Book of the Dead documents from the New Kingdom
necropolis at Saqqara

Maarten J. Raven

In 1966, M. Abdul-Qader Muhammed published a list of Book of the Dead spells occurring in the private Theban tombs dating to the New Kingdom. Since then, other projects and studies on specific spells from the Book of the Dead usually refer to the same Theban corpus of texts and vignettes on stone. The privileged position of Theban material in modern Book of the Dead scholarship is further enhanced by the survival of large numbers of funerary papyri owing to the region’s favourable conditions for preservation. As a result, our understanding of the Book of the Dead is largely based on the traditions of a single Egyptian city.

At the same time, contemporary Memphite material is largely unknown. The vast New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara was plundered at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the result that numerous blocks of reliefs and inscriptions can now be found in museums all over the world. Nevertheless, since 1975 several expeditions have been involved in the archaeological exploration of the New Kingdom cemeteries at Saqqara. Over the years, the desert sand has yielded a considerable corpus of new texts and vignettes, which appear on tomb walls and stelae belonging to the highest Dynasty 18 and 19 officials and on burial equipment such as sarcophagi and shabtis. Together with material in museum collections, new discoveries constitute a substantial corpus that provides the opportunity to study the Book of the Dead in its Memphite context.

Since much of this material is still unpublished, this paper will include numerous hitherto unknown documents, most of which derive from the (EES/)Leiden excavations at Saqqara. These will include an interesting vignette of BD 110 from the recently found tomb of Ptahemwia, which refutes Muhammad’s assertion that illustrations of that specific spell only occur in Ramesside tombs.

Book of the Dead documents from the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara

To reference this article we suggest:

Raven, M. 2010. Book of the Dead documents from the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara. BMSAES 15, 249–65. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_15/raven.aspx

Contact the author

M.Raven@RMO.NL