12 Facts About the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead

Each individual used to invest in a customised papyrus of charms and spells called the 'Book of the Dead'.

Various experts and archaeologists claim that ancient Egyptians were religious people. They used to perform spells and enchantments to secure a haven in the afterlife. Each individual used to invest in a customised papyrus of charms called the ‘Book of the Dead’. The Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ is a compilation of various spells that were acquired through ancient tomb engravings and paintings. According to ancient Egyptians, the afterlife was essentially a continuation of life on earth. Hence, it was mandatory for each of them to own a manual that could appropriately lead them to the Gods.

Seti I
The tomb of Seti I is covered with detailed artworks depicting scenes from the pharaoh’s journey through the afterlife. Source: Kenneth Garrett

Following are certain significant facts about the ‘Book of the Dead’:

1) The Book of the Dead originated from the concepts portrayed in numerous tomb paintings and inscriptions from as early as the Third Dynasty of Egypt.

2) The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a compilation of spells which allow the deceased to navigate through the afterlife.

3) Numerous experts and archaeologists initially believed that the inscriptions found in Egyptian tombs were passages from ancient scripture. However, they eventually discovered that these texts were spells and road maps provided to the deceased to navigate their way through the afterlife.

4) Ancient Egyptians believed that having the ‘Book of the Dead’ in one’s burial chamber would ultimately benefit them in the afterlife.

5) Before the New Kingdom, the ‘Book of the Dead’ was only available to the royalty and the elite. However, the middle class started investing in the book once it became immensely popular.

6) There are over 165 spells and 190 chapters in the Book of the Dead.

7) Karl Richard Lepsius was the first person who translated the book in 1842. Moreover, Samuel Birch of the British Museum published the first English translation in 1867.

8) Several chapters of the book can be found on papyrus, but some are also found on coffins, scarabs, tomb walls and even other mortuary objects.

9) The ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for approximately 3,000 years, and there were different versions of the Book of The Dead in multiple dynasties.

10) Multiple gods appear in different chapters of the Book of the Dead. They all come with different purposes in each chapter. Some guide the lost souls to the right path, whereas the rest punish them for their deeds in the world.

11) Ancient Egyptians believed that one of the most significant things in life was happiness. Most of the ancient Egyptians seemed to be optimists, and they genuinely thought that everyone would pass the final test.

12) Ancient Egyptians believed that poor people would be poor in the afterlife, and rich people would have the same luxuries. Hence, rich people bought themselves a customised version of the Book of the Dead.

All in all, the Book of the Dead is truly an interesting piece of history.

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