Page from the Book of the Dead of Nebseny

From a Memphite cemetery, probably Saqarra, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1400 BC

The couple receiving offerings

The scene of an owner and his or her spouse (here Nebseny and his wife, Senseneb) receiving offerings, is often shown in Books of the Dead. Such offerings are conventionally the duty of the eldest son, and indeed the horizontal row of hieroglyphs over the man at the left names him as 'their son, Ptahmose'. The hieroglyphs above, which give the text of the offering prayer, is written in what is known as 'retrograde' style. While a hieroglyphic text normally starts at the end to which the birds, animals and humans face, a 'retrograde' text should be read starting at the opposite end. In this case, the text begins at the left and continues to the right, and reflects the words coming away from the priest at the left.

The papyrus of Nebseny is among the earlier examples in The British Museum, and the accompanying vignettes (illustrations) are not coloured. Nebseny was a temple copyist, whose job was probably to make copies of temple documents for archives, as well as writing out new ones. Ir is possible that he may have drawn the pictures himself rather than pay a specialist papyrus illustrator.

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More information


R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)


Length: 65.800 cm
Height: 35.800 cm

Museum number

EA 9900/32


Acquired in 1836 from the collection of James Burton


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