Papyrus of Nas-Khem



[LONDON, 1863]

THE Papyrus of which the following pages give some description and analysis was discovered in an excavation which His Highness Said Pasha, the late Viceroy of Egypt, had allowed as a mark of his particular favour, as all excavations had been prohibited by the Egyptian Government, to be made by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in the Gournah quarter of Thebes, in 1862. This excavation was conducted by Mustafa Aga, English Consular Agent, and from information sent by him to Mr Colquhoun, H.M. Consul-General for Egypt; the papyrus was found upon a mummy in a tomb at a locality called Bowab in the Necropolis of Thebes at Gournah side, the western or left bank of the Nile. The spot called Bowab lies on the slope of the hill, half-way down the places called El Drah Abou Neggeh, and El Dahree. […]

The present papyrus was executed for a priest or prophet of Amen-Ra, the Theban Jupiter; he was named Nas-khem, and was the son of Tahesi, a lady, singer, or priestess of the same god. It belongs to the class of solar litanies, and was prepared beforehand, the name of Nas-khem and his titles having been inserted into spaces originally left blank. The papyrus had been deposited with the mummy close to the body, and had, before it was unrolled, portions of the bituminized bandages attaching to it; the lower portion has been severely injured throughout by the hot fluid, and the commencement torn away. It measures 12 feet 11 inches long and 1 foot 4½ inches wide, is of a coarse but white papyrus, and probably executed after the xxvi. dynasty, B.C. 525, perhaps as late as the 2nd Persian dynasty, or about B.C. 340-332. It is a valuable one of its class from the greater number of hours it represents than the usual solar litanies which are known.


  1. PAGE. The first page of this papyrus is mutilated, and the scene represented in it lost. That of the second page remains, although in a very fragmentary state; it is intelligible from its repetition on two other monuments, the sarcophagus of the monarch Sethos I. of the xix. dynasty, in Sir J. Soane’s Museum, Necht-Her-hebi, Nectabes, or Nectanebes I., of the xxx. dynasty in the British Museum, and that of the priest Gu-her of the Ptolemaic period in the Louvre.5The subject of the first page is the passage of the Sun through one of the hours of the night, in the region of the Karneter, or Hades, and his exit from the 10 chambers in which the souls of the wicked are detained in the Egyptian Tartarus. As the upper hemisphere or heaven over which the Sun passed during the day, and the lower hemisphere, or Hades, in which he navigated during the night, were supposed to be a celestial ouranos or ocean, or rather river like the Nile, the Sun was always represented floating in a bark or ‘Solar Boat,’ accompanied by certain deities, and towed from the banks by his satellites or boatmen. The whole of this scene was, of course, allegorical or mystical, and the tow-rope of the Solar Boat, the baksu, was the snake called ‘The Life of the Gods,’ the attendant deities ‘Devoted to the Sun.’

    Into this boat the good and blessed entered, enjoyed the perpetual presence of the deity, and the eternal effulgence of light denied to those who were confined in the dismal chambers and dark regions of the lower hemisphere, or Hades, and who never saw the great god of day. It is these scenes which were particularly selected for the decoration of tombs and sarcophagi, and the texts of certain sarcophagi, because they were intimately connected with the mystery of the destiny and wanderings of the soul in the future state. The deceased, in fact, after death departed to the gate of the west or setting Sun, and accompanied the god in his subterraneous journey till he arrived at the rising Sun or morning in the eastern horizon. The mystery of a future life, if not of a resurrection, was

    [p.7] declared to be that the deceased lived again as the Sun daily, night of course being the death of that luminary. The passage of the Sun is always represented in the central division, the upper and lower being the lateral chambers, the banks as it were of the celestial and infernal Nile along which he was towed, and the notions or rather ignorance of perspective of the Egyptians did not allow them to depict the picture in the strict order of the arrangement of thought. It is to this fact that the 10 regions, with their gods, their doors, on which their names were inscribed, and their explanatory texts, are represented each in three lines or divisions. The Sun enters this hour in the form of the god, goat-headed god Af, covered by an uraeus serpent, the Mahn, which is coiled over his head in front. Before him kneels the deceased priest, for whom the papyrus was made, in adoration, while the gods Apheru, ‘the director of the Roads,’ jackal-headed, and one of the forms of Anubis, and ‘Athor,’ the Egyptian Venus, stand looking forwards at the progress of the boat. Behind Af stand three other gods, Har-hek, the son of Cbnumis, Ka-ma,6 ‘the Bull of Truth,’ another attendant god, and Nahsi, ‘the Rebel,’ probably a form of Set or Typhon.

    Behind these gods is the Khu-en-ua, or, ‘Steersman of the Boat,’ the Egyptian Charon, hawk-headed, who is occupied in directing the double rudders by which it was guided. The boat of the Sun is towed along by six gods. The inscription before them reads, ‘The adoring gods who tow the Sun from the house of “confining the gods.” The servants of the Sun in that region traverse the hidden place of the path of the gods in it.’

    Immediately before the Sun’s boatmen are the 10 mysterious tunics with swords, having a head suspended to the point of each. In the papyrus they are unnamed, but on the coffins of Nekht-her-hebi and the priest Guher they bear the following mystical names: 1. Heptad, ‘Great Peace;’ 2. Amennu, ‘Hidden;’ 3. Shat bau, ‘Smiter of Souls;’ 4. Skhen khaibi, ‘Squeezer of

    [p. 8] Shades;’ 5. Neb teru, ‘Universal Lord;’ 6. Mennu, ‘Grove;’ 7. Matennu, ‘Path;’ 8. Teru, ‘Time;’ 9. Hannu, ‘Turner back;’ 10. Tebt en Neteru, ‘Confiner of Gods.’ Before these mystical emblems are placed representations of linen twisted up, which, pronounced menhk, ‘fabric,’ or ‘creation,’ had a mystical import in connection with the future state.

    The coffin of Nekht-ker-hebi supplies the information wanting in the papyrus of Nas-khem. (1.) The name of the first gate indeed is destroyed,7 but the three seated gods Ra nebatf, Aufui, and Khatarui, crocodile, lion, and dog-headed, seated on the menkh, or linen wraps, remain. (2.) The name written on the next gate is ‘Total darkness,’ and on (3.) a third gate is ‘…. of the gods.’ The names of the gods are Ar-neteru, ‘Creator of the gods,’ Baneteru, ‘Soul of the gods,’ and Ka Ement, ‘Bull of the West,’ and they are frog, goat, and bull-headed. The deities as all in these regions are described as ‘on their fabrics placed on their seats by the mystery which that great god has done, he calls to their souls, they respond, the noise of that prison is heard as the roaring of bulls. The souls cry to the Sun. Lamentation is the name of that prison.’8 (4.) The succeeding region has the name Akhemu, ‘Enveloped,’ upon it. The gods are Horus, Isis, and Osiris, its cry is like that of men, and its name is ‘The Chamber which conceals the gods.’ (5.) A succeeding region has a gate called ‘Concealer of Forms,’ the gods in it are Nu, Seb, and Tefnu, its name is ‘adoration,’ and the sound heard in it is like the clang of brass. (6.) Another region has on its gate ‘The name of Lord of those Reserved,’ its gods are Shu, Khepera, and Atum, its cry is like the ‘buzz of flies and bees,’ its name is ‘Terror.’ (7.) The name written on the first gate of the lower division, is that of ‘holding fast the wicked.’ As in the former case, the interior of this region is not represented; (8.) but the subsequent gate of

    [p.9] ‘Sharpening Flame;’ the noise of the souls in it is said to be like the screaming of hawks, and the name of the region is ‘Path of Spirits.’ The gods which are in it are Khebs ta, Kheper bau, Creator of Souls, and Tasr Keki (9.) The next region has written on its gate the name of ‘Prevailer against forms,’ the noise of the souls in it is like ‘thunder,’ the name of the region itself is ‘Concealment,’ the gods belonging to it are named Temt, ‘Total,’ Teba, ‘Restrainer,’ Se(nk)h, ‘Rays,’ Menkh, ‘Fabric,’ Aru, ‘Types.’ (10.) The name on the gate of the region which follows this is ‘Destroyer of its enemies,’ the cry of the souls in it is like the roaring of animals, the name of the region is ‘Suffocating the Ignorant,’ the gods who belong to it are Sebak, Ta, the world, and Nu, ‘the district.’ The last gate is called that of the ‘Arm of the earth,’ the noise of the souls in it is like the squalling of cats. The name of the region is ‘The rest of the Lord of the Earth,’ and in it are a god called ‘the Lord of Spirits,’ ‘the arrows of the Sun,’ the Mahn or ‘Great Serpent,’ and a goddess called Hunnu-t or ‘Youth.’

    This preliminary explanation is necessary, in order to understand the representations of this mutilated part of the papyrus. Portions of ten of the gates and regions remain, viz. of the 1st and 2nd and 3rd gate, with their attendant deities. The mutilated forms of three gods of the 2nd and of as many of the 3rd gate remain; of the 4th gate Nu, Seb, and Tefnu are perfect, but the text which remains is very different from that of the sarcophagus, and has been written by an ignorant or careless scribe,—thus at the end of the 3rd gate are two mutilated lines reading ‘at his words of adoration.’ The 4th gate and region remain with the deities. The text here appears to read, ‘He has adored your … at the southern he has been dragged by the the orbit,’ but it is as well to state that the hieroglyphics here present a confusion of words not Egyptian, and the translation of such a text can only be conjectural. In this region are Nu, Seb, and Tefnu. The next gate, the 5th, is called ‘prevailing against secrets,’ and in the region are Shu, Khepera, and

    [p. 10] Atum; the text is equally obscure and corrupt with that of the previous section. It may be intended to express ‘he has addressed that region putting forth the arms when addressing those in it, protecting the Osirian prophet-priest of Amen-Ra, king of the gods, son of the singer of Amen-Ra Tahesi, justified to the gods of the gate.’ Of the lower division the upper portion of the inscriptions only remain, and the deities of the regions are altogether wanting. The text contains here parts of the titles of the 6th or 7th gate, 8th, 9th, 10th, intermingled with the name and titles of the deceased, and the expressions, ‘ever living,’ ‘creator of beings,’ ‘he has given,’ ‘he has … them on that night the good god, on that day,’—broken portions of sentences, the meaning and purport of which can only be understood in connection with the sarcophagus of Nekht-her-hebi.

    The following appears to be the meaning of these lines, the text of which is very involved and almost unintelligible, consisting of extracts from the more perfect inscriptions found on the sarcophagus of Nekht-her-hebi and Gu-her. ‘The gate of … the Osirian prophet … he has that god, maker of existence, not …. The gate of punishing … spirits, the passage them, he cries … in it … he has … under ….. The gate of sharpening flame: living for ever, Nas-khem prophet of Amen-Ra, son of the lady of the house, Tahesi, justified to the gods of the gate, addresses it. Live ye to … The gate of prevailing against given, the abode of the living, placed …. he has come … the Osirian prophet of Amen-Ra, Nas-khem, son of the priestess of Amen-Ra, Tahesi.

    ‘The gate of punishing those who make opposition. The Osirian prophet of Amen-Ra, Nas-khem, son of the priestess of

    [p. 11] Amen-Ra, Tahesi, justified to the gods in the Empyreal gate, he has adored them in the night, that good god in his day of ….‘

    II. Page, 1 div. The Sun enters another hour in the form of the god Af, having as companion in his boat the gods Har Het, Ku-ma, and Nahasi. Before him are the gods Sa and Hak, and Apheru. The goddess Isis leans forwards from the prow to stab the head of the Apap, or great serpent, emblematic of darkness and evil, and the great antagonist of the Sun. This serpent the goddess Serk, or Selk, strangles with a noose, four swords also have pierced the serpent; at the tail of the serpent stands a deity named Hartesf, ‘He who destroys,’ twisting a cord round the serpent. Behind are three other destroyers, Temut, ‘Subduer,’ Tesit, ‘Destroyer,’ lion-headed, probably forms of the goddesses Pushat and Bast,—and Hesit, ‘Slaughter,’ human-headed.

    Behind these deities are four boxes, arched below, each having a human head, on each side of which is a sword; their names are not entirely given here, but appear in a fuller form of the sarcophagus of Guher. They are said to be the places respectively containing the ‘swords’ or ‘forms’ of the gods Tum or Atum, the Setting Sun, Kheper, the ‘Scarab’ or ‘Creator,’ Sun, or ‘Light,’ and Osiris. The scene is closed by a male deity named Semut, ‘Lord of his Sceptre,’ holding the sceptre Uas, Gam, and a female called Hesaut, ‘the Strangler.’ They look quietly at the scene before them.

    2. The upper division of this hour represents the punishment of the wicked, in another form to that indicated in the former hour, during which the Sun traversed the region of imprisoned souls; here the condemned are subjected to bodily punishment, as it appears that in the future state the eidolon or likeness of the dead was still considered to remain, as well as the soul, which was represented as a hawk with a human face. This region has the following representations; the god Atum, or the Setting Sun, seated on a serpent, which is entitled ‘the Bearer of the Limbs of Atum.’ Three souls, wearing on their heads the pschent or crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, are depicted as hawks with human

    [p.12] heads. They are called Kheper Kheper, Bak, and Hut. Behind these and facing in another direction is the strangling of the wicked; three men lie extended at full length upon the ground, the first of whom is an Asiatic, the other probably a Negro, and the last a Semitic enemy of Egypt. A cord passes from the neck of each into the hands of the god Horus, hawk-headed, who tightens it round their necks. The inscription before them reads, “The Strangling of the Fallen who made opposition to Osiris” (?) The next portion depicts the decapitation of the wicked; a lion-headed god has drawn his sword out of the scabbard, and struck off the heads of three men who kneel before him upon one knee,—one is a Northern Barbarian, the others a Negro [?] and Egyptian or Semitic enemy. The inscription before them reads, ‘The Executioner,’—the Enemies of Osiris. The heads of the decapitated are not visible, they are probably those placed with the boxes or blocks at the beginning of the scene.

    The accompanying text is obscure, it appears to read, ‘The destruction of the enemies of Osiris.’ These scenes take place before a god who combines in one person the attributes of Af and of Osiris, and who is represented seated at the further end of the compartment under the huge serpent Mahen. Behind him stand the goddess Ankhti ‘Giver of Life,’ Haat, a lion-headed god holding a sceptre, and a deity or personification called Sheps, or ‘Conceiver,’ holding a ball. The text of this portion, like the preceding, is obscure, but it appears to read,—’The great gods are with Atum, the form (is) of the Osirian prophet of Amen-Ra, king of the gods, Nas-khem, son of Tahesi, priestess of Amen-Ra, justified to the gods of the Empyreal region. The soul in it is named Annihilator of Flame, he has not given place to those in its house, he has not let that great god into it. He has caused to the .. water … in it, he has made also the … of the ‘Nu,’ or ‘Celestial Waters.’ He has entered or washed in the Southern Heaven; he does not die like Tum, great in the… they bring him from the gate of the Void. He has dwelt (?) in the Empyreal region, he has given the waters in it to the gods who accompany the great god. He has come with those who belong to

    [p.13] him from the gate. The Osirian Nas-khem, prophet of Amen-Ra, king of the gods, son of Tahesi, justified to the gods.’

    Third division. This scene, which is below, represents the god Ra, or the Sun, and the 12 male and 12 female hours of the day and night; at the end of the scene is a crocodile placed over a pool, having on the bank or margin the head of Osiris. The head only of some of the hours surmounted by their stars remain as ‘changing,’ ‘Light-giver,’ ‘Bringer,’ being those of the hours, and of Lord of the Empyreal gate, ‘Eternal Lord,’ ‘Lord of many Days,’ ‘of Peace.’ The accompanying inscription, as of the whole of the lower portion of this papyrus, is wanting or mutilated. It is also obscure, and reads,—’with the souls from the house he has given life to the Lord he has been the waters given to the Lord of the houses (?) the Osirian prophet of Amen-Ra, king of the gods, Nas-khem, son of the lady of the house, priestess of Amen-Ra.’

    III. Page. In the centre the god Af appears in his boat, has before him the deceased kneeling in adoration; at the prow are Ap-heru and Sa; behind are Heknu, Kama and Khu, or the steersman. The prow is of peculiar shape, upright and divided. Before the boat is a cynocephalus emblem of the god Thoth, holding in its paws an ibis emblem of the god, to a deity who holds a wine jar in each hand behind her.

    These figures are preceded by 12 mummies, four unadorned, four with red crowns, the Teshr of Lower Egypt, and four with crowns of Upper Egypt. These are called Khu, or ‘Departed Spirits.’ A god follows, on whose head is a scarabaeus placed vertically, lying on a four-headed snake called Mumhera, ‘the many-headed.’ Before them stands a god called Knaf ma Kahn, ‘Who seizes with his hands,’ and a goddess surrounded with five stars. The text is as difficult to translate as those of the former portion. It may be read,—

Continue to Part 2

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