John Taylor, a world renowned Egyptologist from the British Museum, has uncovered a previously unattributed collection of fragments from an extremely rare and valuable Egyptian Book of the Dead at Australia’s Queensland Museum.
The fragments were discovered after Taylor stumbled upon a single small shred on display as part of the museum’s Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb exhibition. Further investigation by Taylor revealed more fragments stored in the museum’s archive.
The fragments, which bear the distinctive hieroglyphs of Amenhotep, were donated to the museum in 1913 by a member of the public and would not have been on display had it not been for the Egypt exhibition.
According to a gallery spokesperson, “Sections of the manuscript, dated to 1420 BC, have been scattered across the globe for almost a 100 years with some pieces held in the collections of the British Museum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.”
Amenhotep, the son of Hapu and a high official, reigned from 1390–53 bce and rose through the ranks of government service to become scribe of the recruits, a military office, under Amenhotep III. He was greatly honoured by the king within his lifetime and was deified more than 1,000 years later during the Ptolemaic era.
The Australian specimens will be photographed to try and determine what part of the scroll they come from. According to Taylor the scroll that the fragments originate from could be up to 20 meters long which would make it one of the largest and most significant Egyptian burial scripts recorded.
Taylor commented that “In Egypt in the 1890s people were collecting and digging up antiquities at a very fast rate and often it wasn't documented where these things were going. Private individuals would go on holidays to Egypt and buy things like this and take them home, so there's still a lot of material out there that people haven't seen.”
Archaeologists had so far been unable to piece the scroll together in its entirety and have long been looking for the missing sections to complete the story of Chief Builder of the temple of Amun, Amenhotep's journey into the afterlife.