Funerary Compositions

During the Second Intermediate Period, a collection of spells appears that is known as the Book of the Dead, or by its ancient title, the Spells for Going Forth by Day. These spells first appear in private New Kingdom tombs, on coffins, and on papyri. Often, the spells were illustrated with vignettes that illustrated their subject matter. Over 190 different spells have been recorded from New Kingdom sources, but individual private tombs contain only a selection of these, and the number is even more limited in royal tombs. The spells are concerned with the solar journey, the final judgment, the portals of the realm of Osiris, and descriptions of the netherworld [15146, 14620]. Book of the Dead spells are found on sarcophagi of the kings of Dynasty 18, but they do not appear in wall decoration until after the Amarna Period, in the tombs of Tutankhamen (KV 62) [14895] and Ay (KV 23) [14156]. Many objects, such as shabtis and amulets, are connected with Book of the Dead spells.     15146 14620 14895 14156
The earliest version of this composition is found on two pillars in burial chamber J of Thutmes III (KV 34). It does not appear again until the tomb of Sety I (KV 17), where it decorates corridor B and stairwell C. It continues to be used as the decorative theme for this part of the royal tomb until the reign of Rameses IV (KV 2). An initial scene shows the sun disk with a serpent above and a crocodile below [15304]. A scarab (representing the god at sunrise) and a ram-headed man (representing the god at sunset) are contained inside the disk (representing the god at midday). Invocations to the sun in seventy-four forms are followed by representations of these forms [15622, 15501]. Another representation on the ceiling shows the soul of the sun god as a ram-headed bird flanked by Isis and Nephthys as kites [15619].     15304 15622 15501 15619
This composition first appears as part of the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts, but does not appear again until Dynasty 18 in private tombs. In Dynasty 18 royal tombs, only the opening scene occurs, and then only in KV 62 (Tutankhamen) [14892]; fuller versions start to appear in the kings' tombs during the reign of Sety I. The text consists of a series of spells concerned with restoring the body to life and with animating a statue or image with spiritual force. The spells are accompanied by images of priests performing these rituals before the deceased or his statue [16217]. Well-preserved versions can be seen in the lower corridors (G, H) of the tombs of Sety I (KV 17) and Tausert/Setnakht (KV 14), and traces can also be found in similar positions in the tomb of Merenptah (KV 8) and Rameses III (KV 11). In later Dynasty 20 royal tombs (KV 7, KV 6), only the scene of the priest purifying the king is found.     14892 16217
Enigmatic Compositions
This rather loose category includes several different compositions that occur only once or twice, primarily in Dynasty 20 royal tombs such as KV 6 and KV 9. They are "enigmatic" because they either lack any accompanying text or because the text is written in unusual cryptographic hieroglyphs. The second gilded shrine that enclosed the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen had a composition of this type on its outer sides.    

Published or last modified on: May 1, 2003
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