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Social and
Religious Development
of Egypt in the
First Millennium BCE

Ladislav Bareš
Filip Coppens
Květa Smoláriková

The Tomb of Padihor

Social and Religious Development
of Egypt
in the First Millennium BCE
Proceedings of an International Conference
Prague, September 1–4, 2009

Ladislav Bareš – Filip Coppens –
Květa Smoláriková

Czech Institute of Egyptology
Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague 2010


The book was published from the financial means allocated for the research project of
the Ministry of Education, Grant No. MSM 0021620826 (“The Exploration of the Civilisation of Ancient Egypt”).

Reviewed by Petr Charvát and Břetislav Vachala.

Authors: Ladislav Bareš, Julia Budka, Filip Coppens, Elizabeth Frood, John Gee, Dorian
Gieseler Greenbaum, Roberto B. Gozzoli, Agnese Iob, Jiří Janák, Claus Jurman, Renata
Landgráfová, Heba I.M. Mahran, Jan Moje, Hana Navrátilová, Giulia Pagliari, Amaury
Pétigny, Vincent Razanajao, Micah T. Ross, Cynthia Sheikholeslami, Mark Smith, Květa
Smoláriková, Neal Spencer and Hana Vymazalová.

Cover: A Personification of the Twelfth Hour of the Day on the East Wall of the Burial
Chamber of Menekhibnekau in the Saite-Persian Shaft Tomb Necropolis in Abusir (photo
by Martin Frouz).

Type-setting layout: AGAMA® poly-grafický ateliér, s.r.o.

© Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts, 2010.

ISBN: 978-80-7308-334-2






Egypt in Transition – The First Millennium BCE


Conference Programme


List of Abbreviations


Ladislav Bareš
A Seal of the Necropolis from the Late Period shaft tomb
of Menekhibnekau at Abusir


Julia Budka
The Use of Pottery in Funerary Contexts during the Libyan
and Late Period: A View from Thebes and Abydos


Filip Coppens – Hana Vymazalová
Long Live the King! Notes on the Renewal of Divine Kingship in the Temple


Elizabeth Frood
Horkhebi’s Decree and the Development of Priestly Inscriptional
Practices in Karnak


John Gee
The Cult of Chespisichis


Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum – Micah T. Ross
The Role of Egypt in the Development of the Horoscope


Roberto B. Gozzoli
Old Formats, New Experiments and Royal Ideology
in the Early Nubian Period (ca. 721–664 BCE)


Agnese Iob
Some Remarks on Precious Objects from Tanis and Meroe


Jiří Janák – Renata Landgráfová
Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid. Nekau’s Book
of the Dead Once More




Claus Jurman
Running with Apis. The Memphite Apis Cult as a Point of Reference
for Social and Religious Practice in Late Period Elite Culture


Heba I.M. Mahran
The Pseudo-naos of the Late Period. A Comparative View


Jan Moje
Die Entwicklung der bilinguen und monolinguen demotischen
Graffiti im Ägypten des ersten Jahrtausends v. Chr.


Hana Navrátilová
Graffiti Spaces


Giulia Pagliari
The Egyptian Royal Palace in the First Millennium BCE. An Example
of Cultural Continuity from the Middle Kingdom to the Late Period


Amaury Pétigny
Le châtiment des rois rebelles à Memphis dans la seconde moitié
du Ier millénaire av. J.-C.


Vincent Razanajao
Du Un au Triple. Réflexions sur la mise en place de la triade
d’Imet et l’évolution d’un système théologique local


Cynthia Sheikholeslami
The Night and Day Hours in Twenty-Fifth Dynasty Sarcophagi from Thebes


Mark Smith
The Reign of Seth: Egyptian Perspectives from the First Millennium BCE


Květa Smoláriková
The Phenomenon of Archaism in the Saite Period Funerary Architecture


Neal Spencer
Sustaining Egyptian culture? Non-royal Initiatives in the Late Period
Temple Building




Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid


Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid.
Nekau’s Book of the Dead Once More
Jiří Janák – Renata Landgráfová

In the year 2003, in the course of the continuing exploration of the shaft tomb
of Iufaa in the Saite-Persian necropolis at Abusir, the burial of a priest called
Neferibreseneb Nekau was discovered in a small chamber cut into the wall in
the western shaft of the tomb.1 Besides other valuable artefacts, several wooden
tablets with hieratic inscription in black ink and their fragments were found
leaning against the inner wall of the outer coffin. All tablets and their fragments
bear (or bore) chapters from the Book of the Dead. They can be divided into
two basic groups. The larger group contains tablets that were inscribed on both
sides and where the text was written directly on the wood. The other group,
containing fewer tablets, includes those where the text was written on a thin
layer of stucco applied on the wood. These latter tablets are inscribed on one
side only.
The tablets were examined after their discovery in 2003 and during the following excavation season, when the first analysis of their inscriptions was
done. The results of this research were presented at several workshops and
published as well.2 The Book of the Dead of Nekau was carefully examined
again in 2007 during the excavation of the shaft tomb of Menekhibnekau. New
data were combined with the earlier ones and new high-resolution photographical images were adjusted using computer programs. Thus several “new”
texts, parts of texts or individual signs that were not documented before, for
they were barely visible under normal conditions, were revealed in 2008. Moreover, the identification of texts and original position of these fragments helped
us to understand the whole extent of this copy of the Book of the Dead as well
as its arrangement into six tablets. We do not need to discuss the outcomes of
this research in detail here, for they were already published elsewhere,3 however, there are three important and unpublished findings that shed new light
on Nekau’s Book of the Dead and the circumstances of its creation.
The so far identified sequence of chapters of Nekau’s Book of the Dead is:
BD 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 6 –? - 10 – 14 – 15 – 22 – 25 – 26 – 27 – 28 – 29 – 33 – 34 – 35 –
36 – (sequence of illegible texts) – 39 – (sequence of illegible texts) – 43 – 44 – 45
– 46 – ? – 54 – 55 – 56 – 57 – 59 – 75 – 76 – 102 – ? – 144 – 145. While this arrangement corresponds to the so-called Saite edition of the Book of the Dead, the
reason for the choice of the spells is harder to determine. Most of the published

Bareš – Smoláriková, 2008.
Janák – Landgráfová, 2006a; Janák – Landgráfová, 2006b.
Janák – Landgráfová, 2009; Bareš – Smoláriková, 2008, 148–155.

220 Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid
parallels are either very fragmentary or include (almost) all BD chapters, which
makes Nekau’s Book of the Dead unique. Comparison with the slightly earlier
(hieroglyphic) texts from the tomb of Montemhat (TT 34) shows several similarities (shared Chapters 14, 22, 25 – 26 – 27, 34 – 35 – 36, 54 – 55 – 56 – 57, 74 –
75 – 76), but also major differences (ordering, about half of the BD chapters are
different in the two collections). The choice and sequence of spells of Nekau’s
Book of the Dead is unique. But what was the reason for using such an unparalleled selection of chapters? Was it connected with the use of wood as
a new and unusual writing material?
If we examine the specific sequence and selection of spells closely, we find
mainly shorter spells among the many BD chapters that this corpus encompasses. There are two (or three) exceptions at the beginning of the Book of the
Dead (Chapter 1) and at its end (Chapters 144 and 145). The presence of short
spells is not only accidental as witnessed by omission (most probably intentional) of several important but longer spells (like Chapters 17, 110 or 125).
Moreover, the scribe was probably clearly aware of the fact that some spells
might be omitted because of their redundancy and that a group of related spells
could be substituted by one chapter only. This was obviously the reason for
omitting the so-called ‘Transfiguration Spells’ with the exception of Chapter 76
that functioned as a pars pro toto. We believe that the writing material influenced
the form and content of Nekau‘s Book of the Dead, for it was most probably
composed with consideration to the lack of space on the wooden tablets. The
scribe, thus, had to think both about the significance and the length of the spells.
Some spells were considered to be more important than others, some were seen
as redundant and some could substitute other spells or even their groups. The
unique form of the Book of the Dead of Nekau was thus created intentionally
with regards to the material limitations and theological needs of the deceased.
From the very early stages of our work, we have been comparing the text
with several roughly contemporary and one earlier, but at places very similar,
papyrus versions of the Book of the Dead, four of which are published, namely
pChicago OIM 5739 (dated to the Saite/Persian period and coming from Abydos),4 pVatican I (dated to the end of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, provenance
unknown, probably Memphis),5 pBM 10793/pCampbell (Late Twenty-First Dynasty, Deir el-Bahari),6 pColoniensis Aegyptiacus 10207 (the Saite Period, provenance unknown, probably Hierakonpolis),7 and the unpublished pBM 10558,
the Book of the Dead of Ankhwahibre of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. Of these
the most similar is pBM 10558, but pBM 10793 also shows great similarity to
the texts of Nekau, despite its earlier date. However, unlike the other two texts,

Allen, 1960, 14 and pl. V–XII.
Gasse, 2001; Gasse, 2002.
Munro, 1996.
Verhoeven, 1993.

Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid


the Twenty-First Dynasty Book of the Dead of Panedjem II (pBM 10793) differs
from that of Nekau in the choice of the plural demonstrative pronoun, and in
the selection of chapters. A palaeographical comparison with the available parallels has brought more reliable results. The writing of the Book of the Dead
of Nekau mostly resembles that of pChicago OIM 5739 and pVatican I. The
chronologically closest examples of the Book of the Dead are thus also the closest palaeographically. Moreover, a spatial pattern appears to arise from the
data, as the Theban examples are palaeographically the farthest from the Book
of the Dead of Nekau, the Middle and Lower Egyptian ones are closer. However, due to the uncertain provenance of pVatican I, no definitive word can be
said, and a more detailed palaeographical examination of the Book of the Dead
of Nekau needs to be conducted.
At the final stage of our work with the text of Nekau’s Book of the Dead,
two new findings were made and, thus, two new (though very interesting)
problems have arisen. Both of them concern not so much the text but the tablets
as physical objects. The first one is connected specifically with the stuccoed
tablets. When we first began dealing with Nekau’s Book of the Dead, we
thought that when Nekau ran out of wood of passable quality, he made do with
largely inferior pieces, but had to cover them with stucco in order to be able to
write on them at all.8 However, a careful and detailed examination of the stuccoed tablets (made possible thanks to the high-resolution photographs made
in 2007) revealed that the pattern of the flaking off of the stucco is far too regular
to be accidental. It seems quite clear that a grid had been plotted out on the
stucco prior to its having been used for the Book of the Dead of Nekau, in the
manner of the “apprentice boards” known from the entire span of Egyptian
history.9 As the text of the Book of the Dead does not respect this grid, we presume that the tablets were originally stuccoed to serve precisely as such
apprentice boards, and were taken up to bear the Book of the Dead only secondarily, after the scribe had run out of regular wood to write on.
We can, however, trace the life story of the stuccoed tablets (or rather of the
tablets under the stucco) even further, to the time before they were covered
with stucco. Where the stucco is flaking off, pieces with traces of blue and red
colour appear. The only patterns that we can discern are coloured lines. It is
still uncertain where these coloured pieces come from, but considering the fact
that the vast majority of the text has been preserved, we consider it unlikely
that the colour could come from a completely unpreserved vignette. At places,
the colour seems to be under rather than on the stucco, and a whole piece of
the wood of one of the larger tablets bears visible traces of blue colour. Some
of the stucco has flaked off and fallen on another tablet, and there we can see

Janák – Landgráfová, 2006b.
Vernus 1986, 703; for an interesting new discovery cf. Galán 2007, 95–116.

222 Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid
again colour on the reverse side of the stucco flakes. We therefore believe that
the wood originally came from a decorated box or shrine (a joint can still be
seen on one of the shorter sides of Tablet V, fragment j10), which was disassembled at one point of time, stuccoed to make apprentice boards, which were in turn
taken over by Nekau for the last chapters of his copy of the Book of the Dead.
Besides questions connected with the selection of the chapters of the Book
of the Dead, the most important question connected with the Book of the Dead
of Nekau is the choice of the writing material. While writing (above all several
specific) chapters on coffins or other pieces of funerary equipment was not
unknown in the Late Period, Nekau’s tomb is to our knowledge the only one
where wooden boards bearing the Book of the Dead were discovered inside
the coffin of the deceased. As far as the stuccoed tablets are concerned, no parallel case of reuse of an apprentice board is known to us.
The wood was, as has already been mentioned above, of inferior quality and
the text has been applied over or around the faults. The text runs from side to
side without any margin, and thus, it appears that the boards were intended
to be simple boards with text, and formed no piece of furniture bearing the
Book of the Dead Spells. Some features, though, indicate that the boards were
re-used for the inscription, and originally did form (or were intended to form)
a piece of furniture of some kind. The fact that only few papyri with the Book
of the Dead are known from the Saite-Persian period seems to indicate that papyrus may have been a sparse commodity in this troubled time. Nekau thus
may have used whatever material was available to him, wood that remained
from the material intended for his furniture or a disassembled piece he no
longer intended to use. When he ran out of even that wood, he turned to the
apprentice tablets. It is weird, though, that we have no other attestations of
such an “alternative solution”. An analysis of the wood could bring us closer
to the answer to this problem.

Allen, T.G.
1960 The Egyptian Book of the Dead: Documents in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bareš, L. – Smoláriková, K.
2008 Abusir XVII. The shaft tomb of Iufaa, Vol. I: Archaeology. Prague: Czech Institute of
Galán, J.M.
2007 “An Apprentice Board from Dra Abu el-Naga”, in: JEA 93, 95–116.

Cf. Bareš – Smoláriková, 2008, 148–155.

Colourful Spells and Wooden Grid


Gasse, A.
2001 Le livre des morts de Pacherientaihet au Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Vatican: Museo
gregoriano egizio.
2002 Un Papyrus et son Scribe (Le Livre des morts Vatican: Museo Gregoriano Egizio 48832),
Paris: Cybele.
Janák, J. – Landgráfová, R.
2006a “The Book of the Dead on wooden tablets from Abusir”, in: M. Bárta – F. Coppens
– J. Krejčí, eds., Abusir and Saqqara in the year 2005, Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, 28–33.
2006b “Wooden fragments with some chapters of the Book of the Dead belonging to Neferibreseneb Nekau”, in: B. Backes – I. Munro – S. Stöhr, eds., Totenbuch-Forschungen:
Gesammelte Beitraege des 2. Internationalen Totenbuch-Symposiums, Bonn 25.-29. September 2005, (SAT 11), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 135–144.
2009 “Nekau’s Book of the Dead Reopened”, in: B. Backes – M. Müller-Roth – S. Stöhr,
eds., Ausgestatett mit den Schriften des Thot. Festschrift für Irmtraut Munro zu ihrem 65.
Geburtstag, (SAT 14), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 83–88.
Munro, I.
1996 Das Totenbuch-Papyrus des Hohepriesters Pa-nedjem II. (pLondon BM 10793 / pCampbell),
(HAT 3), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Verhoeven, U.
1993 Das Saitische Totenbuch der Iahtesnacht, P. Colon Aeg. 10207, 2 Volumes, (Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen 41/1-2), Bonn.
Vernus, P.
1986 “Schreibtafel”, in: W. Helck – E. Otto, eds., Lexikon der Ägyptologie V, Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 703–709.