Book of the Dead, term used to describe Egyptian funerary literature. The texts consist of charms, spells, and formulas for use by the deceased in the afterworld and contain many of the basic ideas of Egyptian religion. At first inscribed on the stone sarcophagi, the texts were later written on papyrus and placed inside the mummy case. The earliest collection, known as the Heliopolitan Recension, dates from the XVIII dynasty (1580–1350 B.C.). It also contains selections from the two previous collections of Egyptian religious literature—the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (c.2000 B.C.) and the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c.2600–2300 B.C.). The Theban Recension, a text that may be contemporary or slightly later, has a distinctive format. There are several noteworthy papyruses, valuable for their art. Among them are the Papyrus of Ani and The Book of the Dead of Hunefer. The two most celebrated English translations were made by Sir Peter le Page Renouf (1892–97) and Sir E. Wallis Budge (1895, repr. 1967).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.