The spellbinding practice of the ancient Egyptians to help their dearly departed cross over to the next world has enthralled Egyptologists for more than a century, with scientists poring over mortuary papyri to unravel their mysteries.
New analysis of an ancient papyrus, the First Book of Breathing, has offered fascinating revelations pertaining to its derivation from the Book of the Dead and, on a broader scale, the intricacies of postmortem deification in ancient Egypt, writes Haaretz.
The Books of Breathing are several late ancient Egyptian funerary texts, that ostensibly enabled the deceased to continue to exist in the afterlife, with the earliest known copy dating to about 350 BC.
Other copies originate from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egyptian history; one is from the second century AD.
An analysis of one such treatise – Papyrus FMNH 31324, containing an edition of the First Book of Breathing, was recently published by Foy Scalf, head of Research Archives at the University of Chicago, in October’s edition of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.
Managing the Afterlife
The Book of the Dead began to appear around 3,700 to 3,500 years ago, with the subsequent emergence of three types of Book of Breathing manuals on how to achieve deification in the afterlife, Scalf is quoted as saying.
The “Letter for Breathing”, believed to have been written by ancient Egyptian goddess Isis for her brother Osiris; the First Book of Breathing; and the Second Book of…