Papyrus from the Setne Khaemwaset stories


British Museum

British Museum

Prince Khaemwaset, the fourth son of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), has been called 'the first Egyptologist', since he left inscriptions about restoration on a number of pyramids of the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) in the cemeteries of Memphis. In the later periods he was revered as a great magician and stories developed around his supposed exploits.The Setne Khaemwaset cycle of stories is one of the great treasures of Demotic Egyptian literature. Two parts of it survive, the second of which (Setne II) is in The British Museum. 'Setne' is a corruption of the priestly title held by Khaemwaset. It is normally read 'setem' or 'sem', but by the time of these stories it was treated as if it were one of his personal names.Setne II consists of two main stories, written in demotic script on papyrus. In one story Setne sees the funerals of a rich and a poor man. He is then taken to see different parts of the Underworld where he sees the two men again, but this time their positions are reversed. This story may have influenced related Jewish and Greek legends.The second story is that of a magical contest 1500 years in the past, between an Egyptian and a Nubian magician, which ends dramatically when the conflict threatens to return in the present.

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  • Title: Papyrus from the Setne Khaemwaset stories
  • Date Created: 1/99
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 149.00cm (frame); Width: 50.50cm (frame); Depth: 3.20cm (frame)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: .10822.2
  • Place: Found/Acquired Aswan
  • Period/culture: Roman Period
  • Material: papyrus
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum