and
the corpse of he sun god (like those of all the blessed deceased). The sixth hour
of the night is the deepest part of the journey through the netherworld. In the
middle register, the dead corpse of the sun god immediately in front of the
barque and its towmen, is invisible. It is being carried by gods whose arms are
also invisible because of their contact with the corpse. In the lower register,
mummies of deceased persons lie on a long, serpent-shaped bed so that they
may participate in the union with the ba and the resurrection that it effects.
Gods holding forked poles in the upper register keep Apophis at bay while this
critical event unfolds. From his head people who he has swallowed are now set
free once more. There is also the depiction of a twisted double rope that
represents time. It is being unwound from the pharynx of the god, Aqen. The
lower register of this hour end with a scene depicting a circular Lake of Fire
which is inhabited by a cobra that acts as a deterrent to all enemies.

Hour Seven

In the seventh hour, the central motif is the elimination of all mincing forces
that might interfere with the sun's renewal. In the middle register, just before
the solar barque, appears the jackal headed "stakes of Geb", with two enemies
of the god bound to each. Re, the sun god consents to their torment by two
demons. However, in the upper register we find two groups of blessed dead,
one with baskets filled with grain as a sign of their material provisioning, and
the other with the feather of Ma'at as a symbol of their vindication in at the
Judgment of the Dead. They will exist until the end while sheltered by Ma'at,
while the damned below are consigned to the Place of Annihilation. The
caption on this upper register speaks of Osiris welcoming his new followers. In
the lower register, we again find the blessed who have followed Ma'at, who are
here gathering huge ears of grain intended for their assured provisions. Others
are provided with sickles for harvesting, while the rays of the revived sun
effects abundant fertility.
Hour Eight

We once again find the depiction of infinite time depicted as an endless rope
spooled out hour by hour, and also as the towrope of the barque, which
"produces mysteries." In the middle register, the "lords of provision in the
west", who stand before the barque, are commissioned by Re to allocate
provisions to the blessed while at the same time inflicting evil on the enemies.
In the lower register are once again mummies. They have turned over on their
biers and are therefore in the process of resurrection. Nearby, a council of
judges protects them.

Hour Nine

In the middle register of the ninth hour, a theme is borrowed from the Amduat
(tenth hour). Here, a rectangle of water contain the drowned. Four groups of
deceased humans are found floating in the primeval waters of Nun. They are
actually being refreshed by the waters and will therefore be resurrected. We
find that their noses breath the air, and their ba-souls will not be destroyed so
that they will share existence with the blessed. In these scenes, Re is the "one
who is in Nun", and in the scene that concludes the book, he will be raised up
out of Nun. The souls of the blessed appear in the upper register. Before them
stand a group of figures who offer them bread and vegetables. By contract, in
the lower register we find, once more, the condemned. Here are depicted
twelve enemies who are each bound in one of three different manners. They are
inflamed by the Fiery One, a huge serpent who has been called forth by Horus
for the atrocities they have committed against his father, Osiris. The children of
Horus stand in his coils of this great snake.

Hour Ten

The middle register of the tenth hour is entirely filled with a representation of
the battle against Apophis. Fourteen deities hold nets containing magical
powers above their heads. This magic renders Apophis defenseless. Perhaps
Geb, as the "Old One" ties fetters around the snakes body. In the upper and
lower registers we find special manifestations of the sun god. In the upper
register, he is depicted as a griffin and is followed by two serpents who help in
the punishment of Apophis, as well as the other enemies. In the lower register
the sun god is portrayed in the center as a falcon, though he is also referenced
as Khepri ("scarab beetle"). He is connected to other figures by a continuous
rope. The text that accompanies this scene talks of the "emergence" and stresses
that the journey is proceeding now towards the sky.
Hour Eleven

By the eleventh hour, we find a bound Apophis and other enemies in the upper
register. He is dismembered, and hence rendered harmless. The rope that holds
Apophis and his assistants is held by a giant fist emerging from the depths. In
the middle register, the dead may gaze upon the continence of the God Re,
who's face is making its way in the barque. n interesting aspect of this scene is
the reversal of the barque, which may be an allusion to the reversal of time.
Before the barque are the stars which will herald the reappearance of the sun
god. We find in the lowest register oarsmen of the god, together with the
goddesses of the hours; time and energy (rowing). They will propel the barque
up into the eastern horizon. Here, the battle in the netherworld is obviously
won, for some deities are already announcing he god in the horizon. There cries
will be joined by the din of noise that will eventually accompany the rising sun.

Hour Twelve

In the twelfth hour, the sun god finally arrives at the gate "with the mysterious
entrance", through which he will the miracle of his rebirth will occur. In the
upper register, gods "carry the blazing light". which is obvious from the sun
disks in their hands. Stars precede the appearance of the sun, while goddesses
seated upon serpents surround and protect the solar child. Before the god's
barque lies Apophis, who is fettered. He is held in check by gods with knives
and shepherd's crooks in order that he may not impede the sunrise. Just behind
him are four baboons, their arms raised in jubilation, who announce the sun god
in the eastern horizon. Several motif are represented in the lower register,
including crowns that are to be worn as symbols of power when leaving the
netherworld. Also, we find the nurses of the newborn sun, while at the same
time, Osiris is mourned, for he must remain in the netherworld. This final gate,
through which the sun god will emerge onto the horizon, is guarded by Isis and
Nephthys, in the form of uraei.

Concluding Representation

The final scenes are not divided into registers as elsewhere. Like many
illustrations accompanying the solar hymns of the Amarna period, the entire
course of the sun is condensed into a single picture. Half hidden by the
primeval waters indicated by wavy lines, the god Nun raises the solar barque of
its depths. In the Barque, Isis and Nephthys embrace the sun in the form of a
souring scarab beetle, as he pushes the sun disk toward the sky goddess Nut.
She is upside down, indicating the inversion of the sun's course, which will
once again run in the opposite direction from its course through the netherworld
which is here the embodiment of Osiris. He surrounds this dark world with his
curved body. Therefore, all three areas of the cosmos are represented, including
the primeval waters, the height of the heavens and the depths of the earth. From
above and below, arms embrace the sun, holding it aloft as it moves through the

Litany of Re

The Litany of Re (or more fully "Book of Praying to Re in the West, Praying to
the United One in the West") is an important Ancient Egyptian funerary text of
the New Kingdom. Like many funerary texts, it was written on the inside of the
tomb for reference by the deceased. Unlike other funerary texts, however, it
was reserved only for pharaohs or very favored nobility.

It is a two part composition that in the first part invokes the sun, Ra, in 75
different forms. The second part is a series of prayers in which the pharaoh
assumes parts of nature and deities but mostly the of the sun god. Developed in
the Eighteenth Dynasty, it also praises the king for his union with the sun god,
as well as other deities. The text was used in the entrance of most tombs from
the time of Seti I, though we first know of it form the burial chamber of
Thutmose III and his vizier Useramun.

Sources from Antiquity

The Litany of Re was a special composition that, at least a portion of which,

was inscribed in the tomb of Tuthmosis III and the tomb of his vizier,
Useramun. These excerpts evidently related to each other. Though the series of
figures to the "Great Litany" also appear in both tombs, there are no further
illustrations. We actually find the first occurrence of the whole composition,
are mostly whole for there are a few omissions, on the shroud dedicated by
Amenhotep II to his father, Tuthmosis III (without illustrations). Interestingly,
the composition then disappears until the reign of Seti I, in whose tomb we find
for the first time the figure related to the title. Interestingly, the composition
could have also been found in the tomb of Amenmesse, but Seti II ordered it
hacked from this location in order to harm him in the afterlife. Afterwards, the
book becomes a standard motif in the first and second corridors, indicating its
importance, of the royal tombs. However, Ramesses VI omits the text from his
tomb, while Ramesses IX (tomb) and X (tomb) only include extracts in theirs.

Normally, the depictions were always reserved for the second corridor, while
the text was inscribed in the first corridor, sometimes spilling over in the
second. In the tombs of both Kings Seti I and Ramesses II (tomb), all of the
hieroglyphs face the interior of the tomb, while we find in the tombs of
Merneptah on, they uniformly face to the right so that all the columns of text
are reversed. In the Late Period, we also find depictions of the Litany of Re in
tombs, such as those of Mentuemhet, Petamenophis and Ibi.

Outside of tombs, we also find portions of the figures in the decorations

commissioned by Merneptah in the Osireion of Seti I at Abydos, together with
a complete sequence in the temple built by Ramesses II at that site. By Egypt's
Late Period, we also find the depictions actually inscribed in temples, such as
the edifice of Taharqa and the chapel of Hakoris at Karnak, as well as extracts
in the Nilometer at Roda.

Certain passages from the Litany of Re were also adopted for the Book of the
Dead. By the 18th Dynasty, excerpts from the composition were used as spell
127 (beginning with the manuscript of Maiherperi dating to the reign of
Amenhotep II), and as spell 180 in the early 19th Dynasty, beginning with the
sarcophagus of Seti I. Spell 127, addresses the "gods in the caverns" and
associated them with the guardians of the gates of the netherworld. Here, we
also find the only mention of the Place of Annihilation in the Book of the Dead.

Later, we also find spell 127 is in the tombs of Ramesses IV (tomb)and

Ramesses VI. Spell 180, which begins with the central verse, "It is Re, who
rests in Osiris", is attested on the coffin of Seti I and in part at the Osireion. In
addition, it is also found in the tomb of an official (TT3) and on papyri (Qenna,
Neferrenpet, Louvre 3073) from the end of the 18th Dynasty and the beginning
of the 19th. It should be noted that the familiar depictions of the ram- headed
Re-Osiris found in the tomb of Nefertari and others of the 19th Dynasty were
actually a part of the spells of the Book of the Dead and not the Litany of Re. In
contrast, the Books of the Netherworld are never found in the Book of the
Dead, except for the special case of spell 168.
Research into the Litany of Re

It was Richard Pococke who published a very early description of the Litany of
Re discovered in the tomb of Ramesses IV, but text editions of the composition
were actually among the earliest publicized by Egyptologists. As early as 1869,
Edouard Naville investigated the text in the tombs of Seti I and Ramesses IV,
publishing a translation into French in 1875. He also published an English
translation in 1876. Thereafter, for almost a century, his references became the
standard for scholarly study of the Litany of Re, though in 1936 Hermann
Grapow published a paper on the text and depictions.

In 1964, Alexandre Piankoff again published the composition, but included no

hieroglyphic text, though he did include photographs from several tombs,
including those of Seti I and II together with the shroud of Tuthmosis III. His
work included a translation into English. The latest full, scholarly work appears
to have come from Erik Hornung, a German who included all the New
Kingdom versions in a commentary volume in his edition of 1975.

Form of the Litany of Re

Though many of the Books of the Netherworld do not include an original title,
in the tomb of Useramun we discover that the old Egyptian name of this
composition was the "Book of Praying to Re in the West (or Book of Adoring
Re in the West), Praying to the United One in the West". Here, there are also
remarks regarding the manner of recitation and efficacy of the text.

The composition begins with the Great (or large) Litany, where the sun god is
invoked a total of seventy-five times in various names and forms. Each
invocation begins with "Praise to you, oh Re, great of power". After the Great
Litany, eight more follow but only the sixth section is composed in verse. In
fact, the structure of the remaining text is often unclear, as only the litanies are
distinctly separated because of their unique initial refrains.

The early content of the composition contained the divine figures that illustrate
each of the invocations. From the earliest examples, these depictions were
divided so that they alternate in two series. For example, they face each other
on the north and south walls of the tomb of Useramun, though in the Ramesside
tombs they are on both walls of the second corridor, with the left wall being

Hence, the illustrations alternate up to the 51st invocation, with the odd
numbered figures on the the left and the even numbered figures on the right.
However, this structure is interrupted by two successive figures (51 and 52) on
the left and two (53 and 54) on the right. Afterwards, the alternation continues,
though now in reverse order, with the even numbered figures on the left and the
odd numbered figures on the right.

Each invocation is illustrated by the figure of a god, with the 76th figure that of
the ba of Re, as a ram's head in the red disk of the sun. Most of the figures
appear in a mummiform state, with a few in the form of animals, such as the
ram and scarab beetle as the two main figures of the sun god and the "Big
Tomcat" that embodies his punishing aspect, and the "Divine Eye".

Structurally, by dividing the 75 invocations into three divisions of 25 each, we

recognize special emphasis on the 26th and the 51st figures. The figures may
also be grouped in divisions of ten each, with the first ten differing in structure
from the rest, while the following group of ten is reserved for an extended
Ennead.The union of Re and Osiris receives special treatment within the
composition, and the two sequences of figures are constantly divided between
them. The figures of Osiris are found only in the sequence on the left, while the
right side consists of many scarab beetles. The left side also includes figures of
Atum, the ba of Re and the Great Cat.

The names and and the figures that are depicted are the most important forms
and attributes of the sun god while in the netherworld. Hence, we find the
Khepri (three times), his morning form, Aten, his evening form, the ba of Re,
together with his various ram forms, as well as his forms of cat and child, the
divine Eye, the sun disk and the accompanying figure of a baboon. The
remaining gods and goddesses of the Ennead are also present, though here, Seth
is replaced by Horus.

Nun and Tatenen, primeval gods of representing the depths of water and earth,
are also present. We find Osiris only as Khentamentiu, though two names refer
to the union of the two gods, which represents a central theme of the entire
litany.Re's association with the netherworld is emphasized by several names,
including "he of the netherworld", "he of the cave", "he who has command over
his cave", "he who renews the earth", and "he of the West". Several other
names portray his journey through the netherworld and in the concluding text
of the composition, he is even called "migratory bird".

Since death and rebirth are both represented in the composition, rejoicing and
mourning are also present and some names reference the corpse of Re, and
even the corpse' decay, which must precede his rebirth. He is called "The
Weeping One", referring to the theology of human beings emerging from the
tears of he creator god, and as a corpse, he is "He in the Sarcophagus" The
double aspect of the sun during the night hours is presented. He is referred to as
"The Dark One" or "The One with the Dark Face", but also as "The Shining
one" whose rays are longed for by the dead. Re's beneficent deeds for the
blessed dead, as well as his function as in punishing the damned are
represented, for he is "The One Who Enchains" and "The One from the
Cauldron and generally "The One who Destroys his Enemies". He is also the
one who "has arranged the heat in the Place of Destruction".

Even as early as the tomb of Useramun, additional depictions augment the

divine figures. Here, the vizier actually placed his own figure at the end of both
sequences, and even his wife and other family members are represented at the
end of the left-hand sequence. In the tomb of Tuthmosis III, where the two
sequences cover the two pillars of his burial chamber, he had himself and
female members of his family depicted on an adjoining side of one of the
pillars. At Abydos, Ramesses II expanded the sequence in his temple to include
even royal ancestors, consisting of his parents and grandfather, as well as
Ahmose, the founder of the New Kingdom. However, like Merneptah in the
Osireion, Ramesses II is only presented making offerings to the them. For the
first time in his version, the figures also contain a small sun disk to indicate the
presence of the sun god within them.

For the first time in the version of the composition found in the tomb of Seti I,
an additional "title" illustration (figures 85 and 87) are inserted between the
title of the book and the Great Litany. The central depictions is of a scarab and
a ram headed god, both contained within a disk. Above are a serpent and an
antelope, while a crocodile and an antelope are depicted below. Though these
illustrations are problematic, John C. Darnell suggest that the animals have
been dispatched by the sun god against his enemies. Thus, they may act as his
bodyguards. However, Erik Hornung, perhaps more correctly, sees them as
enemies fleeing from the sun god.

Strangely, a representation of the united Re and Osiris was added in the tomb
of Nefertari (figure 86). Not a part of the actual Litany of Re, it rather belongs
to spell 180 of the Book of the Dead. This illustration also appears in the tombs
of some royal officials dating to the 19th Dynasty, as well as QV40, the tomb
of an anonymous queen in the Valley of the Queens.

The Content of the Litany of Re

Though the hours of the night play no part in this book, it should be noted that
the number twelve seems to have significance throughout. The Litany of Re is a
description of, and praise for the deity who descends into the netherworld at
night and meets Osiris as the ruler of the netherworld and of the dead. Its theme
is the direct equating of the deceased pharaoh with the sun god Re, with his ba-
soul which is actually that of Osiris, and with the daily course of the sun. Re,
combined with the ba of Osiris as one god, who "speaks with one mouth",
awakens the dead to renewed life, as well as caring for the blessed and
punishing the damned. Though not actually a part of the Litany of Re, this ram-
headed Re-Osiris is found as an addition in the tomb of Nefertari.

The host of figures and functions of this nocturnal sun god in the Great (or
large) Litany opens the way to the netherworld for the deceased. There is also a
desire to include the dead king in the course of the sun, therefore providing him
with daily renewal. The deceased king expresses this desire as "My birth is the
birth of Re in the West". The connection with the course of the sun is why the
text accompanying the union between Re and Osiris is included in the
illustration of the Book of the Dead spell 109, where the sun is called a
"newborn calf" in the tomb of Arinefer (TT290).

As a migratory bird, Re visits the netherworld each night and, like all of the
dead, becomes as he is called in the concluding text of the Great Litany, a
cavern dweller. Afterwards, the deceased speaks for the first time, indicating
that he has a complete understanding of Re's nocturnal forms of manifestation,
together with their names. He implores them to open the netherworld to him
and his ba. This is one aspect of the Litany of Re that distinguishes it from the
Books of the Netherworld, for in those compositions the deceased never

In the Books of the Netherworld, the dialogue is always between the sun god
and the inhabitants of the Beyond. After the Great Litany, the second litany
follows with the inhabitants of the netherworld, who are commanded to prepare
the way for the dead as they follow Re. Interrupted by only an invocation to the
nocturnal sun, "who shines among those in the netherworld", the third litany
adds, "May you lead me to the ways of the West:". This leads into the first
equations of the deceased, first with Nun and then with Re, his ba and his cycle.

On the ceiling the text that follows invokes the United One and equates the
dead with his ba and corpse. Hence, this is a very important section of the
composition because of the way it is inserted as well as its content. Here, there
is a remark about recitation that makes reference to the forms of the gods and to
the offerings they require. Next, the deceased king presents a speech addressed
to them as the "gods who are in the West". He tells them that "I am one of
you", and thereafter identifies himself with the sun god with whom he shares
the triumph "over all his enemies in the sky and on earth".

Afterwards, the short fourth litany consisting of three double verses wherein
Osiris is also addressed. Here, Re and Osiris greet and extend their hands to one
another. Through the power of his ba, Re displaces the darkness allowing the
netherworld to see as the deceased also seeks the renewal of his eyes and the
return of his heart.

The fifth litany consists of eight double verses. Here, "You have commanded
for me, as (for) Akhty", is a general evocation of the care of the god.
Afterwards, there is a prayer asking for deliverance from the slaughterers in the
netherworld, including their cauldrons, their traps and their ovens, because "I
am Re".

After a depiction of the majestic appearance of the god as ba with the request,
"Oh Re, come to me, oh guide" and some further identifications and dialogues
with the "weary of heart" in the netherworld, there is the sixth litany containing
fifteen double verses Here, we find the representation of a pelican goddess,
perhaps representing the embodiment of Nut, the goddess of Heaven, who is
suppose to care for the deceased. Now the deceased makes his appearance in all
the splendor of the sun god.

Five double verses make up the seventh litany where, "Truly you have caused
me to ascend" is followed by the "Member Apotheosis". In this litany, the dead
king's limbs are deified as every part of his body is equated with a god,
allowing the deceased to become "entirely a god". Afterwards, the king also
appears as the god's son and receives commands from him. Now, in a double
role as Re and Osiris, he turns to those who dwell in the netherworld, those
who are "provided with offerings", and this section ends with the rejoicing of
the eighth litany, "hail, well led...". The composition ends with a prayer to the
realm of the dead as the "West" in the ninth litany where there is a final
identification of the deceased king as Re. Towards the end there is an old
formula where the ba belongs to the sky and the corpse to the earth, with the
additional phrase "among the gods".

Book of the Heavens

This book, developed during the late New Kingdom, describes the sun's
passage through the heavens. There are actually a number of individual books,
but the better documented of these include the Book of the Day, the Book of
the Night and the Book of Nut. Closely related is The Book of the Celestial
Cow. For example, the Book of the Night, like other books, documents the
sun's journey but set within Nut, goddess of the heavens. She swallows the sun
at the close of the day and gives birth to it each morning. Passages from these
books are mostly found in Ramessid period tombs.

The Book of the Divine Cow begins with the "Myth of the Destruction of
Mankind", the Egyptian version of the story of the great flood. In the
beginning daylight was always present, and humans and gods cohabited on
earth. This was depicted as paradise, but humans rebelled against the aging sun
god, Ra. Ra sent Hathor as his eye (cobra snake) to punish the rebels, who
began to destroy them with fire. However, Ra ended up feeling sorry for them
and so deceived Hathor into letting some humans live. Ra then rearranged
heaven and the underworld and left earth on the back of the celestial cow.

After the death of Akhenaten, signaling the end of the Amarna Period, we find
a new set of Books related to the afterlife. These books centered around Nut,
who swallows the sun god in the evening, only to give birth to him in the
morning. During the day the sun god passes visibly along her body, but during
the night, he travels through her body back to the place where he will rise once

Beginning with Ramesses IV, two of the Books of the Sky were usually placed
next to each other on the ceilings of royal tombs. They depicted a double
representation of Nut, back to back. The the focus is on the sun god, other
heavenly bodies are also included. Generally speaking, the books emphasize
cosmography and the topography of the sky, a topic which had its beginnings in
the Book of the Heavenly Cow, though the astronomical ceilings found in the
tombs of Seti I (KV17) through Ramesses III (KV11) can also be viewed as
precursors to the Books of the Sky (heavens). These books are generally
considered to consist of the Book of Nut, the Book of the Day and the Book of
the Night.

The Book of Nut

We have actually very few example of the Book of Nut. We find examples in
the cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos and in the tomb of Ramesses IV, though the
latter is abbreviated. The only other evidence of this book is a commentary
written in the Roman Period, and an incomplete version in the tomb of Mutirdis
(TT410) dating from the 26th Dynasty. The longer appended text that
accompanies the captions was reproduced in the Papyrus Carlsberg in Demotic
It was Jean-Francois Champollion and Hippolito Rosellini who published the
earliest drawing of the representation of the sky goddess. These, and some
investigation that followed, were all from the version found in the tomb (KV2)
of Ramesses IV, for the Osireion in Abydos had not been discovered at that
point. The commentary from the Roman period was published by H. O. Lange
and Otto Neugebauer in 1940.

The book itself is pictorial in nature, and resembles to some degree the Book of
the Heavenly Cow. There are brief captions that seem to be overwhelmed by
the huge image of the sky. Nut is shown as a woman supported by the God Shu
who holds her body aloft. Interestingly, in the tomb of Seti I, she is oriented
correctly for the swallowing and birth of the sun, but not in the tomb of
Ramesses IV. Other motifs within the scene include several sun disks, a winged
scarab in front of the knees of the goddess, a vulture atop the heraldic plant of
Upper Egypt behind her legs, and nest of migratory birds next to her arms. The
captions on the scene are also accompanied by a longer appended text.

The book is intended to provide both a topography of the sky and an

understanding of the sun's daily course. The brief captions augment this
understanding and are distributed over the entire scene, describing its details as
well as the actions of the sun god, the decans and other divine beings.

O. Neugebauer set out and coded the various captions within the depiction. For
example, Text L provides a definition of the "far regions of the sky", that are in
the primeval darkness and waters, not touched by the sun. They have no
boundaries or cardinal directions. A list of decans that may originate in the
Middle Kingdom are provided in Texts S through X. These captions tell us the
decans work and their periodic invisibility, including their transit through the
meridian. The text labeled Dd through Ff explain migratory birds and their

In the cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos, we find a text reporting a quarrel between

Geb and Nut because she is swallowing their children, the stars. The dispute is
settled by their father, Shu, who advises that the Nut give birth to the stars each
time so they might live.

The Book of the Day

The Book of the Day, though found in the royal necropolis at Tanis, along with
excerpts from the tomb of Osorkon II and a nearly complete version in the
tomb of Shoshenq III, is also depicted within the tomb of Ramesses VI. The
latest version of the book we have is from the private tomb of Ramose (TT132)
that dates from the 25th Dynasty. Otherwise, only brief components of the text
regarding the hours of the day have been discovered on sarcophagi and papyri
of the Late Period. Also related are the hymns to the hours of the day in the
pronaos of the Edfu Temple.

Champoliion originally copied versions of the book from the sarcophagus

chamber and corridors of the tomb of Ramesses VI, but they received little
attention. In 1942, Alexandre Piankoff published and edition of the book but
without regard to the Tanis versions.

The scene and captions of this book are arranged under the figure of the sky
goddess Nut, with her arms and legs spread out. All of the figures within the
scene face the head of Nut, and so the end of the book. Arranged horizontally
into five registers, the text follows the course of the twelve hours of the day.
This arrangement, however, makes it unclear where one hour ends and the next
begins. A prologue and concluding representation stand out from the main text.
It should also be noted that the Book of the Day and the Book of the Night may
have been intended as a single entity, but they are only shown together in the
tomb of Ramesses VI.

The Book of the Day is notable because, unlike most of the funerary text, it is
focused on the journey of the sun god during the day, rather than his nocturnal
voyage through the underworld. Hence, the sun god appears with a falcon's
head rather than his ram-headed nighttime image. Yet underworld motifs such
as the repulsing of Apophis and the Field of Reeds occur in the middle of the
composition. Mostly, this book is concerned with the enumeration of deities,
with little descriptive text.

The Book of the Night

The first version of the Book of the Night that we know of comes from the
Osireion at Abydos, and only extends to the ninth hour of the night. There was
a copy in the tomb (KV8) of Merneptah on the ceiling of the antechamber, but
it is mostly gone now. Ramesses IV included this book next to the Book of Nut
on the ceiling of his sarcophagus chamber, though only as far as the fourth
hour. However, the tomb (KV9) of Ramesses VI gives us two complete copies,
one on the west side of the ceiling of the sarcophagus chamber while the
second version is spread out through earlier chambers Both versions are
complemented by representations of the Book of the Day. We also find scenes
from the book in the tomb of Ramesses IX
In all of these instances, the book is depicted on the ceiling of the New
Kingdom tombs, though at Tanis, they shifted to the walls. Osorkon II
combined it with the Book of the Day, while Shoshenq III followed Seti I's
version. During the Late Period, we also find extracts from the book in several
tombs, including TT33, 132 and 410, along with fragments from the Nilometer
at Roda. Even as late as the 30th Dynasty we may also note examples on
sarcophagi, where they are combined with hours from the Amduat. There are
also text from the second hour of the night found in the solar sanctuaries of
Deir el-Bahri, Medinet Habu and Karnak.

The Book of the Night is divided into twelve sections separated from each
other by vertical line of text designated as "gates". Unlike the Book of Gates,
these precede the hours of the night to which they belong. The arms and legs of
Nut represent the first and last gate, though the first hour is not presented. For
each hour there is an introductory text which provides the most important
details, though the remaining captions are brief.

The book is arranged in three registers that are staggered into five to seven
registers due to space considerations. The sun barque travelers through the
center register. Within this boat, the sun god, who is in his shrine, is surrounded
by the coils of the Mehen-serpent while another serpent protects him. The crew
of his boat features Sia at the prow as the spokesman of the god, Hu at the
stern, Ma'at, and in the version at Abydos, the king. Within the upper registers
are various deities while the lower register features various groups of deceased
people, including the blessed and the damned. In front of the boat is a large
group of towmen, sometimes as many as thirty, called the Unwearing Ones,
who are led by the king. There is no descriptive text like that found in he Books
of the Netherworld, and generally, the registers are not divided into scenes. At
the end, a summary of the entire course of the sun is provided.

There must obviously be many similarities between this book and other Books
of the Netherworld. Interestingly, however, the sun's enemy Apophis does not
appear in this book at all though he appears in the Neitherworld books. Instead,
the repelling of Seth is mentioned several times. This book complements the
Book of the Day, beginning at the point where the sun god is swallowed by Nut
and ending when she gives birth to him in the morning as a scarab. The sun god
take the form of the Ram-headed nocturnal god, and is designated as flesh.

Sia takes an important role in this book, appearing as the spokesman of the sun
god. The sun god has his own escort in the middle register of each hour, in
place of the hour goddesses who accompany him in the Amduat and the Book
of Gates.
Only in the Seti I version are remains of an introductory text. Here, the sun god
provides us with an explanation of the goal of his journey through the
underworld, which has to do with judging the damned and caring for the
blessed. The primeval darkness is mentioned as a border area.

As in the Amduat and the Book of Gates, the first hour is seen as interstitial,
and thus is not presented. The book begins with the second hour, where in the
upper register depicts both individual and groups of deities. These include the
deities of the four cardinal points, the bas of Buto and Hierakonpolis, and the
two Enneads, which stand for the all divine beings.

In the upper register of the seventh hour, general forms also appear that
represent existence and nonexistence. To their opposite are all of the deceased
in the lower register, appearing as transfigured ones (akhu), mummies and the
"dead", who are damned.

Missing is the union of Re and Osiris, found in other funerary text, though the
representation of bas and corpses in the lower register of the sixth hour
indicates the longed for union in the depths of night, with which the
regeneration in the seventh hour is connected. Here, the critical moment
requires the overcoming of various enemies. In the lower register of the seventh
hour, another motif that first appears in the Book of Gates (13th scene) takes
form. here, Horus looks upon both foreigners (shown as Asiatics, Libyans,
Medja bedouins and Nubians) and Egyptians (shown as dwellers in the fertile
land and the desert). The foreigners are depicted as bound enemies. The speech
of the sun god also includes motifs from the 21st scene of the Book of Gates.

On the lower register of the eighth hour we find an enthroned Osiris, with
Horus and the other gods connected with him in attendance. He is shown in
victory over enemies, though only in Late Period representations are they
directly addressed as Seth. Here, the groups of the blessed and damned are
turned to Osiris is prayer, and their depiction continues into the ninth hour,
when they are addressed by Sia. He dictates their fate in the afterlife and their
attachment to Osiris, but in the tenth hour, only the blessed appear in the lower

The towmen preceding the solar barque are joined by four jackals designated
"Western bas" in the twelfth and last hour. Here, the deities, including Osiris, in
the lower register pray before the concluding representation which summarizes
the entire course of the sun. The sun god, with the help of the primeval gods, is
transformed into a scarab and a child. In the backdrop are the two boats of his
daytime and nighttime passage, together with Isis and Nephthys who were later
depicted in the prow of the barques, keeping the sun in motion between them.
The text here refers to the total course of the sun god in the three cosmic realms
consisting of the netherworld (Duat), the primeval waters (Nun) and the sky

The Book of the Heavenly (Celestial) Cow

The first rendering of the Book of the Heavenly Cow was produced on the
outermost of the four gilded shrines of Tutankhamun discovered in his tomb,
though it was incomplete. However, we do find fairly complete versions of the
book in the tombs of Seti I (KV17), Ramesses II (KV7) and Ramesses III
(KV11). In each of these instances, the book is exclusively depicted in an
annex off of the burial chamber. We also find brief excerpts from the book in
the left niche of the third corridor in the tomb of Ramesses VI, and another
even shorter version on a papyrus from the Ramesside Period now in Turin.
While this book does not seem to appear after the New Kingdom, it was
incorporated into the Book of the Fayoum during the Roman Period.

Within the first part of the text in this book, a parallel to the biblical narrative
of the great Flood has inspired considerable interest both within and outside of
Egyptology. The heavenly cow in the tomb of Seti I was noted by early
adventurers who visited the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor
(ancient Thebes) such as Henry Salt and Robert Hay. In 1876, Edouard Naville
published the version of the Book of the Heavenly Cow found in the tomb of
Seti I, translating it into French. He supplied the first translation into English in
1876. Later, in 1885, he also published the version found in the tomb of
Ramesses III. Heinrich Brugsch published the first translation into German in

In 1941, Charles Maystre published the first synoptic version of the book,
taking into account the text discovered in the tomb of Ramesses II (though he
omitted the text from Tutankhamun). In 1983, Erik Hornung, taking into
account all of the versions of the book including that found in the tomb of
Ramesses III, published an improved version of the text, which included a
metrical transliteration by Gerhard Fecht, which saw a second edition with four
pages of supplemental material and corrections in 1991.

The Book of the Divine Cow is not a manual of spiritual instruction, or a

guidebook through the Duat, as are the other funerary text of the New
Kingdom. Rather, it tells a story that mixes magic spells with the exact details
of the Divine Cow herself. It is purely mythological in nature, and in fact, it is
difficult to see how this particular book fits into the evolutionary framework of
the other funerary text.

The central theme of The Book of the Heavenly Cow is mankind's rebellion
against the elder sun god, Re, resulting in the punishment of humans by the
fiery "eye" of Re in the form of the goddess Hathor. It takes place after Re's
long rule on earth. The first part places considerable emphasis on the royal role
of the sun god, who bears the royal title and who's name is surrounded by a
cartouche. He is specifically given rulership over both the deities and the

Prior to the rebellion, which required a complete reordering of the world, there
had been a golden age where the various deities and humans were both under
the sovereignty of the sun god. During this previous age, the sun god had not
yet begun his daily course through the sky and the netherworld. Hence, there
was no cycle of day and night, nor was there a netherworld and death did not

When mankind's rebellion took place, the sun god first consulted with the
primeval deities, including Shu, Tefnut and Geb but particularly the goddess
Nun and Hathor in the Great House in Heliopolis. These gods were to come to
Re in secrecy, as not to alert mankind about their meeting. Re then addressing
Nu, the father of the first-born gods, told him to give heed to what men were
doing, for they whom he had created were murmuring against him.
And he said " Tell me what you would do. Consider the matter, invent a plan
for me, and I will not slay them until I have heard what you shall say
concerning this thing." Nu replied, " You O my son Ra, are greater than the god
who made You (i.e. Nu himself), you are the king of those who were created
with you, your throne is established, and the fear of you is great, Let shine Eye
(Hathor) attack those who blaspheme you. " And Rw said, " Lo, they have fled
to the mountains for their hearts are afraid because of what they have said." The
gods replied, " Let shine Eye go forth and destroy those who blasphemed you,
for no eye can resist shine when it goes forth in the form of Hathor."

Afterwards, Hathor was sent to inflict her punishment. For three nights the
goddess Hathor-Sekhmet waded about in the blood of men, the slaughter
beginning at Hensu (Herakleopolis Magna).. But the sun god took pity on those
humans who were left. He saved them by causing Hathor to become drunk on
blood red beer.

Afterwards, the sun god, Re, withdrew to the sky on the back of the celestial
cow who is the Goddess Nut transformed. The cow is supported by Shu, the
eight Heh-gods along with the Pharaoh. This would account for the importance
of the book for the king, who was the "son" and successor of Re, and who
withdraws to the sky upon his death, like Re, on the back of the heavenly cow.
Now, humankind could suffer death, and so from his position in the sky, Re
constructed the netherworld as their realm (third section of book). Within the
netherworld, Re placed many serpents that were entrusted to the care of Geb,
the earth god. He also sets the moon in the sky and appoints Thoth lord of the
moon and deputy over creation. Now, through Thoth, people will know Re.

The final, or fourth part of the Book of the Heavenly Cow is devoted to the
power of magic. It contains the theology of ba and explains the various deities
and sacred animals that are bas of other divinities.

Reference: Gods of the Egyptians, The (Studies in Egyptian Mythology) -

Budge, E. A. Wallis