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Work Book of mythological images in the name of Nespakashuty, accountant of the granaries of Amun

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Livre d'images mythologiques au nom du comptable des greniers d'Amon, Nespakachouty

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Varry Sylvie

This papyrus belongs to a category of funerary books dating from the 21st Dynasty, known as "mythological papyri." These are characterized by the preponderance of image over text. They contain vignettes taken from previous funerary books (in this case, the goddess Nut giving the deceased water to drink) together with mythological scenes (here, the creation of the world).

The deceased quenches his thirst

These two photos show two of the ten vignettes contained in a funerary papyrus over two meters in length.
The first vignette represents the deceased kneeling, drinking the water that Nut pours from a ewer into his hands. The goddess stands before a fruit-laden sycamore tree. She offers Nespakashuty a tray of breads. The latter - the deceased - is followed by his ba, portrayed as a human-headed bird (one of the dead man's manifestations), and by the goddess of the West (the Underworld), recognizable by the hieroglyph on her head. This scene illustrates Chapter 59 of the Book of the Dead, which enabled the deceased to enjoy air and water in the afterlife by pronouncing the formula: "Hail, sycamore tree of the goddess Nut, give me the water and the air that is within you!"

The creation of the world

The second vignette illustrates the mythological episode of the separation of heaven and earth. We see the sky goddess Nut, represented as a naked woman whose body arches above that of her husband, the Earth god Geb, who is lying on the ground. The solar boat, with its rudder, sails across the space between the two deities. A god is seated in the boat; on his head is the solar disk with a uraeus cobra and a representation of the goddess Maat holding the ankh (the sign of life).
This mythological scene evokes the creation of the world. The separation of heaven and earth created a space in which the solar boat could sail; this episode marks the beginning of the solar cycle, and thus the first day of the world.

Books of religious images

The papyrus containing these vignettes belonged to Nespakashuty, the accountant-scribe of the granaries of Amun. It is a particular kind of funerary book called a "mythological papyrus", which seems to have been circulated exclusively among the personnel of the temple of Amun at Thebes. Most of these papyri date from the 21st Dynasty.
These funerary books are remarkable for the preponderance of their illustrations. They contain little text in comparison with other funerary works. They evoke the deceased's journey through the Underworld to the afterlife, which is compared to the solar cycle. This journey, which unfolds from right to left, is illustrated by vignettes taken from previous funerary texts (such as the Book of the Dead), from mythological scenes, and from magical spells and representations, many of which are rare and sometimes very obscure.

Technical description

  • Livre d'images mythologiques au nom du comptable des greniers d'Amon, Nespakachouty

    21e dynastie, 1069 - 945 avant J.-C.

  • papyrus peint

    l. : 2,70 m. ; H. : 0,19 m.

  • E 17401

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    From the year 1000 to the first Persian conquest, c. 1069–404 BC
    Room 643
    Vitrine 05 : Arts de la Troisième Période Intermédiaire

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