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The Dream Book

 

Height: 34.500 cm

Gift of A Chester Beatty (P. Chester Beatty III)

EA 10683

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    The Dream Book

    From Deir el-Medina, Egypt
    19th Dynasty, around 1275 BC

    Papyrus giving a list of dreams and their interpretations

    The meaning of dreams is a subject that fascinated the ancient Egyptians. This hieratic papyrus, probably dates to the early reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). On each page of the papyrus a vertical column of hieratic signs begins: 'if a man sees himself in a dream'; each horizontal line describes a dream, followed by the diagnosis 'good' or 'bad', and then the interpretation. For example, 'if a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window, good; it means the hearing of his cry'. Or, 'if a man sees himself in a dream with his bed catching fire, bad; it means driving away his wife'. The text first lists good dreams, and then bad ones; the word 'bad' is written in red, 'the colour of ill omen'.

    The papyrus had several owners before it was, presumably, deposited in the cemetery at Deir el-Medina. It is uncertain who the original owner was, but it passed into the hands of the scribe Qeniherkhepshef; on the other side of the papyrus, the scribe copied a poem about the Battle of Kadesh, which took place in the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). The Dream Book passed to Khaemamen, Qeniherkhepshef's wife's second husband, and then to his son Amennakht (both added their name to the papyrus). The Dream Book was part of an archive, including a wide variety of literary, magical and documentary material, which passed down through the family for more than a century.

    A.H. Gardiner, Hieratic papyri in the Briti-1 (London, British Museum, 1935)

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

    R. Parkinson, Cracking codes: the Rosetta St (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    A.G. McDowell, Village life in ancient Egypt: (Oxford University Press, 1999)

    P.W. Pestman, 'Who were the owners, in the 'community of workmen' of the Chester Beatty Papyri?' in Gleanings from Deir el-Medina (Leiden, 1982), pp. 155-72

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