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The Book of Dead of Ani

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The Book of the Dead, is a collection of funerary text which Ancient Egyptians refer to as “the spell for coming forth of day.” This title refers to the ancient belief that the deceased take a whole night to travel to the realms of the dead; and the spirit shall then emerge triumphant with the morning sun. The main purpose of this funerary literature is to help the deceased be reborn into new life (The Book of the Dead).

This was introduced during the Second Intermediate Period (around 1700-1550 BC). Art in the Second Intermediate Period exemplified people’s varied culture and a variant of the contemporary late Middle Bronze age.

About one third of the book is derived from coffin texts (Goelet, 1998). The spells in this book were mostly influenced by Pyramid and Coffin Texts. Coffin texts were usually inscribed to ensure the well-being of the Pharaoh to the afterlife. This practice was done because Ancient Egyptian culture was really engrossed with their belief in life after death, thus inscribing such scripts with the coffins in accordance to their artwork was a means to attain good life. Another, Pharaohs and Nobilities were those who can only afford such funerary practices. This reflects the presence of a dominant culture in their society throughout their history.

Another material for Ancient Egyptian art that was featured in the Book of Dead, is the heart. Heart, according to their culture and upbringing, the heart was considered to be the “seat of intelligence and emotion.” (The Book of Dead) The heart of the deceased is being weighed on balance to know whether he is worthy for an afterlife. Thus, this practice heavily influenced the people during this era to act according to morale righteousness. Their belief towards afterlife and that the heart reflects much of the sins or the good deeds that they have done throughout, gives them the responsibility to act well.

Another portrait that is relevant in the book, is the opening of the mouth. Opening of the mouth is a ritual done before burial of the deceased. This ceremony is done in the belief that the body of the deceased shall be restored with its body functions so that he can enjoy afterlife to the full. Another aspect of the ritual is the symbolism in the positioning of the tomb, wherein a door acts as “entrance” to the Netherworld (The Book of the Dead).

Moreover, aside from coffin texts that are circulated towards funerary practices that were performed during the era, there were also papyrus scrolls included in the book that depicts the continuing journeys towards afterlife. Few of these books are: Book of the Dead of Nakht, Book of the Dead of Ani, Book of the Dead of Hunefer, Book of the Dead of Nebseny, and the Funerary Papyrus of Taminia.

The Book of the Dead of Ani, written around the year 1240 BC. It depicts Ani as a Royal Scribe, which makes him a member of the administration with other Gods. Illustrations in this book contains depiction that connoted the following themes: (1) not letting a man pass over to the east in the underworld; (2) not letting the head of a man be cut off from him in the underworld; (3) causing the soul to be united to its body in the underworld; (4) not letting the soul of a man be captive in the underworld; and opening the tomb to the soul of the shadow, of coming forth by day, and of getting power over the legs (Budge, 1895, pp 317-319). These depictions however, connote one thing – that superiority amongst the classes during this era was of high importance. The illustrations formed during this time were that to prove that the class system was highly hierarchal, and the continuity of the hierarchy, according to their belief, extends until afterlife.

The art shown in The Book of Dead, in particular, the Book of Dead of Ani, is a powerful tool that can be used to evaluate the beliefs and customs to which Ancient Egyptians had in the past. The form of art they had reflected their customs, particularly their funerary practices, afterlife beliefs, and measures on knowing whether a deceased is worth of an afterlife.

Book of Dead , as it reflects Egyptian customs, also reflect the system prevalent during those eras. The book showed the prevalence of hierarchy, political and economical, in the society. The feudal character of the ancient system is also obvious with respect to their strong belied in gods, deities and after life. People strongly believed in the reality of life after death, and they believed that Pharaohs are associated with gods, thus they deserve the best of all the practices. Economic disparity is also obvious in this kind of art. Pharaohs and nobles had the privilege for such lavish funerary rites, in contrast with the commoners.

Thus, as these forms of arts have lived through its heritage over the years, it greatly affected the way of life for most of the people. It incurred strong political, economical and religious effects amongst the people. 


Budge, E. A. Wallis. (1895) Papyrus of Ani; Egyptian Book of the Dead. Retrieved October 23, 2007, from http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Books/Papyrus_Ani.html

Goelet, Ogden (1998). A Commentary on the Corpus of Literature and Tradition which constitutes the Book of Going Forth By Day. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 139-170.  

The Book of the Dead. Retrieved October 23, 2007, from http://www.egyptologyonline.com/book_of_the_dead.htm

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