Reconstructing the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead

April 1, 2016

For the last 14 years, twenty archaeologists, Egyptologists, and Spanish specialists have been working on the southern foot of the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga with a team of over a hundred Egyptian workers. During this time, they have united their efforts and been studying every part of the area, and scrutinizing every centimeter of a vast necropolis which is overflowing with burials from different eras.

Jose Manuel Galan, director of the project told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that the site is a “real labyrinth”:

“A labyrinth that grew because in Greco-Roman times, the 2nd century BC, the partition walls were broken between the large tombs of Djehuty and Hery, which are now connected to each other, and the inside of the mountain became catacombs to bury the mummies of ibis and hawks. From the beginning we saw our work as the excavation of a necropolis. The Egyptians who visit us are surprised, but really there is nothing surprising. We are facing a necropolis with tombs of varying importance and appearance ranging from the 2000 BC, during the 11th dynasty, to Greco-Roman times.”

There are many discoveries that have been made over almost 15 years of hard work, but without a doubt the most exciting are the texts from the legendary Egyptian “Book of the Dead”, which the “overseer of treasures” Djehuty – from whom the archaeological project got its name-  ordered as the decoration in his tomb.

Djehuty was an important person in the court of Queen Hatshepsut, and an intellectual who wanted to go beyond the classic decoration of graves in his time.
So, he ordered that the walls of his last abode be covered with paragraphs of what experts say were parts of the “Book of Coming Forth by Day” (another translation for the Book of the Dead) which collected hymns, prayers, rituals, and songs that ensured the soul of the deceased would pass the judgement of Osiris (weighing of the heart), and cross the underworld to reach the coveted and heavenly Aaru (field of reeds).

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