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The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Earth

By Joshua Aaron Roberson


Collections of scenes and texts designated variously as the "Book of the Earth," "Creation of the Solar Disc," and "Book of Aker" were inscribed on the walls of royal sarcophagus chambers throughout Egypt's Ramessid period (Dynasties 19–20). This material illustrated discrete episodes from the nocturnal voyage of the sun god, which functioned as a model for the resurrection of the deceased king. These earliest "Books of the Earth" employed mostly ad hoc arrangements of scenes, united by shared elements of iconography, an overarching, bipartite symmetry of composition, and their frequent pairing with representations of the double sky overhead. From the Twenty-First Dynasty and later, selections of programmatic tableaux were adapted for use in private mortuary contexts, often in conjunction with innovative or previously unattested annotations. The present study collects and analyzes all currently known Book of the Earth material, including discussions of iconography, grammar, orthography, and architectural setting.

The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Earth

  • Details

    Wilbour Studies in Egyptology and Assyriology vol. 1

    594 pages

    8.5 x 11 inches

    ISBN 978-1-937040-00-0 (hardcover)

    ISBN 978-1-937040-25-3 (PDF)

    February 2012

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    PDFs of individual chapters available here

  • Table of Contents

    List of Figures, Tables, and Plates

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Chapter 2: Architecture
    Chapter 3: Orthography
    Chapter 4: Grammar
    Chapter 5: The Vignettes
    Chapter 6: The Texts
    Chapter 7: Closing Remarks

    Appendix 1: Tables
    Appendix 2: Black and White Plates
    Appendix 3: Text Plates

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