Two fragments of the Egyptian shroud from the Book of the Dead have been brought together!

Thanks to researchers on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, two ancient Egyptian shroud fragments from the Book of the Dead, one in New Zealand and the other in Los Angeles, have been brought together.

The two fragments were part of a linen shroud made for Petosiris or Ankhefenkhons, who was Thoth’s high priest in Hermopolis 2,300 years ago. Before Petosiris died, he made a deal with an approved mummy artist to have his mummy shroud covered with mystical symbols from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to safeguard his soul’s journey to the afterlife. Never Petosiris or the ancient Egyptian artist could have imagined that at some point in the future someone in a more modern world would see value in painted fabric and tear it to fragments.

Now, two of the mummy’s shroud fragments have been “connected” in the order they originally had on the shroud ordered by Petosiris. The fragment in New Zealand is known as the “Canterbury” fragment and the other in the United States is called the “Getty” fragment. It’s unclear how they got ripped apart or separated in the first place.

However, the two individual fragments of ancient flax have now been digitally reunited after the Canterbury fragment was displayed as a digital image on an open source online database by the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Top image: This shroud or mummy envelope fragment, decorated with themes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, dates from the beginning of the Ptolemaic period around 300 BC and belongs to a museum in New Zealand. ( Teece Classical Antiquities Museum ). Middle image: The flax fragment from the Egyptian Book of the Dead kept at the Getty Research Institute. (GRI Open Content Program / CC BY 4.0 ). Bottom image: Pieces of a puzzle that fit together: the adjacent pieces of the mummy shroud. To the right, the fragment from the UC Logie collection in the Teece Museum of Antiquities and to the left, the adjacent fragment from the Getty Institute in the United States. ( Canterbury University ).

The two Egyptian Death Shroud Fragments from the Book of the Dead

Researchers at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles saw the Canterbury fragment online and immediately recognized that the piece matched the one they had in their collection.

According to Live Science the fragments of New Zealand and Los Angeles “fit together like a piece of a puzzle”. Alison Griffith, expert in Egyptian art and associate professor of classics at the University of Canterbury, said in a press release , that it is “simply amazing” to piece together fragments from a distance using digital technology.

The tradition of placing a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead in graves and painting illustrations of it on mummy sheets began with much older death rituals. The “pyramid texts” were written on the walls of the royal tombs at Saqqara at the end of the Old Kingdom. This was followed by the inclusion of “coffin texts,” written on the coffins of ordinary people, including the wealthy elites.

In the New Kingdom (circa 1539 BC), whatever class you belonged to, if you could afford a copy of the Book of the Dead, or a scribe to cover the cloth of your mummy, your body. could be wrapped in illustrations from this Guide ‘to the Hereafter.

Turin papyrus fragments, an ancient Egyptian mining map (right half), for the mining expedition of Ramses IV, 12th century BC (New Kingdom). (Zyzzy / Public domain )

Shrouds covered with afterlife text and hieroglyphic symbols

To understand why the ancient Egyptians thought they needed a book, or guide, to serve them after death, we must remember that most Egyptians would never have ventured more than 30 miles ( 48 km) from their place of birth. Even the idea of ​​starting to navigate the afterlife on your own, without the ancestral knowledge collected from the priesthood, in today’s terms, would be like being thrown into the Amazon and being told to find your way, without a smartphone. .

The fabric of the original shroud, that is, the two fragments and the “others”, was covered with hieratic (cursive script) and lines of hieroglyphic symbols depicting spells and moments in the soul’s journey. in the afterlife, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Griffith told reporters that when the two pieces were put together a small gap appeared between them, however luckily this flaw was not enough to spoil the renditions of the scene depicted and “the incantation makes sense. “Griffith said.

The “incantation” depicted in the two fragments combined shows “butchers cutting an ox for an offering; men moving furniture for the afterlife; four bearers with nome identifiers (territorial divisions in Egypt), including a falcon, an ibis and a jackal; a funeral boat with the sister goddesses Isis and Nephthys on each side; and a man pulling a sleigh bearing the likeness of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead, ”according to the press release from the University of Canterbury. Additionally, New Zealand researchers report similar scenes on the famous papyrus map of Turin, which is in the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy.

Top image: A manuscript papyrus from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Recently, two pieces of a funeral shroud worn by an ancient Egyptian, which had been torn into fragments, were “reunited”. One fragment was from the collection of the Getty Museum in California and the other fragment was from the collection of the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in New Zealand. Source: francescodemarco / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie