Researchers in Egypt uncovered a 16-meter-long (52 foot) papyrus that they believe to be part of the Book of the Dead. The ancient manuscript dates back over two millennia and was discovered in a tomb south of the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, according to Live Science.
Analysis of the latest discovery in light of the many writings from The Book of the Dead may provide insight into ancient Egyptian burial customs. A translated statement made in honor of an event commemorating Egyptian Archaeologists Day on January 14 claims that conservation work is complete and that the papyrus is now being translated into Arabic.
According to the release, Mostafa Waziry, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, noted that this was the first complete papyrus to be discovered in Saqqara in more than a century.
The earliest pyramid ever built by the Egyptians was the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which was erected during the reign of the pharaoh Djoser (approximately 2630–2611 B.C.). For thousands of years, people have been buried in the region surrounding the step pyramid.
Former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass confirmed to Live Science in an email that the newly discovered papyrus was in a coffin from the Late Period (about 712 B.C. to 332 B.C.). Hawass promised that the papyrus’s owner and date will be made public in the near future.
These ancient Egyptian books, collectively known as the Book of the Dead today, had a variety of functions, including, according to Egyptian belief, assisting the deceased in their journey through the afterlife. During the New Kingdom, they saw extensive usage (circa 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C.).
The length of 52 feet is impressive, however there are lengthier specimens of Book of the Dead papyri. According to Foy Scalf, head of research archives at the University of Chicago, who spoke to Live Science via email:
“There are many manuscripts that would have been similar in length, but papyrus manuscripts of ancient Egyptian religious texts can vary quite dramatically in length,” he said.
Dr. Scalf pointed out that some scrolls of the Book of the Dead are longer than 98 feet (30 meters).
It would seem that this is the second papyrus bearing writings from the Book of the Dead that has been discovered at Saqqara in the last year. Both papyri were discovered at the same location. A fragmented papyrus measuring 13 feet (four meters) in length and containing writings from the Book of the Dead was discovered in the year 2022 at Saqqara in a burial pit close to the pyramid of the pharaoh Teti (reigned circa 2323 B.C. to 2291 B.C.). It was owned by a person whose name was “Pwkhaef,” and his name was inscribed on the item.
In spite of the fact that he was buried next to the pyramid of Pharaoh Teti, Pwkhaef lived several centuries after the king. The burial tunnels in Egypt that contained this papyrus were constructed between the 18th and 19th dynasties of that country (1550 B.C. to 1186 B.C.). However, throughout that time period in Egypt, the habit of being buried near to the pyramid of a previous monarch was common practice.
A group of Egyptian archaeologists working for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered the find. The ministry has not yet made any photos of the old document public, but they are working on it. The remark suggests that the papyrus will soon be on exhibit at an Egyptian museum.
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