Monday, April 13, 2009

History Channel - The Egyptian Book of the Dead

This incredible documentary tells the story behind the oldest surviving document of Western civilisation.

The Papyrus of Ani, which is thought to date back to 1800BC, is the largest and most beautiful of all the Egyptian funery scrolls. Known widely as the ‘Book of the Dead’, it is an astounding collection of the writings that were placed in tombs as a means of guiding the ancient Egyptian soul on its journey to the afterlife.

The text, which was written by Egyptian Priests, outlines the progress of a soul into the afterlife, beginning with mummification, and culminating in the beautiful and terrifying ritual of ‘The Weighing of the Heart.’ It also contains spells and rituals to help the mummified corpse on its perilous voyage.

We follow the story of this tremendous document from its creation near the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes; to its re-discovery, and theft, in 1887. We look at the Indiana Jones-esque episode in which a nineteenth century British archaeologist was forced to steal the document in order to save it from destruction. When E.A. Wallis-Budge discovered the artefact in a recently unearthed tomb in Cairo's Valley of the Kings, the Egyptian Government refused to allow such a treasure to leave the country. Wallis-Budge was forced into a complex series of subterfuges in order to smuggle the scroll back to the British Museum, where he began the painstaking task of translating it.

Our exploration of this tome also prompts a comprehensive investigation into the vast and mysterious world of Egyptian religion and mythology, in which we attempt to decipher over 4,000 hieroglyphics using cutting-edge CGI graphics.

We also outline how the translation and resurrection of this ancient text shaped the modern world, including Christian religion, in ways that few people realise. Indeed, biblical scholars agree that portions of the Old Testament are direct descendants of the Egyptian text; some archaeologists argue that Moses carried a copy of ‘The Book of the Dead’ with him when he fled Egypt.

Our timeless tale, which spans the age of Papyrus to the era of the Podcast, reveals an influential and powerful work of spiritual literature.

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