Fragment of an illustrated papyrus


Fragment of an illustrated papyrus  [ edit ]

Three painted figures on a single ground-line are preserved on this fragment from a longer funerary scroll; complete examples of this type of papyrus, typically dated to the early Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1069-715 BCE), show the deceased worshipping before a long line of netherworldly deities. The left half of this fragmentary papyrus contains an imywt-standard (a headless animal skin tied to a pole associated with the embalming of Osiris), an offering stand, and a mummiform vulture-headed god crowned with a maat-feather. Similar vulture-headed beings in other Third Intermediate Period funerary papyri label the deity “lord of fear” (Piankoff, Mythological Papyri, pl. 20; compare Scott, Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale, p. 114, n. 4), a visual pun on the use of the vulture head as a hieroglyphic writing of the word ner “fear.”

The right half of the fragment portrays two goddesses who wear form-fitting sheath dresses with long sashes and jeweled broad collars; the first goddess also wields a knife in each hand. Rearing uraei perch on the shoulders of the two goddesses. The uraei identify these unnamed goddesses as figures from the Book of the Hidden Chamber (commonly called the Book of Amduat), a lengthy funerary text first attested in the royal tombs of the New Kingdom. The Book of the Hidden Chamber describes the journey of the solar deity through the twelve hours of the night, leading ultimately to Re traveling from the tail to the mouth of a giant serpent, rejuvenating his physical form so that he might rise as a baby in the eastern horizon. The template of the goddesses with uraei in the Yale funerary papyrus derive from twelve similar goddesses in the upper register of the Twelfth Hour of the Book of the Hidden Chamber; the annotation to these goddesses in the Book of the Hidden Chamber describes how the uraei shoot fire against the chaos serpent Apep, the enemy of Re (Hornung, Texte zum Amduat, pp. 800-802):

These goddesses exist in this fashion in their own bodies,
the uraei coming forth from their arms after this god reaches this locale.
They exist in the following of this god.
It is the flames which are at the tips of the tongues of their uraei
that will repel Apep from Re at the forecourt of the eastern horizon.

The annotation in the Book of the Hidden Chamber emphatically affirm the role of uraei in the destruction of the sun god’s enemies, and the twin uraei that depend from the winged solar disk fulfill the same protective function.


Third Intermediate Period


L. 22.8 cm x W. 23 cm


Painted papyrus


Yale Art Gallery

Accession Number


Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Nathan A. Baldwin

A. Piankoff, Mythological Papyri (New York, 1957).

G. D. Scott, Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale (New Haven, 1986), pp. 114-115 (no. 64)

For another example of the serpent-protected goddesses from the Twelfth Hour being used independently of the rest of the Book of the Hidden Chamber, see Éva Liptay, “From Middle Kingdom Apotropaia to Netherworld Books,” in E. Bechtold, A. Gulyás, and A. Hasznos, From Illahun to Djeme, Papers Presented in Honour of Ulrich Luft. BAR International Series 2311. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2011, p. 150.