Amduat of Tanetshedkhons

This papyrus belonged to the Mistress of the House and Chantress of Amun, Tanetshedkhons, a Theban noblewoman of the 21st Dynasty. The scroll is inscribed with portions of two funerary texts known as the “Litany of Re” and the “Amduat,” or “Book of that which is in the Underworld.”

The “Amduat”, like the “Book of the Dead,” is one of several guidebooks designed to aid the deceased in their perilous journey through the Underworld. These guidebooks provided descriptions of the Underworld, accompanied by illustrations, to familiarize the deceased with the challenges to be faces and to lessen their apprehension.

Amduat of Tanetshedkhons
Amduat of Tanetshedkhons

In the “Litany of Re,” the deceased is equated with the sun god, who was reborn each morning, in the hope of securing the same fate.

Like many other funerary texts, the “Amduat” and “Litany” were originally restricted to the use of the king, though the elite had adopted them by the 21st Dynasty. In its fullest form, the “Amduat of Tanetshedkhons” consists of twelve sections, corresponding to the hours of the night when the sun god travels through the Underworld in his boat.

Certain sections, such as these, depict the beings, both good and evil, that inhabit the Underworld and may help – or hinder – the deceased. This papyrus would have been placed in the tomb, near Tanetshedkhons for easy access. In some cases, kings would inscribe an abbreviated version at the foot of their coffins as a quick reference.

The Lady Tanetshedkhons was one of the higher-ranking members of Theban society, and a relation of the powerful Amun priests that claimed royal authority during the 21st Dynasty. Several other items from her burial equipment are known, including funerary figurines and papyri.

“Amduat (What is in the Netherworld) was used in Ancient Egypt as a generic name for descriptions of the netherworld, but in modern Egyptology is reserved for the oldest of these compositions which has the original title of (Treatise of the Hidden Chamber).

“In the Amduat, the night-journey of the Egyptian Sun god is divided into twelve hours, each of them containing an enormous amount of insight into the human psyche. The entire Amduat could be called the first ‘scientific publication’ of humankind describing or mapping the dangers, but also the regenerative capabilities of the night-world, providing answers to basic human questions.

The synopsis of the different scenes of the Amduat, all in colour, together with its explaining text, is unique. This book is a treasure for all those who want to explore the archetypal structure of the objective psyche, with its helpful but also with its dangerous forces.”

The Egyptian Amduat: The Book of the Hidden Chamber, by Erik Hornung

Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty, ca. 1077-943 BC. Papyrus, pigment 8 1/4 x 49 1/2 in. (21 x 125.7 cm). Now in the Michael C. Carlos Museum. 2005.007.003