Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani

British Museum

British Museum

Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead is a long and complicated spell, with an equally long history. It is essentially a statement of religious doctrines relating to the sun-god Re. It includes statements with explanatory glosses on the meaning of the text, introduced in the original by text in red, saying, for example 'what does it mean?' or 'in other words'. This suggests that it was at some point felt necessary to explain an obscure text, though to us many of the glosses seem more complex than the basic text.

The text is accompanied by a range of vignettes (illustrations). On the left Ani and his wife Tutu are shown at left playing the senet board game (which can be a metaphor for a man travelling into the next world, like a playing piece on the board), while in front of the booth their ba spirits are shown as human-headed birds, perched on top of their tomb. The two lions are those of the horizon over whose backs the sun rises daily, while the bird to the right is the benu, the phoenix-like bird and soul of the sun-god Re. At the right Ani's mummy lies under a canopy, attended on by two birds identified as Isis and Nephthys.

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  • Title: Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 71.30cm (frame); Width: 42.00cm (frame)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1888,0515.1.7
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Tomb of Ani
  • Period/culture: 19th Dynasty
  • Material: papyrus
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Budge, Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis