Book of the Dead of Her-weben-khet
Her-weben-khet also known as Herytubekhet or Heruben, the Chantress of Amun, was daughter of Isetemkheb D, wife of the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem II, and granddaughter of the High Priest of Amun, Menkheperra. This papyrus is intended to be a part of her own abbreviated version of the Book of the Dead. It contains a set of spells to guide her through the underworld.
It was written to be read from right to left, visually and textually. This papyrus shows the deceased with the deities in several scenes. In one, she presents offerings to Ptah-Sokar in his form as Osiris. In another she is purified by Re-Horakhty and Thoth.
Sokar is a deity which is mainly recalled for his distinctly funerary connotations. In fact he was originally, together with the god Ptah, patron of craftsmen, particularly blacksmiths. It was only at the end of the Old Kingdom that his range of action shifted, besides Memphis, to the burial places of the dead, i.e. to the city necropolises and more generally to the deserts. Sokar could be depicted in different ways; however, his main appearance linked him mainly to the falcon: he is depicted as a falcon-headed man seated on a throne or standing, usually mummiform.
One scene shows her greeting the new sun of the morning, accompanied by a baboon, the animal most associated with the rising sun. The god Harpocrates or Horus the Child depicted within the sun disc, resting upon the Aker lions and surrounded by an Ouroboros.
Another scene shows her prostrates herself before the god Geb in the form of a crocodile and drinks from the waters that will unite her with the gods and assure safe passage to the afterlife.
Her-weben-khet is also shown in the Field of Blessing, sowing seed and gathering the harvest. In all these scenes, the deceased is wearing a white gown and a wig. The strongly built shape of the body of the deceased exemplifies a new image for the female figure in this period. It contrasts with the slender images that were in vogue earlier.
“From the 18th Dynasty until the 22nd Dynasty, the title chantress (Smayt) became the most popular religious title for women… Chantresses of Amun were the most common priestesses, because Amun had been elevated to a state god during the early 18th Dynasty, and his cult was widespread and powerful. Chantresses could, however, serve many deities and institutions. The title chantress was very rarely used in the late Middle Kingdom, but during the reign of Hatshepsut in the middle of the 18th Dynasty many elite women began to use it, recording the title on their monuments and in the tombs of the Theban necropolis.
By the reign of Ramesses II, the title was held by women of middle-class status as well. This popularity continued into the Third Intermediate Period, particularly in the Theban area. The title chantress of Amun was so ubiquitous in Thebes that it has been noted nearly every woman in Thebes held the title. While that is exaggerated, it does reflect a definite increase in the number of women who wanted to affiliate themselves with the cult of Amun. Given the power of the Amun priesthood in the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, it is not surprising and follows the general trend of women being associated with the most powerful and popular cults of their eras.”
— Women in Antiquity: Real Women Across the Ancient World, by Stephanie Lynn Budin, Jean Macintosh Turfa, Routledge, 2021
Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty, ca. 1069-945 BC. Length 198 cm, height 23.5 cm. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. SR 19325