Book of the Dead inscribed for Djedhor



Book of the Dead inscribed for a man named Djedhor, the son of Tapes. In the middle of the scroll is Spell 125: ‘the judgement of the dead’. An illustration shows Anubis and Horus weighing Djedhor’s heart on a scale against Maat (‘truth’), a goddess wearing a feather. Towards the end of the scroll is Spell 110 ‘The Field of Offerings’ with an illustration showing Djedhor at work in the Field of Offerings, an ideal place, or paradise, where life was similar to that on earth. With the help of servants (shabtis), Djedhor would cultivate the fields for the gods, which would ensure a supply of food offerings for his eternal sustenance. Other spells include Spell 83 ‘Spell for being transformed into a phoenix’, enabling Djedhor’s soul (ba) to transform into a phoenix. This imaginary bird was linked with the soul of sun-god Re. At the beginning of time, Re was born as a phoenix from an egg laid on the primeval mound in the waters of creation. With this spell, Djedhor hoped to be born again and again like Re. The text is written in hieratic and hieroglyphic with carbon ink and red ochre. Vignettes are painted with carbon ink. The red (rubric) is used to highlight the start of different spells. Vignettes in black pigment are beside each spell and run across the top length. The papyrus is probably from after the end of the Pharaonic Period, at the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period, shortly after the invasion of Alexander the Great about 332 BC. Discovered as a folded roll in a cemetery in 1905, stored away during the Second World War and forgotten about until 1974. The complete document is about 392 cm in length and now preserved as five sheets with some pieces remaining loose. New conservation work carried out by Eve Menei in 2016 has allowed for the complete document to be placed on public display for the first time. Djedhor’s Book of the Dead was excavated with some other finds in 1905 at a site called Hissayeh (Nag el-Hisaya) in Upper Egypt. Hissaya was a burial place used in the Ptolemaic and Roman Period, mainly by priests of Horus from the temple city of Edfu, which is 20km to the north of the site. In a fieldwork report to the Museum, dated 5th March 1905, Professor John Garstang of the University of Liverpool records that “Few tombs of the Ptolemaic character proved to have escaped plunder and in one of them Mr Jones found attached to a mummy a hieroglyphic papyrus ...The papyrus is a nice roll in good condition. The text is well written and the illustrations in pen and ink apparently without colour. It seems to be The Book of the Dead but I have not dealt with it yet. Another was found two days ago, unfortunately flat, and difficult to preserve". The papyrus was unrolled in 1974 by Professor Herbert Walter Fairman of the University of Liverpool who wrote "In spite of the desperately damaged state of the first 12 or 15 inches, the remainder was unrolled without great difficulty and proves to be a copy of the Saite Recension of the Book of the Dead about 15 foot in length. It has admirable vignettes and is not without interest."