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Egyptian Book of the Earth

Egyptian Book of the Earth

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Published by murtsm
a funerary illustration
a funerary illustration

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: murtsm on May 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Book of the Earth
Book of the Earth
by Jimmy Dunn writing as Taylor Ray Ellison
Introduction This funerary composition lacks an original ancient Egyptian title, and has actually been called by a number of names,depending on the scholar. Piankoff refers to it as La creation du disque solaire (The Creation of the Sun Disk). Hartwig Altenmullercalls it Buch des Aker (Book of Aker), whileErik Hornungnames it Buch von der Erde (Book of the Earth) and Barta refers to it asErdbunch (Earth-Book).This was the last great composition concerning the netherworld, where the sun disk is raised up from the depths of the earth bynumerous pairs of arms, and where the enemies of Egypt, those whose souls have not been blessed, are punished and destroyed inthe Place of Annihilation.Above all, it stresses the gods of the depths of the earth such asAker,GebandTatenen. However, in reality it is not known if these scenes and texts from a part of a single composition or an amalgamation from differentworks, and the divisions of the book are confusing at the very least.
Original Sources
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The first vestiges we have of the Book of the Earth appear in the tombs of Merneptah(tomb),Tausert(tomb) andRamesses III (tomb), where two scenes that wold later be including in the complete composition are depicted on the left wall of their sarcophaguschambers. They serve as a counterpart to the concluding representations of theBook of Caverns. We also find the solarbarqueatop Akeras a double sphinx as an individual scene from Merneptah on, and in theTomb of  Ramesses IV, it concludes the representation in the decoration of his tomb.In thetomb of  Ramesses VI, all the decorated walls of the sarcophagus chamber have scenes from the Book of the Earth, though in thetomb of  Ramesses VII, only one register depicts the scenes from parts D and C. Finally,Ramesses IXuses two scenes from part A inhis tomb. All of the examples of this book appear within the sarcophagus chambers of the royal tombs, including one scenerepresented on the actual sarcophagus of Ramesses IV. Later, individual scenes also occur on several sarcophagi of theLate Period. We also find individual scenes from the Book of the Earth in thecenotaphof Seti IatAbydos, as well as in the tomb of Osorkon II atTanis. The section of the Book of the Earth that Painkoff called the Book of Akeroccurs on Papyri of the21st Dynasty, together with variations on the resurrection scene in A2, the tombs of Petamenophis and Padineith, TT197 of the26th DynastyatThebes, and Lepsius 23 atSaqqara . We also see, from the Late Period, the depiction of  Nutfrom part D in the tomb of Aba (TT36) and the scene of the birth of the stars on a cartonnage from theRamesseum.
Jean-Francois Champollionpublished the scenes and texts in the sarcophagus chamber of Ramesses VIin his Monuments de l'Egypte: Notices descriptives (Paris 1844, vol. 2, pp. 576-578), and later, a part of the composition was also published by Lefeburein his Notices des hypogees (Cairo, 1889). However, it wasAlexandre Piankoff who actually provided the foundation for real studyof the composition with his edition of it in 1953. Bruno H. Stricker provided an explanation of the book as a divine embryology in1963, while Winfried Barta and Friedrich Abitz have been responsible for investigating the composition and meaning of the text.
The Structure of the Book of the Earth
In the Book of the Earth, just as in theBook of Caverns, the hours of the night are not divided into sections, and the solarbarqueis largely missing as an aid to orientation. Though the original composition was probably divided into three registers, the registers inthe surviving work are uncertain. Hence, the composition seems like a loose sequence of scenes. Because of the incompletecondition of his sarcophagus chamber which gives rise to various transpositions of materials, it is very uncertain whether thetombof  Ramesses VIprovides a complete example of the Book of the Earth. Like the Book of Caverns, portions of it appear on the sides of several pillars. Scholars such as Abitz believe that the Book of the Earth, like the Book of Caverns, consists of two halves of which only one contains scenes of punishment. Like the Book of Caverns, the Book of the Earth uses the sun disk as a reoccurringtheme, while the solarbarqueonly makes rare appearances.The directions of the scenes are mostly all oriented to the right and there is no visible morning goal, nor is there depicted the entryinto the netherworlds. In thetomb of  Ramesses VI, the divisions of the book run right to left, which is contrary to the usual arrangement. Piankoff recognized four parts, which were lettered A-D, while Abitz added further scenes on three pillar sides asparts E. He further theorizes that part D. with its praying king, represents the beginning of the composition, as at the beginning of the corridor of the Osireion. Further more, he believes part B belongs in part A, and part C to be a part of D. Barta insteaddesignates the sequences of scenes from the sarcophagus chamber of Ramesses VIIandRamesses IXas part E, with the last scenes derived from a wide variety of books. Part A in the tomb of Ramesses VI portrays a clear central axis that has probably led to
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changes in the arrangements of the scenes in later versions. Unless theAkerscene is intended as such, there is also no concludingrepresentations at the end of the composition.Lake theBook of Caverns,Ramesses VIinserted many references to the king throughout the composition and uses subtitles to structure it.
The Composition
While the content of the book is similar in many ways to theBook of Caverns, there remain clear divergences also. Osiris is, of course, an central figure within the work, as is the transformation of Re, together with theba of the blessed dead. A special theme is the journey of the sun through the earth godAker. This actually represents and expansion of the eleventh scene in theBook of  Gates, with its "barqueof the earth". Part DIn part D, probably the beginning of the composition, we find a schematic depiction of the entire realm of the dead withOsirisasthe central figure. He resides within a tomb structure which serpents guard. Two mounds, surmounted by hisba and the "corpse of Geb", flank Osiris. Beneath hi are Anubis and a "Mysterious One" who protectively stretch their arms over a "mysterious coffer"that invisibly contains his corpse. This is a scene of renewal, and to either side are scenes depicting punishment. Here, we findpunishinggods, whose names refer to the devouring of the bodies and theba-soulsof the enemies, hold cauldrons aloft. Above, a  God holds thehieroglyphsfor fire and blood from decapitated enemies flows down into the cauldrons below the next scene we find the mummy of the sun god flanked between two fire spitting uraei. He stands upon a large sun disk that inturn is flanked by two pairs of arms rising from the depths of  Nun. Surrounding this scene is a wreath of twelve stars and twelvesmall disks indicating the course of the hours, who's ends are held in the hands of two goddesses. A modification of this scenewhere the pairs of arms replaced by a double ouroboros (a serpent biting its own tail) and the name of the king is placed in the largedisk occurs in the sarcophagus chamber of Ramesses III.A modification of the depiction of  Nutfrom the fifth section of theBook of Cavernsoccurs in the next scene. Here, looking backwards, she is called the Mysterious One. A ram-headed ba-bird and a disk, representing the sun god, rests upon the palms of herhands. Flanking her are two human headed serpents and a crocodile, together with another snake.The final scene in this section is also a variation of a popular theme. Here, atop the back of Akeris represented thebarqueof the sun god as a double sphinx. The barque is supported by two uraei, and inside the barque areKhepriand the ape headedThoth, who pray to the sun god. Underneath the barque, two royal figures together withIsisand Nephthys, hold high a winged scarab beetle and sun disk.Protected by Atum, the middle register begins withHorusrising up out of the recumbent divine figure called the Western One. Nextwe find seven shrines or mounds, each containinggods, "those of mysterious forms". In the next scene, the miraculous, posthumouspropagation of Horus is repeated. In this scene, the falcon-headed Horus rises from the curved corpse of Osiriswhich is in turnbeing protected by the corpses of Isisand Nephthys. In the next scene, two anonymous gods look upon theba of Osiris, which is avian in form. They are flanked by burial mounds surmounted by ram-headedmummies.
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