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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Egypt Centre Shortlisted for Family Friendly Award

Today we are delighted to announce that the Egypt Centre has been shortlisted for the Kids in Museums’ Family Friendly Award in the Best Small Museum category. Kids in Museums has run this prestigious annual award for sixteen years, recognising the most family-friendly heritage sites in the UK. It is the only museum award to be judged by families.

From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of museum experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of sixteen heritage attractions. The Egypt Centre is vying against four other museums in the Best Small Museum category.

Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.

The Egypt Centre has worked to be family-friendly since we opened in 1998. Every Saturday the Museum is run by our young volunteers who invigilate the galleries, welcome visitors and facilitate our public activities. We also have a busy Summer Programme in the works, details of which will be released soon so keep an eye on our website and social media.

We are over the moon to be shortlisted for this award. It has been a tough few years for the Egypt Centre with COVID-19 closures and then getting to grips with reopening and serving our communities with restrictions in place. This is a wonderful testament to our staff and volunteer who have all worked so hard over the past months.

You can follow the Family Friendly Museum Award on social media by following @kidsinmuseums and #FamilyFriendlyMuseum.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

An Amazing Visit to the Egypt Centre!

The blog post for this week is written by Jeanne Whitehurst, who has completed her Certificate of Egyptology from the University of Manchester. She moved to Egypt over ten years ago, just before the revolution. Initially, she lived in Luxor, overlooking Karnak Temple, but now she lives in Aswan overlooking the First Cataract. She was extremely fortunate to have worked with Ted Brock on the sarcophagus of Merenptah (KV 8) as a volunteer.

Liz Esser and I decided we would like to visit the Swansea Egypt Centre when I came to Britain because of the excellent courses with Dr Ken Griffin, particularly inspired by when he showed us objects from the museum. It whetted our appetites! I emailed him and he kindly invited us to visit the museum on Monday 30 May when it is closed to give us a personal tour. We had great expectations, but nothing lived up to the reality! Turning up at the museum mid-morning, we were warmly greeted by Ken. We started our tour upstairs in “The House of Life” before going downstairs to “The House of Death” (fig. 1). There are many interesting and varied objects, ranging from the miniature to the rare. We could write a whole chapter of a book about the artefacts we loved but we will just choose with difficulty a few!

Fig. 1: The obligatory selfie in the museum!

House of life

AB 15 This diminutive glass pendant from the Ptolemaic period is only 19 mm (just under ¾”), and was worn around the neck to ward off evil. The suspension ring is formed by a blue curl of hair above its ears. The eyes are large sunken blobs with chubby cheeks and a nose with a protruding thin chin. The more you look at it the more you find it fascinating and fun (fig. 2)!

Fig. 1: Glass pendant

W769 A headless wooden paddle doll, 205 mm long (approx. 8 inches). We loved the small frog on the reverse of the figure (fig. 3). We like to think this is from near Deir el-Bahari on the West Bank of Luxor in the latter part of the Eleventh Dynasty (there have been others found at Beni Hasan). Here, above the temple, we often sat contemplating and admiring the panoramic vista before us.

Fig. 3: Paddle doll

W957 The rare limestone offering table base belonging to the reprobate Paneb who lived at Deir el-Medina, the workmen’s village on the West Bank of Luxor in the Nineteenth Dynasty (fig. 4). The base itself is not unusual, with the text on the front dedicated to the King of the Gods, Amun, while on the reverse, Khnum, Satet, and Anuket, the First Cataract triad, who were particularly honoured by the workmen at Deir el-Medina, are mentioned. The names of his father and son are also on the front. The rarity is because it belonged to the chief workman Paneb, who seemed to have committed serious crimes that led him being removed from office and possibly sentenced. Who doesn’t like a rogue?

Fig. 4: Offering stand

W9 An appealing beaded collar from the Amarna Period. Nobody could fail to appreciate the beauty of the three collars on display in the Amarna case, but our favourite has a figure of Beset in the centre, the female form of Bes (fig. 5). It is made from faience and carnelian, and if you look carefully, you can see a baboon, cornflowers, and poppies with expert beading woven into it. Our disappointment was that we couldn’t wear it!

Fig. 5: Beset collar

EC1246 This Nubian archer’s thumb ring (fig. 6) appealed to me because I know many Nubians and am fortunate to know the Sudanese Consul in Aswan. The Meroe expedition, where this object is from, was led by John Garstang from the Liverpool Institute of Archaeology. Many years ago, I read his expedition notes and was fascinated by them as they showed all the aspects of his expeditions, from building a golf course to paying his workmen.

Fig. 6: Archer's thumb ring

W150 Who cannot appreciate Predynastic artefacts? There are plenty in the Egypt Centre, but what caught our eye was another rare object in the collection, a stone cylindrical figure with no indication of arms and legs, and a face that has incised eyes with a sculpted nose (fig. 7). A hole was drilled through the bottom, which was wide enough to be mounted on a pole.

Fig. 7: Predynastic figure

House of Death

AB11 The twenty-sixth dynasty faience amulet of Taweret, the household hippopotamus goddess who protected women in childbirth (fig. 8). Only 35 cm high (1.3 inches)., a favourite of ours because it looks as if it could have been well used and may be from Abydos, a special place for both of us.

Fig. 8: Taweret amulet

W1283 Who couldn’t resist this vase with the cute face of Bes on it? This wheel-made vase dates to the Ptolemaic era and is made of Marl clay with the finely sculptured Bes face on it (fig. 9). Bes was also a protective deity like Taweret, usually connected with childbirth and children. He was depicted as a dwarf with a lion’s mane, often charmingly with his tongue out. We don’t know the exact use, but Liz hopes it was made to hold wine to drink at festivals!

Fig. 9: Bes pot

W164 The very rare reserve head is simplistic yet elegant in its form (fig. 10). These heads date mainly to the Fourth Dynasty of Khufu and Khafre. Usually they come from Giza, but can be found at other Old Kingdom burial sites. It is suggested that they were an alternative home for the ka (spirit) of the deceased. As they are so rare, some people think the one in the Egypt Centre is a fake, but smaller museums do have very rare items! For example, Harrogate Museum has a rare mask of Anubis.

Fig. 10: Reserve head

W489 A strange-looking coffin lid from the Graeco-Roman era, commonly referred to as a slipper coffin because of the shape of the base (fig. 11). The face seems to belong to a man as it has a beard, but he seems to have a quizzical expression on his face and large protruding ears.

Fig. 11: Lid of a slipper coffin

W588 An unknown Middle Kingdom tomb model of a wooden goose from Arab el-Birk (fig. 12). This small goose, which is 95mm long (about 3¾ inches), has been “renovated” by painting in modern times. It is still attractive and you can still see the original green paint. It is finely made.

Fig. 12: Wooden goose

Children are encouraged to visit and take part in workshops, as was the case when we visited. One activity sure to please is a stuffed fabric mummy, which the children can extract intestines etc., from it. There is also a pyramidion-shaped interactive display, which replicates a mummified snake that originally was thought to be just a bundle of rags. Wherever you stand a cobra slowly emerges twisting around until it finally hisses at you. We were both fascinated by it.

The Store

Our visit wasn’t over yet. As we had taken so long over our visit on Monday (very easy to do!), Ken invited us to visit the stores on Tuesday. Who could refuse that? With nitrile gloves on, we were allowed to hold many objects (fig. 13). Whatever your interests, Ken knows immediately where artefacts were stored. But there is a must; a fragment of a faience tile depicting a lapwing bird (rekhyt) on a basket (Ken’s obsession and one we are beginning to love!).

Fig. 13: Our visit to the store!

Could our visit get better? Yes, because Sam Powell walked in, a postgraduate scholar and enthusiast on wooden tomb models. She vividly showed us the models in stores and the many legs and arms that are hopefully waiting to be attached. She brought the models to life and showed where they had been fixed on with expert skill or if a boatsman was missing from a boat a rogue worker could be implanted. It was a” wow” morning with Ken and Sam!

Even if you visit the museum without the Egyptological encyclopedia which is Ken, who is truly unique and incredible, there is extra literature to tell you more about the objects near the cases and a QR scan in progress. However, the best way is through the volunteers. They are welcoming and if you need help, they are more than happy to assist you. Whatever your age, whatever your experience, whether academic or amateur, you should put the Swansea Egypt Centre at the top of your bucket list. It was for Liz and I, a visit beyond our expectations and will live with us forever, so thank you to everyone at the museum for making us so welcome, you deserve every accolade possible.

Diolch yn fawr iawn

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

An Update from the Egypt Centre

As many readers of this blog will know, Dr Carolyn Graves-Brown, who served as the Egypt Centre Curator since 1997, retired in April. During her time as Curator, Carolyn brilliantly led the museum, transforming it into an internationally recognised institution. Many readers might also know that I was appointed Carolyn’s successor and officially started this new role at the beginning of June. I am honoured to be following in the footsteps of Carolyn and Kate Bosse-Griffiths (1910–1998), the latter serving as the Honorary Curator of the collection from 1971–1993. While these are obviously big shoes to fill, I am looking forward to working in this new role. To mark this change, I created a virtual trail of twenty objects in the collection that remind me of people (both ancient and modern), events, or who have played a role in helping to develop my career. Readers can view the trail here.

Many people have asked whether this new appointment will mean that I will no longer be teaching online Zoom courses, as has been the case for the past two years. I am very happy to say that these courses will continue, with a new one on the Middle Kingdom due to start in a few days. This period was one of the most stable epochs of Egyptian history and included great rulers such as Senwosret III. It has been hailed by some as the period that introduced the “democratization of the afterlife” and has been recognized as the “classical” period of Egyptian literature. This course examines the Middle Kingdom, looking closely at the great kings of the period, the art and architecture, burial customs, and the internal administration. As always, I will be drawing on objects in the Egypt Centre collection throughout this course (fig. 1). For more details and tickets, please see the museum’s Eventbrite page.

Fig. 1: Middle Kingdom goose from Arab el-Birk (W588)

Now that the Egypt Centre has reopened to the public again (since October 2021), our visitor numbers are increasing. We have school visits three to four times a week, with our education team delivering a wonderful experience for our younger audience. Some of our supporters, both old and new, have been visiting the museum over the past few months. Just a few weeks ago, I gave a tour of the museum galleries and store to two of our supporters (fig. 2), which will feature in a blog post next week. Having been reliant on Zoom for the past few years, it’s always great to see people in person and to show them around the collection!

Fig. 2: Enjoying a guided tour of the Egypt Centre

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I have been working to rephotograph all the objects on display in the Egypt Centre, which represents around one-third of the collection (1859 objects). This is quite time-consuming, especially now that the museum has reopened to the public once again. Objects are photographed from at multiple angles using focus stacking, which increases the quality of the photos. This project is reaching its final stages and should be completed by the end of the year (fig. 3). Our online catalogue allows visitors to explore the museum virtually by gallery and case through the location filter. At the same time, object photography is continuously undertaken on objects in storage, which will take much longer to complete. For more on focus staking and the benefits, see the excellent blog post by Julia Thorne.

Fig. 3: Photography status

In addition to the project to rephotograph all the objects on display, we have been undertaking improvements to the cases, particularly in our House of Life gallery. This includes refurbishing the displays, creating a new exhibition (Egypt and its Neighbours), new interpretation panels and object labels, and improvements to the lighting (fig. 4). Next month, thanks to the income generated through the museum’s online courses and donations received this year, we will be having a new display case installed in the House of Life. This will replace our current Writing, Maths, and Measuring exhibit, with the new case doubling the amount of space. The company installing the case, Glasshaus, will also be retrofitting twelve cases in this gallery with new LED lights. This will not only improve the lighting, but also reduce both the heat levels and carbon footprint, thus presenting a better solution for the objects and the environment.

Fig. 4: The new Egypt and its Neighbours case

As has already been announced on this blog, colleagues from the Egypt Centre and Swansea University, in conjunction with those from the Egypt Exploration Society, will be hosting the Sixth EES Congress. This event will take place online throughout the month of September, followed by a hybrid event over the weekend of 01–02 October. The programme for this event will be released imminently, so stay tuned for details!

Monday, 6 June 2022

The Litany of Re

The blog post for this week is written by Linda Kimmel, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States. When she retired from full-time work as a data research manager in late 2020, she began studying about the ancient world, and serving as a docent at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Linda had never heard of the Egypt Centre before the pandemic but has taken every course offered since she first noticed a tweet about the museum in the fall of 2020 and hopes to visit Swansea in late 2022 or 2023.

It seems hard to believe, but our latest Egypt Centre Course—The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife taught by Ken Griffin and moderated by Sam Powell—is now over. Before the class, I felt I knew a fair amount about the Book of the Dead. But I had never even heard of many of the other texts we covered, such as the Amduat, the Book of Gates, and the Book of Caverns. In our final class we covered the Books of the Sky, the Books of the Solar-Osirian Unity, the Hours of the Day, the Hours of the Night, and the Litany of Re. They were all interesting, but I decided to focus here on the Litany of Re. First, because it is so different from most of the other texts. And probably even more important because it features a cat (fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Forms of Re in the tomb of Thutmose III (©Theban Mapping Project)

While modern Egyptologists call it the Litany of Re, ancient Egyptians called it the Book of Adoring Re in the West. Its focus is on The United One, a combination of the gods Re and Osiris, emphasizing their unity and resurrection. The Litany of Re is found primarily in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, with the first attestation during the reign of Thutmose III, and its last in the tomb of Ramesses X. It usually occupies the first two corridors of a tomb and relates to the Sun god’s journey from the East to the West. One of the things I really enjoyed in this course was Ken’s emphasis on prior research done on each text. We learned that the Litany of Re is one of the most well-studied religious texts found in the Valley of the Kings, with the initial publication of the text by Naville in 1875, and more detailed publications by Piankoff (1964) and Hornung (1975–1976). 

Many of the other texts we studied feature Re, but what makes the Litany of Re different is its format. Unlike previous texts, instead of being divided into twelve hours, and the images into three registers, there is first a large introductory scene at the entryway to tombs. The introduction is followed by “the great litany”, which is divided into 75 sections, each related to a different form or manifestation of Re (fig. 2). Following this are nine longer litanies describing the defeat of the enemies of Re to ensure he will be re-born. 

Fig. 2: Forms of Re in the tomb of Siptah (©Theban Mapping Project)

In the Egypt Centre’s course last summer on Gods, Goddesses, and Demons of Ancient Egypt, we learned that Re was the supreme solar deity of Egypt, and arguably the most important deity. He was often fused with other deities to make them stronger, such as Amun-Re, Re-Horakhty, and Re-Atum. Since that class I have been intrigued by the many aspects of the various gods and goddesses, and with their varying iconography and syncretization with other gods. But I never imagined that one god might have 75 different forms. It turns out that the number 75 appears in multiple contexts. For example, there are 75 serpents in The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, and 75 scenes in the Opening of the Mouth Ritual. Most believe the number 75 was significant in some way, but how is unknown.

Each of the 75 sections—or addresses—is relatively short. They each begin with the words “Praise to you, Re, high and mighty,” which is fitting with the notion of “adoring” Re. This adoration is followed by a brief description of the role or functions of this form and ends with the form’s name. Many of these forms are so obscure that they are only found in the Litany of Re. We only touched on a few of the 75 manifestations in class, but I found the following five particularly interesting.

Khepri (Address 2): Khepri is the dawn manifestation of the sun and is shown in the Litany of Re as a mummiform figure with a scarab beetle head, emphasizing the scarab coming forth. In this form, Re embodies the transformative powers of the sun. This coming forth is emphasized in the descriptive part of the address with the words (fig. 3): 

Khepri, alighting of wings.

This one who rests in the Netherworld,

When he transforms into the One Who Comes Forth From His Limbs.

Fig. 3: Khepri (©Theban Mapping Project)

The Blazing One (Address 40): In this manifestation Re is shown as a mummiform figure with a torch on the top of his head. The image is shown in red to indicate fire and heat (fig. 4):

More powerful than those in his following.

Who commands a blaze in the Place of Destruction.

You are indeed the Corpse of the Blazing One.

Fig. 4: The Blazing One (©Theban Mapping Project)

The Great Cat (Address 56): While many of the 75 forms of Re are obscure, The Great Cat is one of the most well-known forms and appears in Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead (fig. 5):

Great cat, protector of the gods.

Judge, chief of the council, foremost of the sacred cavern.

You are indeed the corpse of the Great Cat.

Fig. 5: The Great Cat 

Mullet Fish (Address 23): The Mullet Fish is one of the most puzzling of the forms of Re. In this form, Re is shown as three mummiform males with divine beards. I spent a lot of time searching for information about mullet fish but never came up with anything useful. The “mysterious” part of the words from the address seem fitting (fig. 6):

Who enters and goes forth, and vice versa.

Who belongs to his mysterious and hidden cavern.

You are indeed the corpse of the Mullet-fish.

Fig. 6: Mullet-fish (©Theban Mapping Project)

The Manifesting One (Address 32): It is possible that this a play on the god Khepri, as the word khepr means “to manifest” or “come into being”. In this form, Re is shown as a scarab-headed figure wearing a floor-length garment (fig. 7):

Plentiful of manifestations in the sacred chamber.

You are indeed the corpse of the Manifesting One.

Fig. 7: Manifesting One (©Theban Mapping Project)

After reading all 75 addresses, one might wonder why they were important. The ancient Egyptians believed it was critical for the deceased to know the names of the gods. To know the names of all the manifestations of Re meant the deceased had power over Re, the most important of deities. This power is emphasized in Litany 1, which follows the 75 addresses, and includes the words:

I know it in their names.

I know all of their manifestations.

I know that which is in their corpses and all their mysterious visible forms.

I summon them in their names.

I call them in their manifestations ….

Thanks to Ken’s weekly emails, I have a lot of reading to do related to the texts we covered in class. Happily, there is only a two-week break before our next class—Middle Kingdom Studies—begins on Sunday June 19. Registration for this new course is available on the museum’s Eventbrite page.


Darnell, John Coleman & Colleen Darnell (2018) The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press. 

Green, Roger Lancelyn (1967) Tales of Ancient Egypt. London: Puffin Books.

Hornung, Erik (1999). The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Mojsov, Bojana (2001–2002) ‘The Ancient Egyptian underworld in the Tomb of Sety I: Sacred Books of Eternal Life, The Massachusetts Review 42: 498–506.

Pinch, Geraldine (2002). Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Quirke, Stephen (2013). Going Out in Daylight. London: Golden House Publications.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

A Cavern Journey by Marissa Lopez

Marissa lives in Philadelphia PA, loves all things ancient Egypt, and is not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination. This is imagining a ba-soul taking the journey with Re through the caverns as described in the Book of Caverns. Please note that I have taken some artistic liberties in the story-telling.

Darkness surrounds me. I have no idea where I am, or who I am for that matter. A small light appears in the darkness, illuminating a ram-headed figure underneath. The light gets bigger and brighter as he walks up to me and as I am bathed in his light, my memories and identity are immediately restored.

“I am Re. I will illuminate your way through the darkness and caverns and command all who dwell within. There are many dangers ahead, so stay with me.” he says. I have no physical form to nod my head as I simply exist, drawn in by his light. “Let us begin.” (fig. 1)

Fig. 1: The sun god approaching the caverns (©Theban Mapping Project)

We start our journey, and it is not long before we reach a group of eleven deities. They see Re’s light and assemble in a line, bowing, with their hands at their sides. “O gods who are in the Netherworld,” Re begins. These are the doorkeepers for Igeret and they grant us access to the first cavern of the West after Re concludes his speech.

I hear the serpents before I see them, slithering around and intertwined with each other. “O Horned One”, “O Terrible of Face”, “O that Son of the Earth”, Re names and calls to each snake, advising of his journey into the Western Land to care for Osiris, and by extension, me. We travel past and are confronted by nine more uraeus-serpents, fire coming from their mouths. Once more Re speaks of his journey and we pass by safely (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: The first division of the Book of Caverns (©Theban Mapping Project)

As we approach the next group, this time of nine bull-headed deities, Re speaks to them of his journey and identifies them as followers of the Bull of the West. They snorted like bulls as we go by and I see nine sarcophagi ahead, floating in the air. Re stops for a moment, silently looking at them before addressing the gods within. “O Ennead of gods who rest in their mysterious sarcophagi, possessors of hair-locks, great of resting places who rest in the uniform darkness.”

Suddenly, there are nine jackal-headed deities bounding out of the darkness, surrounding us. I could hear the other deities we encountered along the way but these jackal-headed deities were the epitome of silence, which is the exact opposite of what I knew about jackals. Re spoke. “O Ennead of gods, great of silence in the West.” Ah, that explains it. They paced back and forth, silently licking around their mouths as we walked past. A god and goddess stood in the distance with their own ball of light held aloft, but beyond them was something wondrous.

Eight sarcophagi lay in an oval shape behind a shrine, snakes coiling around each piece and rearing up protectively. Osiris stood within the shrine, and I could see how the sarcophagi and shrine mimicked the shape of the rope that surrounds the pharaoh’s name on temple walls, as seen during the annual festival. Re had addressed Osiris while I was taking it all in, and so we continued (fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Osiris in his shrine (©Theban Mapping Project)

We stopped and spoke to nine goddesses who did not cast a shadow from Re’s light. We passed more sarcophagi lying in rows. I saw gods standing over cauldrons with pieces of people stewing within. As Re spoke to three serpents, I could hear cries of pain and terror from the darkness. I was sure to stay in Re’s light as we passed from one cavern into another, once more guarded by serpents coiling around each other.

We traversed past twelve more sarcophagi and approached another seven, this time holding goddesses who protect and speak for the ba-souls. On we traveled, past shrew-headed deities wailing and throwing sand on their heads, followed by more deities adoring other gods and a chest. Then two more sets of sarcophagi with deities keeping watch.

Re took a moment to speak to me. “I am going to be greeting Osiris and he will be joining us for the remainder of our journey, my light illuminating the ba-soul. Our enemies, the evil out there, will not be illuminated by my light, so you will not see them. Now, behold!”.

Two serpents, by far the biggest ones we’ve passed by so far, were standing guard with Osiris in the middle, a third serpent coiled around his body. They started to move and stretch around us, then fell still as we passed by and they were once again enveloped by the darkness. We pass by seven catfish-headed beings with their hands clasped behind their back as a serpent can be heard nearby (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Catfish-headed assistants of Aker (©Theban Mapping Project)

Re’s sphere of light rose higher in the cavern, split in two, and I could see what lay ahead. Two large mounds rose out of the ground. The two balls of light shone down on each mound as Re addressed whoever was inside, then they moved back towards us and joined together into one light once again. Three figures can be seen in front of us as Re’s light illuminates the space and he speaks to them as we travel past. We next see eleven figures, including a most interesting sight. A shrine completely made of serpents, intertwining with each other while surrounding and supporting the status of Osiris in his mummified form. It was impossible to pick out any one serpent, although I can see at least four heads. The ten figures floating around the serpent shrine watched us silently as we walked by.

Re’s light starts to rise again and illuminates a giant ram-headed deity leaning on a staff, facing away from us. The ball of light shines down and we can see the face of the giant. He looks down at four mummiform figures and the solar disk of light moves over them. The giant speaks to them, calling them by their names: “Osiris, Foremost of the West”, “Clothed One”, “Adorned One”, and “One of Mystery”, and they turn towards Re. Re requests entry into the West with a grand speech as his light illuminates the group. We move forward and Re’s light starts to fade. It is as though the darkness is heavier and the light is struggling to get through. Re lifts his arms and the darkness relaxes around us, the solar disk light shining brighter than ever. We are now in the presence of Aker, a double sphinx (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: The god Aker

Aker’s heads turn towards us as Re’s light sphere illuminates the place. We can hear the chanting from the men and women who attend to Aker, working in tandem so that there was never a moment of silence. A deity and large scarab beetle are reclining in the valley between Aker’s shoulders. Re addresses each group in turn and then speaks to one who I cannot see. The corpse of Osiris is here and Re calls to him, assuring the safety of his ba-soul and shade as we complete our journey. We leave Aker, taking away the light and leaving them once again in darkness. We pass men bowing towards a serpent encircling a figure I can’t make out, then two more men adoring a deity so small, it could ride on the back of another serpent. As we leave them in darkness, I can hear cries far away and am thankful I do not have to witness those horrors.

Ahead, the first light not emanating from Re’s solar disk flares up and then dies out. We approach a tall serpent slithering around with a rearing head, spitting fire whenever it opens its mouth. Re speaks to the serpent who then lowers to the ground and settles down. A chant fills the area praising Re and his journey into the Netherworld. We continue on our way.

Re’s light touches upon two great beauties. Isis and Nephthys are carrying my corpse, Nephthys grasping the chest from behind as Isis holds the legs (fig. 6). Re calls for breath to enter my corpse, like Osiris, and it stands. Horus and Anubis lay hands on my body and Re asks for them to clothe me. A bull-headed deity approaches and causes my heart to return to my body. Three figures walk past us, bowing in reverence towards Re. Horus returns and finishes preparing my corpse. Re calls out that we will be moving forward. As we reach Anubis, he looks at me and is the first other than Re to acknowledge my existence this entire time. I settle into my body and Anubis is given the instruction to protect me. Re addresses enemies that I cannot see, and we continue on our journey.

Fig. 6: Nephthys and Isis resurrecting Osiris (©Theban Mapping Project)

The chanting has returned, talking more about Re and his solar disk illuminating the darkness and traveling across the expanse. The chants conclude with verses adoring the “One of the Horizon” as we approach another giant, this time a goddess surrounded by crocodiles. She looks down, holds out her hand, and the sun disk rises quickly to rest there. She picks up Re with her other hand and brings him to her eye level (fig. 7). They speak in hushed tones for a few moments, then she sets him down and the solar disk hovers over us once again. A deity impersonating Osiris bows to us as it goes by, followed by four serpents with the heads of bearded men. Re starts to address one group of deities followed by another. There are the two corpses adoring Tatenen, children enclosed in a room, four falcon-headed mummies who all seem to be aspects of Horus and are attended to by Anubis, and corpses in deep holes in the ground. Re addressed them all, advising of his journey and their role in it. We approached a woman next to two poles, tied to which were two prisoners. They did not react as we passed by, as though they couldn’t see us. At one point, Re stops and addresses guards I cannot see, commanding they burn ba-souls or throw them in a cauldron. I am again happy these images are beyond my view.

Fig. 7: The Mysterious One (©Theban Mapping Project)

We reach another giant god, this one with an erection and a bird on his head (fig. 8). Re’s head only reaches the god’s hip, the solar disk still hovering above. We pass by and the giant god is again in darkness. A sarcophagus lies ahead with two figures on either side. Re speaks to them and we pass by. A ram-headed god and woman are holding hands as we approach. She is a guide and advises Re on how to complete our journey safely. Re speaks to two men adoring a ram’s head and then commands more guardians for the Place of Destruction.

Fig. 8: Fifth division of the Book of Caverns (©Theban Mapping Project)

I hear chanting again. Re chants about his journey and some of the deities we’ve spoken to so far. As we pass through each section, he praises Tatenen the light that appears in the West, Anubis, four Netherworld goddesses, twelve hour goddesses, those that destroy and those destroyed, uraei, and Osiris. He calls on the “Hidden of Name” and the “Body of Osiris” to rise up. He addresses “She who is Hidden of Head”, the corpse and head, and finally the enemies of Osiris, to whom he describes the most terrible punishments.

Anubis is on our path again, this time with two sarcophagi, a bird perched on each one. Then another jackal-headed god and more sarcophagi. We pass two goddesses, again with two sarcophagi, followed by two mounds. I feel my ba-soul merge even more with Osiris and we address Re. Horus also speaks to Re with adoration.

A giant kheper beetle emerges from the darkness, called by the light above Re’s head. As it floats above us, its front pinchers reach towards the solar disk as though to grasp it. We see two sarcophagi lying open with a deity standing in each one and a serpent coiling around their bases. Both deities glare at us as we pass by. We next come upon two deities around a mound of earth; it is moving up and down as though about to burst open. Re informs them of his journey and they reply in support, making him more powerful for the last leg. We approach two sarcophagi floating and moving under Re’s light. Re calls them the “stomping ones” and they affirm his journey is almost complete. Re’s solar disk floats over four deep holes in the ground and as we pass by, I see the inhabitants are headless (fig. 9). That explains why they do not reply to Re’s message.

Fig. 9: The dammed in the cooking pots (©Theban Mapping Project)

We reach two mounds and Re calls out to the different ba-souls. They appear before us pulling a rope, the object on the other side still hidden in the darkness. The ba-souls begin to pull and out of the darkness a glowing ship emerges. Re, Osiris, and myself board the ship and my next adventure awaits.


Darnell, John Coleman & Colleen Darnell (2018) The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press.