The Egyptian Book of the Dead

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the text and context of The Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, the ancient Egyptian collections of spells which were intended to help the recently deceased navigate the underworld. They flourished under the New Kingdom from C16th BC until the end of the Ptolemaic era in C1st BC, and drew on much earlier traditions from the walls of pyramids and on coffin cases. Almost 200 spells survive, though no one collection contains all of them, and one of the best known surrounds the weighing of the heart, the gods’ final judgement of the deceased’s life.

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  • John Taylor 2 episodes
    Curator at the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum
  • Kate Spence 4 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel College
  • Richard Parkinson 4 episodes
    Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Queen's College

Reading list

  • The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in Their Own Terms
    Thomas George Allen (University of Chicago Press, 1974) Google Books →
  • Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt
    Jan Assmann (trans. David Lorton) (Cornell University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day
    R. O. Faulkner (trans.) (Chronicle Books, 1994) Google Books →
  • How to Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead
    Barry Kemp (Granta Books, 2007) Google Books →
  • Going out in Daylight - prt m hrw: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: Translation, Sources, Meaning
    Stephen Quirke (Golden House Publications, 2013) Google Books →
  • Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt
    John H. Taylor (University of Chicago Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead
    John H. Taylor (ed.) (British Museum Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • Spells for Eternity: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead
    John H. Taylor (British Museum Press, 2010) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b08n1y2v

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Auto-category: 932 (Ancient Egypt)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The Book of the Dead helped ancient Egyptians through their afterlife for over a thousand years, after the building of the Great Pyramids and before Cleopatra.