Book of the Dead, The

Book of the Dead, The Popular title given to a collection of ancient Egyptian funerary texts composed for the benefit of the dead. The collection consists of incantations, hymns, prayers, and magic words and formulas that were found cut or painted on the walls of pyramids and tombs and on rolls of papyrus. The texts do not form a connected work, nor do they belong to any one period. They are miscellaneous in character and tell nothing of the lives or works of the dead with whom they are buried. The Egyptians possessed many funerary works, but none of them bore a name that could be translated The Book of the Dead. This title was given in the early 19th century by tomb robbers, who discovered buried with the mummies rolls of papyrus, which they called Kitâb al-Mayyit (book of the dead man) or Kitâb al-Mayyitun (book of the dead). The robbers, however, knew nothing of the contents of the rolls; they were merely saying that what they found in the coffin was a “dead man’s book.”



Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante


Related Articles


Buto (Bouto) In Egyptian mythology, Greek name for the cobra, or uraeus, goddess Utachet (Wadjet, Inadjet, Edjo), protector of Lower Egypt. Her twin sister, Nekhebet…


Benu (rise and shine) In Egyptian mythology, bird identified by the Greeks with the phoenix. The benu was said to be the oldest living creature.…


Apis In Egyptian mythology, Greek name for the sacred bull, Hapi, associated with the god Ptah of Memphis and regarded as his earthly manifestation during…


Ba (soul) In Egyptian mythology, the soul, or that part of a person that had eternal existence after death, represented as a human-headed bird. The…