‘Dead’ Demons appear in the Egypt Centre!

The Egypt Centre has put on display a piece of ancient linen, some 2000 years old, which contains sections of the Book of the Dead.

Book of the Dead 2




The linen was probably wrapped around a mummy to act as a charm. Upon the linen are written sections of Chapter 148 and 149 of the Book of the Dead. These Chapters describe one of the ideas of the afterlife, that the deceased had to pass through different mounds, each guarded by a different demon. Usually there are 14 mounds but this piece only shows the first 4.

This piece of the Book of the Dead , belonged to someone called Djed-Hor, Son of Ta. Other sections of the piece are known in London and New York. It is written in a script called ‘hieratic’ which is a bit like informally written hieroglyphs. The Egypt Centre’s piece measures around 750 x100mm. 

The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells to enable the deceased to get through the afterlife. Such spells were usually written on papyrus or linen and placed in the tomb. The Egypt Centre has two other pieces of the Book of the Dead on display.

Dr Carolyn Graves Brown, Curator said: “The Egypt Centre has several fragments of the Book of the Dead, but this one is particularly exciting because it shows the ancient Egyptian idea that the afterlife consist of a series of stages which the dead person had to go through.

“ In common with other versions, the fourth mound includes the carrying of a snake demon. Elsewhere the snake is mutilated and it is assumed that the carrying represents the capture of the snake. In our Book of the Dead the snake is held aloft by three men.  In the other versions of the Book of the Dead the snake demon of the Fourth Mound is described in text as being called ‘Shooter of (two) Knives’. It lives by decapitating spirits of the dead! “

  • The Egypt Centre, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, situated at the Swansea University officially opened in 1998.  The museum is open Tuesday to Saturdays 10am-4.00pm and is free to the public.  The collection comprises over 4500 objects largely from the pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome collection (1853-1936).  The Egyptian material largely covers the period c.100,000 B.C. - A.D. 500 in two galleries and includes jewellery dating from the time of Tutankhamun, weapons, a mummified crocodile and much, much more. There are lots of hands on activities for children and adults alike, the most popular of which is the dummy mummy. Come and try your hand at mummification!  For further information about the Egypt Centre contact 01792 295960 or visit the web site at http://www.swansea.ac.uk/egypt