|Although similar in appearance, papyrus, parchment, and paper are quite different. Papryrus is made of reeds that grow in marshes and along riverbanks like the nile. The fibrous plant stem was sliced into thin strips that were overlapped to form sheets; the sheets were pressed together with the fibers running cross-grained to form long rolls of flexible "paper"; and the surface was polished with a pumice stone. If kept dry and dark, papyrus may last for millenia.|
The Book of the Dead. Egypt, ca. 332-30 BCE.
|The "Book of the Dead" is the term used to describe a collection of approximately 200 magical spells and charms that facilitated entry into eternity. As a kind of passport, the selections from the Book of the Dead were often written and placed in a coffin or even tucked into the mummy wrappings. For this reason, many copies of the text have survived.|
|Through mummification the body was preserved so that the soul could identify it. The body was eviscerated, dried in natron, and preserved in resin. Mummification alone, however, did not guarantee the afterlife. In a crucial test, the heart of the deceased was weighed against the feather of Maat, goddess of harmony, balance, and truth. Depending on the outcome, the departed either achieved eternal life or was eaten by a monster.|
|This fragment illustrates this judgment and the protection afforded by spell 125. On the left, the mummified body lies on a low couch. In the center are the scales with several figures: the jackal-headed god Anubis, associated with mummification, Maat whose head is represented by a feather, and a monster. Osiris, god of the dead, and his sister/wife Isis, oversee the weighing. On the right, the eye of Horus, and the bull (sacred to Osiris) imply that the heart was in balance and afterlife attained. The inclusion of such a text in burial indicates the magical power of words and images in ancient Egypt.|
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