Wael Sherbiny

Between Texts and Images: Representations of the supernatural entities in the so-called Book of Two Ways

Although textual descriptions of all sorts of supernatural entities are attested in the religious texts as early as the Pyramid Texts (if not earlier), the visual expressions about these entities are scarce in the documents bearing religious texts antedating the elaborate representations from the New Kingdom onwards (such as the Book of the Dead, the Amduat, etc). A great deal of the iconographic information attested within the Coffin Texts proper on the insides of the decorated Middle Kingdom coffins was deemed secondary by the editors of the celebrated Coffin Texts Project of the Oriental Institute (The University of Chicago). This textually biased approach resulted in omitting several iconographic details. Since almost all of these coffins were never scientifically published as archaeological objects, only the published texts as appeared in The Egyptian Coffin Texts formed the basis for all the subsequent studies. The composition of the so-called Book of Two Ways offers the best examples of highly elaborate representations of supernatural entities introduced into the corpus of the Coffin Texts.

During my intensive research on the composition of the so-called Book of Two Ways which has been going on for the past seventeen years, I discovered, to my surprise, a large number of iconographic details in the supposedly-published material that were simply skipped by the Coffin Texts editors. These include inter alia a number of new pictorial renderings of various supernatural entities. In my paper a brief reference will be made to images of the supernatural entities I discovered on the oldest surviving leather roll from Ancient Egypt (2300-2000 B.C.), the discovery of which I announced in the last International Congress of Egyptologists in Florence.

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