Detail of the funerary papyrus of Taminiu, showing demons

British Museum

British Museum

There were many obstacles on the path to the Afterlife in ancient Egyptian belief. They often took the form of demons. The various funerary books were intended as assistance to the deceased, with the spells needed to overcome every problem.Some Underworld demons guarded the gates to the Mansion of Osiris, where the deceased was judged. These were often depicted, as here, in a mummified form, crouching and holding sharp knives. The demons were often shown with their heads twisted round behind them, or face on. Most had the heads of recognizable animals, often ones that were no threat in the living world, such as rams or hares. Others, like the double snake-headed demon, were creatures of fantasy. Another demon gatekeeper was the upright snake, with human arms and legs. This individual was the last guardian who stood at the doorway of the judgement chamber.The other scene on this papyrus shows the deceased woman, Taminiu, receiving cool water from Nut, appearing as a sycamore goddess. Her ba, the small human-headed bird, is at her feet. Behind her is the goddess Maat, whose head is replaced by the feather that is her emblem.

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  • Title: Detail of the funerary papyrus of Taminiu, showing demons
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 32.90cm (frame); Length: 50.00cm (frame)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Registration number: .10002.3
  • Place: Found/Acquired Egypt
  • Period/culture: Third Intermediate
  • Material: papyrus
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Barker, John
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