Highlights: Book of the Dead of Iuefankh

A ‘passport’ into the afterlife (Cat. 1791)

The nearly 19m long completely preserved papyrus (Cat. 1791) contains – starting from right to left – 165 chapters of the so-called “Book of the Dead”, a compilation of several formulae aiming at the guidance, protection and resurrection of the deceased in the Afterlife. In order to achieve these objectives certain aspects are required after the embalming and procession to the tomb, such as: the preservation and nourishing of the body, the ability of transformation, the justification and protection of the deceased and the possession of knowledge. These are the themes of the 165 chapters written in cursive-hieroglyphs for Iuefankh, the son of Tasheretemenu.

Iuefankh is depicted in numerous illustrations, rather prominent in the centre of the papyrus accompanying chapter 110 and further left in chapter 125, the so-called “Negative Confession” where the deceased has to declare innocence during his lifetime. Tasheretmenu can be seen only once with her son Iuefankh, nearly at the end of the papyrus roll in chapter 148 standing in front of the falcon-headed Osiris and the goddess Imenet.

For more images and information see the database

Read more: The "Book of the Dead" explained

The papyrus of Iuefankh is on display in the refurbished "Sale Storiche" which open the museum tour by introducing the history of the Turin collection. The papyrus is accompanied by a 19m long infographic in which the content and meaning of 40 chapters are explained by means of images, charts, and short texts.

Created by: 
Susanne Töpfer and Piera Luisolo/Museo Egizio

Richard Lepsius and the Turin “Book of the Dead” of Iuefankh

The title “Book of the Dead” is a modern designation given by the German scholar Richard Lepsius (1810–1884) to a corpus of spells which is known from the late 17th Dynasty (ca. 1550 BC) to the early Roman Period (1st cent. AD). He has chosen the title to emphasize the use of the manuscript, which was buried along with the deceased, as ‘passport’ into the afterlife. The Ancient Egyptian title of the corpus however, is “Going out in Daylight” or rather “Beginning of the Spells for Going out in Daylight”. 

Lepsius came to Turin in 1836 and 1841 to study the papyrus of Iuefankh, the longest “Book of the Dead” papyrus known at that time. Based on the Turin papyrus he assigned a number to each section and referred to them as ‘chapters’ 1 to 165. Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) had already studied Iuefankh’s papyrus and attempted a division of the sections himself, which however seemed to be too broad and was later elaborated and expanded by Lepsius. Richard Lepsius thus established a standard spell numbering system with his publication of the papyrus of Iuefankh in 1842  which is still in use today. This publication, including the reproduction of the papyrus with a commentary, served as basis for the first complete translation of the “Book of the Dead” by Samuel Birch in 1867.

Bibliography (selection)

  • Birch, Samuel. “The Funeral Ritual or Book of the Dead.” Egypt’s Place in Universal History 5 (1867): 123–334.
  • Lepsius, Richard. Das Todtenbuch der Ägypter nach dem hieroglyphischen Papyrus in Turin. Leipzig: Wigand, 1842.
  • Seyffarth, Gustav. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Literatur des alten Ägyptens. Leipzig: Barth, 1833.
  • Töpfer, Susanne. “Some Turin Papyri Revisited: A Look at Material Features and Scribal Practices.” In The Ancient World Revisited: Material Dimensions of Written Artefacts, edited by Marilina Betrò, Michael Friedrich and Cécile Michel. Studies in Manuscript Cultures 37. Berlin: De Gruyter, forthcoming 2024.

Museo Egizio