Memphis-Thebes: local traditions in the Late Period

Marcus Müller-Roth

The Book of the Dead is one of the most important and frequently attested corpora of religious texts from ancient Egypt. Although approximately 50% of the known manuscripts contain vignettes which illustrate the spells, scholars generally focus on the texts. Even the most recent editions of manuscripts provide only a generic description of the vignettes, while an extensive comparative analysis of their style and iconography is currently lacking.

In particular, attention should be devoted to the vignettes of the Saitic Recension of the Book of the Dead. In contrast to their precursors on New Kingdom papyri, the later vignettes are usually regarded as standardized. P. Turin 1791 (published by Richard Lepsius in 1842) is considered the main reference-manuscript for the iconography of the Book of the Dead produced in the Late and Ptolemaic periods. Yet, within the wide-ranging production of the Book of the Dead during the Late Period, the role that P. Turin 1791 played is not as central as generally assumed. Only a small proportion of the 1400 attested manuscripts with vignettes have been published and consequently many of the variants of these vignettes remain unknown.

This paper provides an overview of the many unpublished variants of vignettes that occur in the later manuscripts of the Book of the Dead, demonstrating that P. Turin 1791 cannot be taken as a standard edition of the vignettes. Variants are much more numerous than has been generally assumed; their study helps to identify local styles and to group the manuscripts according to workshop tradition and place of production.

Memphis-Thebes: local traditions in the Late Period

To reference this article we suggest:

Müller-Roth, M. 2010. Memphis-Thebes: Local traditions in the Late Period. BMSAES 15, 173–87.

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