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The Question of Identity: Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender

Before Islam:  Egypt

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Book of the Dead

Book of the Dead

This page from a long funerary papyrus illustrates chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead called “The Weighing of the Heart.” The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart of the deceased was weighed on a balance against the feather of Maat (the goddess of truth and cosmic order). If the deceased passed this test, he or she would be reborn in the afterlife.

This vignette shows the deceased in the lower right corner standing before the goddess Maat (with the feather on her head) and the scale on which his heart is weighed. The god Thoth records the result while the part-crocodile, part-lion monster waits on a stand next to Thoth to swallow the heart if the deceased is judged unjust. The whole weighing scene takes place in the presence of the god Osiris who is sitting in a shrine in the lower left-hand corner. Above the scene of the weighing of the heart are shown forty-two Gods of the Hall of the Two Truths—the judges of the dead—all of whom, except one, wear a feather on their head.

Labels in the vignette are written in cursive hieroglyphs; the longer mortuary texts on either side of the vignette are written in the more cursive hieratic script.   

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