Funerary papyrus of Khonsu-mes


The Book of the Dead first appeared in the New Kingdom. It is a collection of spells which developed out of the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom, which were in turn derived from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom. From the end of the 5th Dynasty, the kings had their burial chambers inside the pyramids inscribed with ritual spells. These were to be recited during the funeral and were meant to ensure the king his afterlife. During the 1st Intermediate Period a number of these spells became available to ordinary mortals, and together with other texts, intended for the well-being of the deceased, they were inscribed on the rectangular wooden coffins of the nobility (Coffin Texts). With the change in shape of the coffin from rectangular to mummiform at the beginning of the New Kingdom, funerary texts (only partially identical to the Coffin Texts) were transferred onto papyrus and buried with the deceased. This was the creation of the Book of the Dead. A further development can be observed in the 21st Dynasty in a group of papyri known as the "Mythological Papyri". These are characterized by the replacement of the text by images accompanied by only a few legends. These images originated in the vignettes of the spells, the conventional illustrations of the chapters of the Book of the Dead, as well as other funerary texts. One of the most beautiful copies of a mythological papyrus is that of Khons-mes [Khensmuse]. The series of images starts at the right, where we find the title, "Book of What is in the Netherworld", written outside the border line. The illustrations in this papyrus are of a rare quality and beauty. The man who had this papyrus made for him is known from other sources. His coffin is now in Marseilles, as is that of his wife, whose funerary papyrus is in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris. The coffin of his daughter is in the National Museum of Copenhagen and her funerary papyrus is in London. From all these sources we gather that Khons-mes held the position of Chief Archivist, and in addition he was Overseer of the Goldsmiths' Workshop and Overseer of all Construction Works, as well as Chief of the Craftsmen in the Temple of Amun.

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16 cm