Ancient Egyptian manual to the afterlife goes on show
Tuesday 02 November 2010
Manuscripts containing the ancient Egyptians' manual to the afterlife have been taken out of storage at the British Museum to go on display for the first time.
The Book Of The Dead is a compilation of around 200 separate spells and prayers, some of which have never been shown in public before, which would help the dead on their perilous journey towards eternal life.
The "Book" was not a single text but usually written on rolls of papyrus and painted with scenes - the most famous being the weighing of the heart - of the hereafter.
The British Museum contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Book Of The Dead manuscripts, but because of their light sensitivity it is rare for the objects to be displayed.
The exhibition, Journey Through The Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book Of The Dead, includes an ancient Egyptian manuscript, measuring 37 metres, which will be seen in public in its entirety for the first time.
The Book Of The Dead of Nesitanebisheru, a high priest's daughter, is the longest Book Of The Dead known to exist.
The spells, also seen on statues, coffins, shrouds and jewellery, were used for 1,500 years, from around 1600 to 100 BC.
Most of the "Books" have been discovered during the last two centuries and more continue to be found.
Curator John Taylor said that experts have gleaned much of their knowledge about ancient Egypt through Books Of The Dead.
"They tell us a huge amount about ancient Egypt, information about their hopes and fears, information about what they're concerned about," he said.
"As long as (the books) were by the body they were seen to equip you for the afterlife."
Journey Through The Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book Of The Dead, runs from Thursday until March 6 next year.
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