Gods and goddesses
Topics in this section: religion in ancient egypt | gods and goddesses | the afterlife | mummification | astronomy | the temple | funerary texts

Religion in ancient Egypt was an important part of everyday life. Priests attended daily to the needs of the gods, (who were thought to be manifested in their cult images), made offerings to them, and thus kept the forces of chaos at bay. Distinctions were sometimes made between the important state gods, such as Horus or Isis, and the local and "household" deities, such as Bes and Tawaret. However in practice, the only major difference between these gods and deities seems to be the lack of cult places and temples dedicated to the local and household deities. State religion tended to focus on the concerns of the state and kingship, whereas local and household deities seem to have been popular with individual ordinary Egyptians.
Most Egyptian gods and goddesses began their "lives" simply as local deities, with a specific town or village as being their cult centre.
Throughout the vast and complex history of Egypt, the dominant beliefs of the ancient Egyptians merged and mutated as leaders of different groups in  separate areas of the country would gain power. This process continued even after the end of the ancient Egyptian civilisation as we know it today. During the New Kingdom for instance, the separate deities of Re and Amun commonly "merged" (typically referred to as syncretism) to became known as Amun-Re. Even when taking part in such a syncretic relationship, the original god did not necessarily become completely "absorbed" into the combined deity.
Here we've compiled a list of some of the ancient Egyptian primary deities:

Amun/Amun Re
Depicted as a man, and often shown seated on a throne, wearing a plain deep circlet headdress from which rise two tall straight plumes. One of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon, his name means "the hidden one". He is first mentioned in the 5th Dynasty pyramid texts and was originally thought to be simply a veneration of the concept of air and wind, one of the four fundamental concepts believed to have composed the primordial universe in the Ogdoad cosmogeny.  Gradually as a god of air, he came to be associated with the breath of life which created the ba, and as a creator god was titled "father of the gods". The temple of Amun at Karnak is the best surviving religious complex of the New Kingdom. In the jubilee chapel of Senusret I (1965-1920 BC) in Karnak, Amun is described as "the king of the gods" and by the time of the Ptolemies, he was regarded as the Egyptian equivalent of Zeus.

Canine god of the dead, closely associated with embalming and mummification. Originally the god of the dead before Osiris became associated with the position. Anubis then became known as one of the sons of Osiris and the "conductor of souls" of the underworld. In the Old Kingdom pyramid texts of Unas, his role was already very clear - he was associated with the Eye of Horus and he was already thought to be the guide of the dead in the afterlife. Usually represented in the form of a seated black jackal-like dog or man with a black dog's head. It is still not entirely clear whether the dog in question - often identified by the Egyptian word "sab" was indeed a jackal. The deep black colour of Anubis's head (or body when shown in complete animal form) is not reflective of his actual colour but is instead symbolic of his position as a funerary deity. According to myth, the jackal-god was said to have wrapped the body of the deceased Osiris, thus establishing his particular association with the mummification process. The priest in charge of the funeral and embalming rights was known as the "hery seshta" (overseer of the mysteries), who took the part of the jackal god Anubis.

Aten (sun disc)
The 18th dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep IV took the name Akhenaten, built a new capital in Middle Egypt and declared that just a single deity should be worshipped - the sun disk Aten. Having no human form, the Aten was depicted with arm-like rays that ended in hands, bestowing life and peace to all. Akhenaten was a philosopher and a thinker. His father Amenhotep III had recognised the growing power of the priesthood of Amun and had sought to curb it - Akhenaten however took matters a lot further by introducing the new "monothesitic" cult of worship to the sun-disc Aten. This was not a new idea, as a minor aspect of the sun god Ra-Horakty, the Aten had been somewhat venerated in the Old Kingdom. Art took on a new distinctive style and the names of other deities were removed from temple walls in an attempt to reinforce the idea of the Aten as a single supreme deity. After the king's death the cult collapsed, and the capital Akhetaten was abandoned. Religious and political life relocated back to Thebes, and the cult of Amun was re-instated by the rule of Tutankhamun.

Creator god and solar deity of Heliopolis, where he was gradually combined with the sun god Re to become Re-Atum. In the creation myths, Atum is the primal creator. He arose on a mound out of Nun, the waters of chaos, and created the first gods, Shu and Tefnut from his spittle. The Memphite creation myth puts him as the first creation of Ptah, who simply said his name and he came into being. Atum was revered not only as the father of the gods but also as the father of the pharaohs. The title "Son of Atum" was included in the many titles of pharaoh. As such, he was regarded as a protective deity, particularly associated with the rituals of kingship. Atum lifted the dead king from his pyramid to the heavens in order to transform him into a star-god, and in later times he protected the deceased during their journey through the underworld.

Cat goddess and local deity of the town of Bubastis, whose name means "she of the bast" (ointment jar). In her earliest known form, carved on stone vessels of the 2nd Dynasty ruler Hetepsekhemwy (c.2890 BC) at Saqqara, Bastet was represented as a woman with the head of a lioness or desert cat, frequently holding both the ankh sign and a sceptre. By the 1st Millennium BC she was widely portrayed as a cat-headed woman often carrying a sistrum (rattle) and accompanied by kittens. To those who were in her favour, she could bestow great blessings, but her wrath was legendary and she was sometimes listed as one of Re's avenging deities who punish the sinful and the enemies of Egypt. It was only in the New Kingdom that she was seen to become a more benevolent deity, adopting the head of a "domestic" cat. Closely connected (and often confused) with Sekhmet, although distinctly separate deities, Bast was a goddess from Lower Egypt whilst Sekhmet came from Upper Egypt.

A dwarf demi-god, Bes evolved to became a protector against evil spirits and misfortune. He was depicted in a sometimes androgyne way, with a full face, a bearded large head, bow legs and sometimes even a bushy tail. He would scare off any harmful or destructive influences by making a lot of noise with various musical instruments such as the sistrum, and armaments such as swords and knives. He was closely associated with Tawaret as a midwife, and as protector of the royal house, he became a very popular household deity.

Geb was thought to represent the earth, he is often seen reclining beneath the sky goddess Nut. Geb was called "the great cackler" because it was thought his laughter could bring on earthquakes. He was often depicted lying on the ground under the sky goddess Nut, or with a goose over his head. It was in this form that he was said to have laid the egg from which the sun was hatched. A fundamental deity of the divine ennead, Geb was the brother of Nut the sky goddess, and together they produced Osiris, Isis, Nepthys and Seth. The royal throne of Egypt was known as the "throne of Geb" in honour of his great reign.

Important goddess generally worshiped in three forms: as a woman with the ears of a cow, or simply as a cow, or as a woman wearing a head-dress with wig, horns and sun disc. Hathor was an old protector of music, dancing and love, and being associated with the cow was considered to be the wife of the sacred bull Buchis of Armant, personifying fertility and motherhood. As such her popularity was unbroken during the whole Egyptian history. She and Horus protected the royal couple and she attended at the arrival of the dead king into the next world. Her associations and cult centres were among the most numerous and diverse of any of the Egyptian deities. The literal meaning of her name was "House of Horus" and since the pharaoh identified with Horus, Hathor was correspondingly regarded as the divine mother of each reigning king, and one of the royal titles was "Son of Hathor".

Androgynous (asexual) god of the Inundation (yearly flood), usually represented as a pot bellied man with pendulous breasts and a head-dress formed of aquatic plants. He was sometimes coloured blue, black or green to represent the mud from the Nile, and shown offering fruits and flowers and carrying the lotus and the papyrus, the symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. These attributes were designed to represent fertility and the abundance of produce resulting from the Nile silt left by the receding waters of the river after the Inundation. Common epithets for Hapy include "master of the river bringing vegetation" and "lord of the fishes and birds of the marshes". Although the flood was the source of the country's wealth and prosperity, no temples or sanctuaries were built specifically in honour of Hapy. Note: not to be confused with the baboon Hapy, one of the "four sons of Horus" who protected the deceased's entrails that were stored in canopic jars after mummification.

Falcon headed god, usually depicted as a man with the head of a falcon. Many falcon gods existed throughout Egypt, though over time a good number of these were assimilated into Horus, the most important. Horus was an early sky and solar god from Upper Egypt, worshipped before the unification, and one of the oldest gods in the Egyptian mythology. As the god of the sky and the embodiment of divine kingship, Horus was the protector of the reigning pharaoh. According to one of the most common myths, Horus was the child of the goddess Isis and the god Osiris. It was Horus who performed the rite of the "opening of the mouth" on his dead father, thus legitimising his succession to the throne as an earthly ruler. In a similar vein, priests (or eldest sons) wearing distinctive panther skins would ritually purify the path of the deceased's coffin.

She was the daughter of Nut and Geb, the sister and wife to Osiris, and the mother of Horus. Best known mythologically as the devoted wife of Osiris, whose body she sought, after his murder by his brother Seth. She is said to have made the first mummy from the dismembered limbs of Osiris, using her wings to breathe life into him and magically conceiving her son, Horus in the process. Her most famous temple is Philae near Aswan, but she was also widely worshipped universally, with cult centres at Dendera and Byblos in Syria-Palestine. As the major goddess of the Egyptian pantheon, Isis had many of the same attributes of other mother-goddesses, and was revered as the great protector, prayed to for guidance, and beseeched for peace. In addition to her temples that were found throughout Egypt, many houses also had shrines to her devotion, and her worship was even taken up by the Greeks and the Romans.

The creator sun-god at dawn is represented by a scarab (dung) beetle pushing the sun disc upwards from the underworld. The Ancient Egyptians would have noticed the dung beetles busily rolling their balls of dirt across the ground. The beetles would lay their eggs in the dung balls, and emerge from inside them, apparently spontaneously, so it was quite logical for the Egyptians to use the beetles to symbolise Khepri "he who is coming into being", self created of his own accord without undergoing the natural cycle of reproduction. Khepri, in the form of a gigantic scarab, would roll the sun like a huge ball across the sky, then roll it down through the underworld to the eastern horizon. Each morning Khepri would renew the sun so that it could give life to all the world. As a deity closely associated with resurrection, Khepri was believed to be swallowed by Nut the sky goddess every evening, where he would pass through her body to be reborn in the morning.

The ram headed god, whose strong association with the Nile inundation and the fertile soil contributed to his role as a potter-god. The creative symbolism of moulding pottery, the potency of the ram, and the fact that the Ancient Egyptian word for ram was "ba" meant that Khnum was also one of the principle creator gods. The Egyptians believed that the ram was a very potent animal, and thus Khnum was linked to fertility. He was also thought to help Re travel through the underworld each night on his solar barque. Sometimes Khnum was shown modelling the "ka" on his potter's wheel whilst forming the bodies of humanity. Khnum's principal cult centre was on the island of Elephantine at Aswan, where he was possibly worshipped from the Early Dynastic Period.

Goddess personifying truth, justice and the harmony of the universe. Usually portrayed as a seated woman with an ostrich feather, or sometimes simply as a feather, Ma'at represented the divine order of the universe as originally brought into being at the moment of creation. Ma'at's power was believed to regulate the seasons, movement of the stars and the relations between mankind and the gods. Ma'at was an integral part of the "weighing of the heart" ceremony where the heart of the deceased sits in one of the trays on the balance scales. The heart is weighed against either Ma'at or her feather, and if the scales balance then the deceased may enter the "field of reeds" and enjoy the afterlife.

Goddess of the Heliopolitan "Ennead". Her distinctive head-dress is in fact the heiroglyphs of her name, "neb-hut" meaning "Lady of the Mansion". She was usually said to have been the sister of Isis and Osiris and wife of the "evil" god Seth. Despite being the wife of Seth, she was seen as a loyal sister to Isis and Osiris, helping Isis to gather Osiris' scattered limbs in an attempt to bring him back to life. As such, Nephthys became associated with the dead, becoming a friend of the deceased. She offered guidance to the newly dead, and comfort to the family of the one who died, and in later tradition was regarded as the mother of Anubis from a union with Osiris. She was often depicted as a winged goddess, and sometimes in the form of a bird, making her a solar deity, as well as a deity of the dead. Nephthys was worshipped widely throughout all of Egypt, though unlike her sister Isis, she had no formal temple or cult.

Sky-goddess, (shown side-on) whose body symbolised the sky and heavens. Nut was the daughter of Shu and Tefnut, and united with her brother Geb, gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. Nut's body was thought to be arched over the earth, with her arms and legs the pillars of the sky, and her hands and feet thought to touch the four cardinal points at the horizon. Every evening she swallowed the setting sun, Re, and every morning gave birth to him again. Depictions of this act are often found on the ceilings of temples, as well as in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where they are accompanied on the walls by the nightly journey of the sun through the underworld.

One of the most important deities of Ancient Egypt, whose principle association is with death, resurrection and fertility. He is usually depicted as a mummy whose hands project through his wrappings to hold the royal insignia of the crook and flail. Osiris was once an earthly ruler who governed well, and so aroused the jealousy of his evil brother Seth. Seth secretly discovered the measurements of his brother's body, had a magnificent casket made to fit Osiris, and organised a banquet to which he invited 72 accomplices as well as Osiris. During the feast he declared that whoever fitted the casket exactly should have it as a gift. Osiris stepped into the coffin and the lid was sealed with molten lead. Cast into the Nile it drifted to Byblos and caught in a cedar tree. Seth stumbled on the casket and angrily dismembered the body of his brother. Isis then searched for the pieces of her husband, and reassembled the body into a mummy, magically conceived Horus, who was said to have  avenged his father's death in a series of contests with his uncle. According to the myths, these struggles lasted for eighty years until Osiris was finally declared ruler of the underworld and Horus confirmed as ruler of the living, leaving Seth to rule the deserts as the god of chaos and evil.

Creator god of Memphis, usually portrayed as a mummy with a tassle and a distinctive skull cap. His hands emerge from wrappings in front of his body holding a staff that combines the "djed" pillar, the "ankh" sign and "was" sceptre. From the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) onwards,  Ptah was represented with a straight beard. It was Ptah who was credited with having devised the "opening of the mouth" ceremony. Although associated predominantly with Memphis, Ptah is a universal deity found on all major sites in Egypt and Nubia.

The old solar-god from Heliopolis and a major deity all over Egypt. He would travel across the sky every day in his solar barque with his life-giving sun disc. He stood for life, rebirth and was usually represented as a hawk-headed human figure wearing a sun-disc headdress. Re exerted such a strong influence on the rest of the Egyptian pantheon that virtually all of the most significant deities were eventually subsumed into the sun-cult by a process of "syncretism", thus Amun became Amun-Re and Horus became Re-Horakhty. It was during the reign of Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC)  that the concept of the sun god as a universal deity into whom all other deities could be absorbed took place. The "aten" (disc) is represented as a sun-disc from which arms stretch down, offering life and power to the royal family and is perhaps most famously portrayed upon the art and treasures of Tutankhamun.

The popular goddess of war, usually depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness and sometimes with the sun disc and/or a cobra on top of her head. She was the sister and wife of Ptah, and was created by the fire of Re's eye as a weapon of vengeance to destroy mankind for their wicked ways and disobedience to him. In order to placate Sekhmet's wrath, her priesthood performed a ritual before a different statue of her on each day of the year. It was said that her priests protected her statues by coating them with anthrax, and so she became associated as a bringer of disease, and placating her was thought to cure such ills. The name "Sekhmet" literally became synonymous with doctors and surgeons during the Middle Kingdom.

The goddess of writing and measurement, usually represented as a woman in a long panther skin dress and wearing a head-dress with a distinctive seven pointed star underneath a bow. Reliefs from the Old and Middle Kingdoms show her recording quantities of foreign captives and booty. As the divine measurer and scribe, she was believed to assist pharaoh in both these practices. Seshat recorded, by notching her palm, the time allotted to him by the gods for his stay on earth, and during the New Kingdom, she was involved in pharaoh's jubilee "sed" festival. She also assisted the pharaoh in the "Pedj Shes" ritual (literally "stretching the cord" which was a ceremony performed to work out the correct alignment for building temples), as well as recording the speeches made during crowning.

Originally a local god of storms from upper Egypt, he evolved into the god of chaos and confusion, generally depicted with a human body and the head of a mysterious unknown animal, probably a mythical beast. Seth was the son of the sky-goddess Nut and the brother of Osiris, Isis and Nephthys (who was also his wife). According to the legend, Seth murdered his brother Osiris and was involved in a long and violent contest with his nephew Horus who sought to avenge the death of his father. Laying outside the "ordered universe" governed by Horus (ruler of the living) and Osiris (ruler of the underworld), Seth served as the necessary complement to divine order. In the New Kingdom he gained prominence when several rulers took his name - Seti.

Crocodile god, either portrayed as a crocodile (often on a shrine or altar) or as a man with a crocodile's head, often wearing an elaborate head-dress consisting of the horned sun-disc and upright feathers. Originally a demon, as crocodiles were such feared creatures in a nation so dependent on the Nile, his worship began as an attempt to pacify the crocodile and so reduce the danger it posed. Gradually Sobek came to symbolise the produce of the Nile, and the fertility that it brought to the land, and so his status quickly became more ambiguous. Sometimes the ferocity of a crocodile was seen in a positive light, and such, Sobek was considered a patron of the army, representing strength and power. During the 12th and 13th Dynasties, the cult of Sobek was given particular prominence, as the names of such rulers as Sobekhotep and Sobekneferu indicate.

Household deity in the form of a female hippopotamus who was particularly associated with the protection of women in childbirth. Since childbirth was a particularly dangerous time in the lives of ordinary people, it is not surprising that Tawaret was one of the most popular household deities from the Old Kingdom onwards. She was often shown holding the "sa" hieroglyph of protection or the ankh hieroglyph of life. She was thought to assist women in labour by using magic to scare off demons and evil spirits that might harm the vulnerable mother or child.

God of writing and knowledge, depicted in the form of two animals: the baboon and the sacred ibis. By the end of the Old Kingdom he was most frequently portrayed as an ibis-headed man, usually holding a scribal palette and a pen or a notched palm leaf. He was also often shown recording the results of the "weighing of the heart" of the deceased, and sometimes in addition, he is shown as a baboon perched on top of the scales. Thoth was a lunar deity and is often depicted wearing the lunar crescent on his head. Worshipped widely throughout all of Egypt, his cult centre was Hermopolis.

The Book of The Dead

The Book of The Dead
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The principal purpose of ancient Egyptian funerary literature was to help the deceased pass through the dangers of the Underworld and be reborn into new life. The "Book of the Dead" refers to the funerary texts which the Ancient Egyptians called "the spell for coming forth by day". This title refers to the belief that the deceased took a whole night, as did Re with his solar barque, to travel through the realms of the dead. The all-conquering spirit of the deceased would then emerge triumphant with the morning sun.

It was introduced at around the time of the latter part of the Second Intermediate Period, and consisted of about two hundred spells or chapters, usually inscribed on papyrus and sometimes on amulets, linen or vellum. The scrolls would be illustrated with small drawings known as vignettes, that accompany most of the chapters or spells, and serve to illustrate their contents. Originally vignettes were used only in certain cases or for special emphasis, where it was considered necessary to have a symbolic representation in a pictorial form of the content or intent of a spell. However by the late New Kingdom, a majority of the spells were actually illustrated, and on some occasions just the vignettes themselves are used for the spells without any text. In many manuscripts, the vignettes are in rows with text placed beneath them.
Spells from the Coffin Texts, shown on the 12th Dynasty inner coffin of Gua.
The inner coffin of Gua, from Deir el-Bersha, 12th Dynasty, c.1985-1795 BC. Spells from the Coffin Texts were inscribed in the coffin to aid the deceased in reaching the afterlife.
The influence of the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts
The spells from the Book of the Dead were influenced by the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts. The walls of the burial chamber and the ante-chamber of the pyramid would be inscribed with vertical columns of text of individual sayings and spells that ensured the well-being of the pharaoh into the afterlife. The texts appear to vary from one pyramid to another, the oldest edition, that in the Pyramid of Unas, contains only 283 of the known texts, and includes ones not found in later editions.
During the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom, pyramid texts began to be inscribed in the tombs of high officials. Often the spells would be ornately carved inside the coffins of important people. These texts became known as the Coffin Texts. During the Middle Kingdom, funerary practices were made available to everyone. Previously, the right to be embalmed and the prospect of a guaranteed afterlife were restricted to royalty and nobility. Now the opportunity became available to anyone, providing they could afford it!
The earliest texts of the Book of the Dead appear on mummy shrouds of members of the 17th Dynasty royal family (c.1650-1550 BC); they then appear on those of high officials of the early New Kingdom, after about 1550 BC. The appearance of vignettes followed, and then the texts appear on papyrus and leather rolls. Papyrus rapidly became the main medium, and remained so for over a thousand years.
Matters of the heart
To the Ancient Egyptians, the heart was of the utmost importance, considered to be the seat of intelligence and emotion, and so consequently no less than four spells in the Book of the Dead were concerned with preventing the unauthorised removal of this organ, or ensuring its quick return. To find out whether the deceased was worthy to enter the Field of Reeds, the heart would have to be weighed on a balance. If the heart balanced on the scale, then the lucky owner could expect to enjoy the afterlife. Chapter 125 shows one of the best known vignettes in the Book of the Dead (see also "featured scrolls" below):
The deceased stands at the side, often accompanied by their ba and various forms of fate and destiny. Anubis checks the balance, and Thoth, the ibis headed god of scribes stands ready to write down the result of the weighing. Twelve great gods, seated across the top of the scene, act as witnesses to ensure a fair trail. A strange creature, part crocodile, part hippopotamus, part lion or panther lurks nearby, she is called Ammit, meaning "she who gobbles down", the eater of anyone unworthy to enter the Field of Reeds. The heart of the deceased sits in one of the trays on the balance scales. The heart is weighed against either Ma'at, the goddesses of truth, cosmic order, wisdom, and righteousness, or more usually just her symbol, the ostrich feather. Should the deceased be unfortunate enough to have a heart that was considered to be "heavy with sin" and unable to balance against Ma'at's feather, then Ammit would be able to gobble it down. Deprived of their heart, the deceased would then be denied an afterlife.
The Opening of the Mouth - spell number 23
The most important ritual performed for the deceased just before burial was the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. This would restore all the faculties and body functions to the mummy so that the afterlife could be enjoyed to the full. Sometimes the ceremony was performed on the mummy, and often it is shown being performed on the funerary statues. Afterwards, the mummy and the statues were effectively transformed and ready for use by the "ka" of the deceased.
Scene of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, from the papyrus of Hunefer
Detail from the scene of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, from the papyrus of Hunefer. The centrepiece of the upper scene is the mummy of Hunefer, shown supported by the god Anubis. Hunefer's wife and daughter mourn, and three priests perform rituals. Those wearing the white sashes are carrying out the Opening of the Mouth ritual. The white building at the right is a representation of the tomb, complete with portal doorway and small pyramid. At the right of the lower scene is a table bearing the various implements needed for the Opening of the Mouth ritual. At the left is shown a ritual, where the foreleg of a calf is offered. The unfortunate animal would then be sacrificed.
In the scenes for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, the deceased's mummy is usually shown propped up before a representation of the tomb chapel. The "sem" priest, distinguished by the wearing of a panther or leopard skin, prepares to use the ritual implements set out nearby. Sometimes the "sem" priest takes on the role of the deceased's son, although often the ceremony was performed by the deceased's son and heir as a final act of piety. The "hery heb" (lector priest, usually wearing the Anubis mask) reads out the appropriate instructions from a papyrus. The mummy would be touched with various ritual implements, the most important being the "pesesh kaf", so that the senses were restored, not only to the mouth, but also the eyes, ears, nose and other parts of the body. Elaborate rituals involving purification, censing, anointing and incantations would be performed and offerings (including a foreleg and a bull's heart) made.
Afterwards, the mummy could be placed in its nest of coffins, the canopic chest set in its niche and the grave goods and shabti figures stacked around the tomb. From the early New Kingdom, shabti figures were inscribed with the "Shabti formula of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead": "O shabti, if the deceased is called upon to do any of the work required there in the necropolis at any time ... you shall say "Here I am, I will do it." 
Just before the burial chamber was sealed, final magical and protective aids were put into position. From the 18th Dynasty, a rolled up papyrus of the Book of the Dead would be placed in the coffin.
The focus of any tomb, royal or otherwise, was an offering place and a false door, which acted as the entrance to the Netherworld. In large tombs and pyramid complexes, wall scenes included hunting, fishing and the delivery of offerings for the deceased.
Featured Scrolls:
Book of the Dead of Nakht
Nakht was a royal scribe and overseer of the army (general) at the end of the 18th Dynasty (c.1550-1295 BC). His Book of the Dead is a beautifully illustrated example. This papyrus shows Spell 110, a series of addresses to deities who dwell in the "next world", specifically in the Field of Offering and the Field of Rushes. The deceased was expected to undertake agricultural work in the Field of Rushes.
Book of the Dead of Nakht
Spell 110 from the Book of the Dead of Nakht, the royal scribe.
The vignette evolved from a map of the Field in the earlier Coffin Texts. It shows areas of land surrounded by water. Nakht is shown with Thoth at top right, with the balance and feather of Maat, referring to the Judgement Scene. He then paddles his boat across the Lake of Offerings where two mummiform deities stand before a table of offerings. Nakht is also shown worshipping the Heron of Plenty. He is shown pulling flax, reaping, and ploughing below. The boat of Wennefer (a name for the god Osiris), shown with a head of a snake, is moored in a channel of the water at the bottom. Three deities of the ennead (group of nine gods) are shown bottom right.
Book of the Dead of Ani
Ani is depicted in the vignettes with his wife, Tutu. His titles include "Royal Scribe", "Accounting Scribe for Divine Offerings of All the Gods" and "Overseer of the Granaries of the Lords of Tawer". These titles indicate that Ani was a member of the administration associated with Osiris and other gods in the Abydos region. Ani's Book of the Dead was written around the year 1240 BC.
Detail from chapter 17 from the Book of the Dead of the scribe Ani
Detail from chapter 17 from the Book of the Dead of the scribe Ani. A long and complicated spell, with an equally long history Chapter 17 is essentially a statement of religious doctrines relating to the sun-god Re.
This scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani reads from left to right. On the left Ani and his wife Tutu are shown playing senet, the board game that can also be used a metaphor for a man travelling into the next world. In front of them both, on top of their white tomb stand their human-headed ba spirits next to one another. The two lions represent those of the horizon over whose backs the sun rises daily, whilst the bird standing to the right of the lions is the benu bird, the phoenix-like bird that represents the soul of the sun-god Re. Under the canopy, Ani's mummy lies on its bier, attended either side by Isis and Nephthys in the form of two birds.
The Book of the Dead of Ani was not actually commissioned especially for him. Ani used a version of the text that was already prepared, and then his name and titles would be simply inserted into the text at the appropriate points. This form of the Book of the Dead was less personalised than the specially commissioned version, and as a result was a lot less expensive. The location of the tomb of Ani at Thebes is not known and his Book of the Dead is the only object that can be securely attributed to him.
The Book of the Dead of Hunefer
Hunefer and his wife Nasha lived during the 19th Dynasty, in around 1310 BC. Like Ani, Hunefer was a royal scribe and "Scribe of Divine Offerings". He was also "Overseer of Royal Cattle", and steward of pharaoh Seti I, the father of Ramesses the Great. These titles indicate that Hunefer held prominent administrative positions, and as such would have been close to the king. The location of his tomb is not known, but he may have been buried at Memphis.
Chapter 125 from the Book of the Dead of the scribe Hunefer
Chapter 125 from the Book of the Dead of the scribe Hunefer. To the left, Anubis brings Hunefer into the judgement area, where he then supervises the judgement scales. Hunefer's heart, represented as a pot, is being weighed against a feather, the symbol of Ma'at. Ammit waits by the scales, but Hunefer is judged as being "true of voice" and is led by Horus into the presence of Osiris. Behind Osiris stand Isis and Nephthys, and in front, on the lotus blossom stand the four sons of Horus. At the very top of the papyrus, Hunefer is shown adoring the row of deities who supervised the judgement.
Hunefer's high status is reflected in the fine quality of his Book of the Dead, which was specially produced for him. This, and a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, inside which the papyrus was found, are the only objects which can be ascribed to Hunefer. The papyrus of Hunefer is characterised by its good state of preservation and the large, and clear vignettes that are beautifully drawn and painted. The vignette illustrating the "Opening of the Mouth" (see above) ritual is one of the most famous pieces of Ancient Egyptian papyrus, and gives a great deal of information about this particular part of the Egyptian funeral ritual.
The Book of the Dead of Nebseny
The papyrus of Nebseny is an earlier example, and the accompanying vignettes are not coloured like those of Hunefer and Ani. Nebseny was a temple copyist, whose job was probably to make copies of temple documents for archives, as well as writing out new ones. It is possible that he may have drawn the pictures himself rather than pay a specialist papyrus illustrator.
Page from the Book of the Dead of Nebseny.
Page from the Book of the Dead of Nebseny. From a Memphite cemetery, probably Saqqara, 18th Dynasty, around 1400 BC, showing Nebseny and his wife receiving offerings.
The scene of an owner and their spouse receiving offerings is often represented in Books of the Dead. Such offerings are conventionally the duty of the eldest son. Here we see Nebseny and his wife Senseneb seated before the offering table - the horizontal row of hieroglyphs over the young man on the left names him as their son, Ptahmose. The hieroglyphs above give the text of the offering prayer written in a "retrograde text" - normal hieroglyphic text is read from the side from which the birds, animals and humans face, whereas a retrograde text is read starting at the opposite end. In this case, the text begins at the left and continues to the right, and reflects the words coming away from the priest at the left.
Funerary papyrus of Taminiu
Taminiu's funerary papyrus dates from the Third Intermediate Period, around 950 BC, and details "The demons which the deceased must pass on the way to the Afterlife." There were many obstacles on the path to the Afterlife, and 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 potential problem they could possibly encounter.
"The demons which the deceased must pass on the way to the Afterlife", from the funerary papyrus of Taminiu.
"The demons which the deceased must pass on the way to the Afterlife", from the funerary papyrus of Taminiu.
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 wielding sharp knives. The demons were pictured with the heads of recognisable animals, such creatures such as rams or hares, that posed no threat in the living world. Others, like the double snake-headed demon, shown on the right of the upper register, were creatures of pure fantasy. Some would be shown with their heads facing behind them, others face-on. Another demon gatekeeper was the upright snake, with human arms and legs, again shown here with a pair of sharp knives. This individual was the last guardian who stood at the doorway of the judgement chamber.
The lower left section of 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 Ma'at, whose head has been replaced by the feather that is her emblem.
                                                                       Coffin texts, papyrus scrolls and papyrus descriptions are courtesy of The British Museum

THe Life Of Ramesses The Great

Article: the life of Ramesses the Great
Compiled by Tony High

Prenomen: Usermaatre-setepenre
Nomen: Ramesses (meryamun)

Who was the figure in history, penned by John Gardener Wilkinson as "Ramesses the Great"? Ramesses was an Egyptian king born circa.1304 BC during the reign of Horemheb and known as Usermaatre, Sa Re, Ramesses Meryamun, which translates as Powerful in truth is Re, Son of Re, Ramesses beloved of Amun. 
Ramesses was born to the royal couple Seti I and his queen Tuya. He would go on to inherit the throne from his father to become the 3rd king of the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. The first attested reference to a person known as Rameses outside of Egyptological circles was in Biblical texts, namely Genesis 47:11, Exodus 1:11 and Numbers 33.3.5. Indeed, over the centuries he has been phonetically referred to as Rhampsintus, Remphus, Rapsaces, Rhamsesis and Rhamses. No matter what the pronunciation attributed to him, Ramesses would go on to rule his beloved Egypt for a total of 67 years, making him one of the most enduring and famous pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
So, what do we know about the life of Ramesses?
Physical characteristics
Ignoring the official statuary image of Ramesses as the ideal model of manhood, what did the man look like?
Ramesses II at the Luxor TempleExamination of the body has revealed that Ramesses had a long, narrow, oval face dominated by a large beaky nose. Slightly bulging almond-shaped eyes and a small squarish chin with somewhat fleshy lips.  He was tall for the period; he stood 5ft 8"’ when the average height in dynastic Egypt was no more than 5ft 3"’ which, according to text, made him an extremely strong tall young man whose height gave him an imposing bearing and authority over others. His hair colour was also unusual, as it was a reddish auburn colour, the same as the god Seth's, with a fiery temper to match!
Sir Grafton Elliot Smith also deduced that Ramesses's facial features showed traces of Asiatic characters, which was also seen in Seti I and in Ramesses's son Merenptah. All three appeared less typically Egyptian than their predecessors of the 18th Dynasty, suggesting that inter-racial marriages were common during this period.
James Henry Breasted is quick to draw attention to Ramesses's human failings, writing, "He [Ramesses] was inordinately vain … he loved ease and pleasure and gave himself up without restraint to voluptuous enjoyments [with] an enormous harem … living in magnificence that even surpasses that of Amenhotep III." His lambaste continues describing how the living god became human, "Falling into senile decay … never rousing from lethargy into which he had fallen, to the detriment of his country". "In person he was tall and handsome, with features of dreamy almost effeminate beauty – in no way suggestive of the manly traits he certainly possessed" James Henry Breasted
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