Chronological Order of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Texts: Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, Book of the Dead

All of these funerary texts contain spells to protect the deceased in the afterlife.

Pyramid Texts: Old Kingdom – First Intermediate Period+

  • Written on the inner walls of the pyramids of pharaohs of the 5th, 6th and 8th dynasties.
  • They represent the largest coherent collection of ancient Egyptian texts.
  • Ensuring the deceased king can take his place amongst the gods and reunite with hisdivine father Ra.
  • The afterlife is located predominantly in the sky.
  • Pyramid texts remain an independent collection of texts and were still used to inscribe coffins (but no longer pyramids) during the Middle Kingdom.

Coffin Texts: First Intermediate Period – Middle Kingdom+

  • Mostly written on the insides of coffins of high-ranking people and wealthy privateindividuals and not restricted to pharaohs or royal family members.
  • Many of the spells are derived from the earlier Pyramid Texts with new content relating to more everyday problems and desires.
  • The Coffin Texts include illustrations.
  • They do not contain a consistent description of how the afterlife and life there wereconceived and how to get there.
  • In addition to a celestial afterlife, a hope for an afterlife linked to the fate of thegod Osiris further develops.
  • Coffin texts remain in use as late as the 27th Dynastie (c. 690-520 BC).

Book of the Dead: Second Intermediate Period – Roman Era

  • Egyptian title: rA.w n.(ï)w pr.t m hrw – Spells belonging to (the) coming forth by day.
  • Many of the spells are derived from the earlier Pyramid and Coffin Texts.
  • The spells are not restricted to pharaohs or royal family members.
  • Since the New Kingdom the main medium is papyrus but they were also written onmummy bandages.
  • The scrolls were placed inside the coffin or in the burial chamberof the deceased.
  • The famous spell 125 for the “Weighing of the Heart” is first attested during the reignof Hatshepsut and Thutmose III (18th Dynasty, 15th century BC).
Background image: Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep, Egypt, ca. 332–200 B.C. L. 21.9 m, H. 35 cm. Papyrus, ink, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 35.9.20a-w, Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1935.