ARCE: The Surprising Emergence of the Egyptian Book of the Dead at the Beginning of the New Kingdom

Presented by Peter F. Dorman, University of Chicago

The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is an integral part of the long tradition of mortuary literature that descends from the earlier Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom and Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom. Included in private burials in the form of brilliantly illuminated papyrus scrolls beginning in the early New Kingdom, these scrolls were known in ancient times as the “Book of Coming Forth by Day,” and their purpose was to help effect the transfiguration of the deceased’s soul as an immortal, effective spirit.

The formulation of the Book of the Dead as a series of texts on a papyrus scroll, however, was by no means foreordained. In fact, the transmigration of ritual spells from coffins of the Middle Kingdom to papyri of the New Kingdom was determined by major changes in burial custom, which also entailed experimentation with different materials that could most effectively be used in private burials. This lecture traces those burial changes, the evolution of textual transmission, the origin of illustrated vignettes, the central role of Theban region in the creation of this new funerary tradition, and the somewhat surprising end product—namely, Books of the Dead that could be afforded only by the wealthy elite. Sponsored by Eva and Donat Kirsch in partnership with the American Research Center in Egypt: Orange County Chapter. 

Location: Norma Kershaw Auditorium 

Ticket info: Free for Bowers and ARCE Members | General $12 


TICKETS: Online or onsite. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 714.567.3677. Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable.

Event details

November 4, 2017 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm

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