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The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Earth

By Joshua Aaron Roberson

The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Earth
Hardback, 594 pages £78.00
Published: 2012
ISBN: 9781937040000
Format: 280mm x 215mm
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Subjects: Archaeology, Egyptology, Lockwood Press, Philosophy and Religion
Series: Wilbour Studies in Egypt and Ancient Western Asia

Illustrated in b/w with 109 figures, 69 plates and 9 tables.

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 analyses all currently known Book of the Earth material, including discussions of iconography, grammar, orthography, and architectural setting.


List of Figures, Tables, and Plates



1. Introduction

    1.1 General remarks

    1.2 Underworld Books

    1.3 The Designation of "The Book of the Earth

    1.4 Definition of the Corpus

    1.5 Outline of Sources

    1.6 Content and Internal Structure of the Book

    1.7 The Notational System Used in the Present Study

2. Architecture

    2.1 Development of the Royal Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

    2.2 Underworld Cosmology and Architecture

    2.3 Considerations on the Evolution of the Ramesside Royal Tomb: Precursors and Prototypes

    2.4 Internal Orientation in the Mature Ramesside Royal Tomb

    2.5 Catalogue of Monuments

    2.6 The Symbolic Significance of the Ramesside Sarcophagus as akhet and Divine Birth Station

    2.7 Excursus: The Sarcophagi

3. Orthography

    3.1 General Remarks

    3.2 Orthographic Variation among Individual Signs

    3.3 Phonetic Change

    3.4 Adaptations from the Hieratic

    3.5 Shape Substitutions

    3.6 Superfluous Signs

    3.7 Miscellaneous

    3.8 Cryptography

4. Grammar

    4.1 General Remarks

    4.2 The Introductory Formula

    4.3 Pronouns

    4.4 Prepositions

    4.5 The Proclitic Particle

    4.6 Circumstantial

    4.7 Noun + sdm=f Construction

    4.8 sdm.hr=f

    4.9 Subject + Stative vs. Pseudo-Verbal Construction

5. The Vignettes

    5.1 General Remarks

    5.2 Catalogue of Scenes

    5.3 The Merneptah Template

    5.4 The Aker Group

6. The Texts

    6.1 General Remarks

    6.2 The Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos

    6.3 Merneptah

    6.4 Tawosret

    6.5 Ramesses III

    6.6 Ramesses IV

    6.7 Ramesses VI

    6.8 Ramesses VII

    6.9 Ramesses IX

    6.10 Twenty-First Dynasty Mythological Papyri

    6.11 Osorkon II

    6.12 Pedamenopet

    6.13 Mutirdis

    6.14 Padineith

    6.15 Horira'a

    6.16 Sarcophagus of Nakhtnebef

    6.17 Sarcophagus of Tjahorpta

    6.18 Sarcophagi Inscribed on the Model of Ramesses III

7. Closing Remarks

    7.1 The Internal Structure of the Books of the Earth

    7.2 Date of Composition

    7.3 The Original Function of the Books of the Earth, from the Later New Kingdom (Dynasties 19-20)

    7.4 The History and Evolution of the Books of the Earth from the Third Intermediate Period and Later

Appendix 1, Tables

Appendix 2, Black and White Plates

Appendix 3, Text Plates



Joshua Aaron Roberson is Assistant Professor, Department of History, Camden County College (Blackwood, NJ).  He has worked as an epigrapher and sigillographer with the University of Pennsylvania expeditions to Saqqara and Abydos. He has also worked as a sigillographer for the French-Egyptian expedition (CNRS/CFEETK) to the Opet temple at Karnak, and has conducted independent research in the Valley of the Kings and El Asasif at Thebes (modern Luxor) and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 594 pages
 280mm x 215mm

BIC Code:
  HIS002030, REL114000, SOC003000
 Lockwood Press


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