Funerary Compositions

The ancient name of this book is not known; the modern name derives from the depiction of gates and door leaves separating each of the twelve sections [16308, 15497]. The text has been studied in detail and translated by both Alexandre Piankoff and Erik Hornung, who have developed different numbering systems to designate the "divisions" as Piankoff calls them, or "hours" as designated by Hornung. Both systems are employed on this website, followed by a "P" in parentheses for Piankoff's system and an "H" for Hornung's.     16308 15497
The earliest example of this composition survives as excerpts consisting of the first to fifth divisions (P)/second to sixth hours (H) in the unfinished decoration in the burial chamber of the tomb of Horemheb [13778]. The first complete version occurs on the calcite sarcophagus of Sety I. (There are also excerpts on the walls of his tomb.) A second complete version is found on the west wall of the first corridor of the Osireion, the cenotaph Sety I constructed behind his temple at Abydos. Only one other complete version is known from the New Kingdom, on the south walls of the upper corridors and chambers (B-F) of the tomb of Rameses V and VI (KV 9). Certain chambers tended to be decorated with particular divisions of this composition. Thus, through the reign of Rameses III, pillared chamber F has the third and fourth divisions (P)/fourth and fifth hours (H).     13778
Each section of this book except the last is also divided into three registers, with the sun god and his boat at the beginning of the middle register. The solar boat entering the western horizon is part of the prologue (P)/first hour (H). The enlarged fifth gate shows the Judgment Hall of Osiris [15086, 13742], and the twelfth hour (P)/closing scene (H), shows the solar boat raised from the primeval waters by the god Nun at dawn [16304].     15086 13742 16304
This composition first appeared inscribed on limestone blocks in KV 20, the tomb of Hatshepsut. It is divided into twelve sections that correspond to the night hours. Each section after the first is divided into three horizontal registers. The sun god, shown as a ram-headed man, stands in a shrine on his boat, accompanied by other deities [14670, 16293] on his nightly journey through the netherworld (Imydwat meant "what is in the netherworld" in the ancient Egyptian language). Complete versions of the text are found in the tombs of Thutmes III (KV 34), Amenhetep II (KV 35), and Amenhetep III (KV 22). Subsequent occurrences of the composition are incomplete excerpts, although eleven of the twelve hours may be seen in corridors G and H of the tomb of Rameses VI (KV 9). In the Rameside period, some of these excerpts regularly appear at specific locations in the tombs. For example, from the reign of Sety I onwards, the fourth and fifth hours are associated with the walls of the third corridor that precedes well chamber E. These two hours deal with the descent of the sun god Ra into the realm of the Memphite necropolis god, Sokar. Their proximity to the well shaft has been interpreted to mean that the shaft was a symbolic tomb of Sokar and Osiris [16236]. The composition ends with Ra's boat been pulled through the body of a large snake and emerging on the eastern horizon in the morning as a scarab beetle [14661].     14670 16293 16236 14661
Books of the Sky
In addition to compositions that describe the sun god's journey through the netherworld, several books are found on the ceilings of royal tombs that describe the journey of the solar bark across the sky, personified by the goddess Nut. This goddess is shown as an elongated woman covered in stars and apparently is associated with the Milky Way. The arms and legs of the goddess extend downwards to enclose the scenes and texts of the composition. Before the appearance of these compositions framed by the sky goddess, the ceilings of burial chambers in the Rameside period were decorated with images of personifications of stars and constellations [15457].     15457

Published or last modified on: May 1, 2003
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