The Book of the Dead

For my birthday we went to The British Museum to see an exhibition on the Egyptian text The Book of the Dead.

The Book of the Dead is a text that was first inscribed on coffins and then put into the coffins of Egyptian mummies.  It contains instructions for the ba, or soul of the dead person to get beyond the various protectors of the afterlife, which once passed become guardians.

It also has many protective spells for the dead.  Most of these are protection against various beasts, for example crocodiles and snakes, and these spells could be used in life as well as in the afterlife.

It turns out that there were multiple books of the dead, as some scribes were merely copyists and copied from a faulty master copy.  Other scribes could understand the whole text and at times amended it.  In later centuries the book of the dead was shortened.

This exhibition cost £12 to get into and is detailed, scholarly and well worth the price.  The audio guides cost £4.50, but half of the commentary is from the museum director, so I also thought it was well worth the price.  The exhibition as a whole is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in Egypt.  There is also a book accompanying the exhibition which I am planning to buy.

The exhibit is open till 6th March, children and members have free admission.


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