20 Incredible Facts About the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead


In ancient times, people in Egypt were buried accompanied by a series of magical spells to help them travel to the afterlife.

The Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead is the modern name given to an ancient funerary text belonging to ancient Egypt that was used from the beginning of the new Empire (around 1550 BC) until around 50 BC.

The Book of the dead was one of the most important ancient texts in Egypt. More than being a book, it was a collection of texts consisting of various magic spells that were ‘designed’ to assist a dead person journey through the Duat, and into the afterlife.

In this article, I’ve summed up 30 of the most interesting and relevant facts about this fascinating ancient ‘book.’

“This is an excellent example of one of the many fine vignettes (illustrations) from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw.

Rw nw prt m hrw is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day.

However, many authors acknowledge that a better translation would be Book of Emerging Forth into the Light.

Despite being called a book, the Egyptian booked the dead wasn’t really a book.

The book of the dead was a collection of magic spells that were created in order to help a dead person pass the Duat, and enter the afterlife.

Not one Book of the dead is the same.

Surviving papyri contain a varied selection of religious and magical texts and differ markedly in their illustrations.

Over a period of around one thousand years, the book of the dead was composed by ancient Egyptian priests.

The texts and images of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead were both magical as well as religious.

Some people in ancient Egypt commissioned their own copies of the book, containing a selection of magic spells they considered most relevant for their own progression into the afterlife.

The ancient Egyptian Book of the dead belongs to a tradition of so-called funerary texts which include the earlier Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts.

The Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts were not painted on papyrus,  but rather onto objects.

The first funerary texts were the so-called Pyramid Texts and were used for the first time in the pyramid of Unis, belonging to the last pharaoh of the V Dynasty, around 2400 BC.

The purpose of the Pyramid Texts was to aid the dead Pharaoh to take his place amongst the gods.

The Book of the Dead first emerged in the city of Thebes. According to historians, the first book appeared at the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period, around 1700 BC.

The Book of the dead was initially only used by royal families.

However, after some time, it became a common practice by regional governors and other high-ranking officials.

Eventually, people from all over Egypt developed their own copies of the book.

According to historians, some 192 spells are known to date. Although no single manuscript has ever been discovered containing all of the spells.

It is believed that the last use of the Book of the Dead was in the 1st century BC. Despite this, some artistic motifs drawn from it were still in use in Roman times


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Ivan

Ivan is editor-in-chief at ancient-code.com, he also writes for Universe Explorers. You may have seen him appear on the Discovery and History Channel.

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