Bill Hicks is also awesome comedian. Check him out:
“Let us seek truth everywhere; let us cull it wherever we can find its blossom orits seed. Having found the seed let us scatter it to the winds of heaven. Whenever it may come, whithersoever it may blow, it will be able to germinate.”
Now we plunge in to the world of reality Matrix. Have you ever thought that the World we are living in could be a computer generated matrix? If so do you want to know it? Here is a article about this topic:
Do We Live in the Matrix?
Tests could reveal whether we are part of a giant computer simulation — but the real question is if we want to know…
In the 1999 sci-fi film classic The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, is stunned to see people defying the laws of physics, running up walls and vanishing suddenly. These superhuman violations of the rules of the universe are possible because, unbeknownst to him, Neo’s consciousness is embedded in the Matrix, a virtual-reality simulation created by sentient machines.
The action really begins when Neo is given a fateful choice: Take the blue pill and return to his oblivious, virtual existence, or take the red pill to learn the truth about the Matrix and find out “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Physicists can now offer us the same choice, the ability to test whether we live in our own virtual Matrix, by studying radiation from space. As fanciful as it sounds, some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences trapped in a fake universe than we are organic minds in the “real” one.
But if that were true, the very laws of physics that allow us to devise such reality-checking technology may have little to do with the fundamental rules that govern the meta-universe inhabited by our simulators. To us, these programmers would be gods, able to twist reality on a whim.
So should we say yes to the offer to take the red pill and learn the truth — or are the implications too disturbing?
Worlds in Our Grasp
The first serious attempt to find the truth about our universe came in 2001, when an effort to calculate the resources needed for a universe-size simulation made the prospect seem impossible.
Seth Lloyd, a quantum-mechanical engineer at MIT, estimated the number of “computer operations” our universe has performed since the Big Bang — basically, every event that has ever happened. To repeat them, and generate a perfect facsimile of reality down to the last atom, would take more energy than the universe has.
“The computer would have to be bigger than the universe, and time would tick more slowly in the program than in reality,” says Lloyd. “So why even bother building it?”
But others soon realized that making an imperfect copy of the universe that’s just good enough to fool its inhabitants would take far less computational power. In such a makeshift cosmos, the fine details of the microscopic world and the farthest stars might only be filled in by the programmers on the rare occasions that people study them with scientific equipment. As soon as no one was looking, they’d simply vanish.
In theory, we’d never detect these disappearing features, however, because each time the simulators noticed we were observing them again, they’d sketch them back in.
That realization makes creating virtual universes eerily possible, even for us. Today’s supercomputers already crudely model the early universe, simulating how infant galaxies grew and changed. Given the rapid technological advances we’ve witnessed over past decades — your cell phone has more processing power than NASA’s computers had during the moon landings — it’s not a huge leap to imagine that such simulations will eventually encompass intelligent life.
“We may be able to fit humans into our simulation boxes within a century,” says Silas Beane, a nuclear physicist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Beane develops simulations that re-create how elementary protons and neutrons joined together to form ever larger atoms in our young universe.
Legislation and social mores could soon be all that keeps us from creating a universe of artificial, but still feeling, humans — but our tech-savvy descendants may find the power to play God too tempting to resist.
If cosmic rays don’t have random origins, it could be a sign that the universe is a simulation.
National Science Foundation/J. Yang
They could create a plethora of pet universes, vastly outnumbering the real cosmos. This thought led philosopher Nick Bostrom at the University of Oxford to conclude in 2003 that it makes more sense to bet that we’re delusional silicon-based artificial intelligences in one of these many forgeries, rather than carbon-based organisms in the genuine universe. Since there seemed no way to tell the difference between the two possibilities, however, bookmakers did not have to lose sleep working out the precise odds.
Learning the Truth
That changed in 2007 when John D. Barrow, professor of mathematical sciences at Cambridge University, suggested that an imperfect simulation of reality would contain detectable glitches. Just like your computer, the universe’s operating system would need updates to keep working.
As the simulation degrades, Barrow suggested, we might see aspects of nature that are supposed to be static — such as the speed of light or the fine-structure constant that describes the strength of the electromagnetic force — inexplicably drift from their “constant” values.
Last year, Beane and colleagues suggested a more concrete test of the simulation hypothesis. Most physicists assume that space is smooth and extends out infinitely. But physicists modeling the early universe cannot easily re-create a perfectly smooth background to house their atoms, stars and galaxies. Instead, they build up their simulated space from a lattice, or grid, just as television images are made up from multiple pixels.
The team calculated that the motion of particles within their simulation, and thus their energy, is related to the distance between the points of the lattice: the smaller the grid size, the higher the energy particles can have. That means that if our universe is a simulation, we’ll observe a maximum energy amount for the fastest particles. And as it happens, astronomers have noticed that cosmic rays, high-speed particles that originate in far-flung galaxies, always arrive at Earth with a specific maximum energy of about 1020 electron volts.
The simulation’s lattice has another observable effect that astronomers could pick up. If space is continuous, then there is no underlying grid that guides the direction of cosmic rays — they should come in from every direction equally. If we live in a simulation based on a lattice, however, the team has calculated that we wouldn’t see this even distribution. If physicists do see an uneven distribution, it would be a tough result to explain if the cosmos were real.
Astronomers need much more cosmic ray data to answer this one way or another. For Beane, either outcome would be fine. “Learning we live in a simulation would make no more difference to my life than believing that the universe was seeded at the Big Bang,” he says. But that’s because Beane imagines the simulators as driven purely to understand the cosmos, with no desire to interfere with their simulations.
Unfortunately, our almighty simulators may instead have programmed us into a universe-size reality show — and are capable of manipulating the rules of the game, purely for their entertainment. In that case, maybe our best strategy is to lead lives that amuse our audience, in the hope that our simulator-gods will resurrect us in the afterlife of next-generation simulations.
The weird consequences would not end there. Our simulators may be simulations themselves — just one rabbit hole within a linked series, each with different fundamental physical laws. “If we’re indeed a simulation, then that would be a logical possibility, that what we’re measuring aren’t really the laws of nature, they’re some sort of attempt at some sort of artificial law that the simulators have come up with. That’s a depressing thought!” says Beane.
This cosmic ray test may help reveal whether we are just lines of code in an artificial Matrix, where the established rules of physics may be bent, or even broken. But if learning that truth means accepting that you may never know for sure what’s real — including yourself — would you want to know?
There is no turning back, Neo: Do you take the blue pill, or the red pill?
Again we have a young man who would like to do something different and what happens? Again we have a case where a young pioneer challenges corporates and what happens? Suicide… I don’t think so:
Social networking pioneer who took on Facebook commits suicide at age 22
One of four friends from NYU who launched Diaspora* site, meant to protect users’ privacy
Group raised more than $200,000 in donations
Mark Zuckerberg praised his project
A 22-year-old social networking pioneer and Internet privacy advocate who dared to challenge Facebook and Google is dead.
Ilya Zhitomirskiy died Saturday after San Francisco police were summoned for a reported suicide, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.
Mr Zhitomirskiy wasone of the founders Diaspora*, a new social networking service meant to give users more control of their information online, and sought to lure people away from bigger sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter.
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Pioneer: llya Zhitomirskiy believed he could change the world by giving users more privacy and more control in social networking
Police would not release other details of his death and a medical examiner’s report could take weeks before it becomes public.
Mr Zhitomirskiy and three friends, Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, and Raphael Sofaer, launched a trial run of Diaspora* last year that attracted the attention of The New York Times and National Public Radio and left the tech world buzzing.
They were all students at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Mr Zhitomirskiy described himself on his Twitter account as a ‘free culture and open web enthusiast. Now one of the four Diaspora* bros.’
Despite their desire to compete with Facebook, the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg praised the group, telling Wired last year: ‘I think it is cool people are trying to do it.
Coder: Mr Zhitomirskiy was obsessed with Internet privacy, but focused on drawing ‘normal’ people to his social network site
‘I see a little of myself in them. It’s just their approach that the world could be better and saying, “We should try to do it.”‘Friends and fans of Mr Zhitomirskiy have written tributes on Twitter after hearing of his death, with one posting: ‘Death of a young entrepreneur is a great loss to the community.’
YOUNG AND BRILLIANT
Mr Zhitomirskiy wasn’t the only programmer to achieve great things in his early years:
Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at 19
Linus Torvalds created Linux, an open-source operating system at 22
Andrey Ternovskiy was 17 when he made Chatroulette
Christopher Poole was 15 when he made 4Chan, a chatboard that has been called ‘ground zero of Western web culture.’
The four students announced their software programme in April 2010 and raised more than $200,000 for the project through the online fundraising system Kickstarter.
The project even inspired Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to donate money to the project.
In November 2010 the foursome released a consumer alpha version of the programme, while still making further developments.
Diaspora* is based around privacy concerns related to centralised social networks by allowing users to set up their own servers to host content and then interact with others by sharing status updates, photographs and other data – much like Facebook.
Four friends: Four New York University students launched Diaspora*: (from left to right) Maxwell Salzberg, Daniel Grippi, Raphael Sofaer and Ilya Zhitomirskiy
But Diaspora* is different because sites like Facebook and Google store user data within their own networks and own whatever data users upload.
Mr Zhitomirskiy was a hardcore computer programmer, obsessed with Internet security and maintaining privacy online.
But since he began working on Diaspora*, he began focusing on user interfaces and started thinking about how to lure ‘normal’ users away from Facebook.
‘We want to move people from websites that are not healthy to websites that are more healthy, because they’re transparent,’ Mr Zhitomirskiy told New York magazine last year.
‘Even though a nontechnical person may not understand it, they’ll know there’s a community that has said, this is okay.’
Co-founder Raphael Sofaer told the New York Times last year: ‘In our real lives, we talk to each other.
‘We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t that hard to do.
‘All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.’
Now when we have looked the Tibetan Book Of The Deatd there is also an Egyptian Book Of The Dead:
The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BCE. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw is translated as “Book of Coming Forth by Day”. Another translation would be “Book of emerging forth into the Light”. The text consists of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person’s journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife.
The Book of the Dead was part of a tradition of funerary texts which includes the earlier Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts, which were painted onto objects, not papyrus. Some of the spells included were drawn from these older works and date to the 3rd millennium BCE. Other spells were composed later in Egyptian history, dating to the Third Intermediate Period (11th to 7th centuries BCE). A number of the spells which made up the Book continued to be inscribed on tomb walls and sarcophagi, as had always been the spells from which they originated. The Book of the Dead was placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased.
There was no single or canonicalBook of the Dead. The surviving papyri contain a varying selection of religious and magical texts and vary considerably in their illustration. Some people seem to have commissioned their own copies of the Book of the Dead, perhaps choosing the spells they thought most vital in their own progression to the afterlife. The Book of the Dead was most commonly written in hieroglyphic or hieratic script on a papyrus scroll, and often illustrated with vignettes depicting the deceased and their journey into the afterlife.
The Book of the Dead developed from a tradition of funerary manuscripts dating back to the Egyptian Old Kingdom. The first funerary texts were the Pyramid Texts, first used in the Pyramid of King Unas of the 5th dynasty, around 2400 BCE. These texts were written on the walls of the burial chambers within pyramids, and were exclusively for the use of the Pharaoh (and, from the 6th dynasty, the Queen). The Pyramid Texts were written in an unusual hieroglyphic style; many of the hieroglyphs representing humans or animals were left incomplete or drawn mutilated, most likely to prevent them causing any harm to the dead pharaoh. The purpose of the Pyramid Texts was to help the dead King take his place amongst the gods, in particular to reunite him with his divine father Ra; at this period the afterlife was seen as being in the sky, rather than the underworld described in the Book of the Dead. Towards the end of the Old Kingdom, the Pyramid Texts ceased to be an exclusively royal privilege, and were adopted by regional governors and other high-ranking officials.
In the Middle Kingdom, a new funerary text emerged, the Coffin Texts. The Coffin Texts used a newer version of the language, new spells, and included illustrations for the first time. The Coffin Texts were most commonly written on the inner surfaces of coffins, though they are occasionally found on tomb walls or on papyri. The Coffin Texts were available to wealthy private individuals, vastly increasing the number of people who could expect to participate in the afterlife; a process which has been described as the “democratization of the afterlife”.
The Book of the Dead first developed in Thebes towards the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period, around 1700 BCE. The earliest known occurrence of the spells included in the Book of the Dead is from the coffin of Queen Mentuhotep, of the 13th dynasty, where the new spells were included amongst older texts known from the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts. Some of the spells introduced at this time claim an older provenance; for instance the rubric to spell 30B states that it was discovered by the Prince Hordjedef in the reign of King Menkaure, many hundreds of years before it is attested in the archaeological record.
By the 19th dynasty, the Book of the Dead had become widespread not only for members of the royal family, but courtiers and other officials as well. At this stage, the spells were typically inscribed on linen shrouds wrapped around the dead, though occasionally they are found written on coffins or on papyrus.
The New Kingdom saw the Book of the Dead develop and spread further. The famous Spell 125, the ‘Weighing of the Heart‘, is first known from the reign of Hatshepsut and Tuthmose III, c.1475 BCE. From this period onward the Book of the Dead was typically written on a papyrus scroll, and the text illustrated with vignettes. During the 19th dynasty in particular, the vignettes tended to be lavish, sometimes at the expense of the surrounding text.
In the Third Intermediate Period, the Book of the Dead started to appear in hieratic script, as well as in the traditional hieroglyphics. The hieratic scrolls were a cheaper version, lacking illustration apart from a single vignette at the beginning, and were produced on smaller papyri. At the same time, many burials used additional funerary texts, for instance the Amduat.
During the 25th and 26th dynasties, the Book of the Dead was updated, revised and standardised. Spells were consistently ordered and numbered for the first time. This standardised version is known today as the ‘Saite recension’, after the Saite (26th) dynasty. In the Late period and Ptolemaic period, the Book of the Dead remained based on the Saite recension, though increasingly abbreviated towards the end of the Ptolemaic period. New funerary texts appeared, including the Book of Breathing and Book of Traversing Eternity. The last use of the Book of the Dead was in the 1st century BCE, though some artistic motifs drawn from it were still in use in Roman times.
The mystical Spell 17, from the Papyrus of Ani. The vignette at the top illustrates, from left to right, the god Heh as a representation of the Sea; a gateway to the realm of Osiris; the Eye of Horus; the celestial cow Mehet-Weret; and a human head rising from a coffin, guarded by the four Sons of Horus.
The Book of the Dead is made up of a number of individual texts and their accompanying illustrations. Most sub-texts begin with the word ro, which can mean mouth, speech, a chapter of a book, spell, utterance, or incantation. This ambiguity reflects the similarity in Egyptian thought between ritual speech and magical power. In the context of the Book of the Dead, it is typically translated as either “chapter” or “spell”. In this article, the word “spell” is used.
At present, some 192 spells are known, though no single manuscript contains them all. They served a range of purposes. Some are intended to give the deceased mystical knowledge in the afterlife, or perhaps to identify them with the gods: for instance, Spell 17, an obscure and lengthy description of the god Atum. Others are incantations to ensure the different elements of the dead person’s being were preserved and reunited, and to give the deceased control over the world around him. Still others protect the deceased from various hostile forces, or guide him through the underworld past various obstacles. Famously, two spells also deal with the judgement of the deceased in the Weighing of the Heart ritual.
Such spells as 26-30, and sometimes spells 6 and 126 relate to the heart, and were inscribed on scarabs.
The texts and images of the Book of the Dead were magical as well as religious. Magic was as legitimate an activity as praying to the gods, even when the magic was aimed at controlling the gods themselves. Indeed, there was little distinction for the Ancient Egyptians between magical and religious practice. The concept of magic (heka) was also intimately linked with the spoken and written word. The act of speaking a ritual formula was an act of creation; there is a sense in which action and speech were one and the same thing. The magical power of words extended to the written word. Hieroglyphic script was held to have been invented by the god Thoth, and the hieroglyphs themselves were powerful. Written words conveyed the full force of a spell. This was even true when the text was abbreviated or omitted, as often occurred in later Book of the Dead scrolls, particularly if the accompanying images were present. The Egyptians also believed that knowing the name of something gave power over it; thus, the Book of the Dead equips its owner with the mystical names of many of the entities he would encounter in the afterlife, giving him power of them.
The spells of the Book of the Dead made use of several magical techniques which can also be seen in other areas of Egyptian life. A number of spells are for magical amulets, which would protect the deceased from harm. In addition to being represented on a Book of the Dead papyrus, these spells appeared on amulets wound into the wrappings of a mummy. Everyday magic made use of amulets in huge numbers. Other items in direct contact with the body in the tomb, such as headrests, were also considered to have amuletic value. A number of spells also refer to Egyptian beliefs about the magical healing power of saliva.
Almost every Book of the Dead was unique, containing a different mixture of spells drawn from the corpus of texts available. For most of the history of the Book of the Dead there was no defined order or structure. In fact, until Paul Barguet‘s 1967 “pioneering study” of common themes between texts, Egyptologists concluded there was no internal structure at all. It is only from the Saite period (26th dynasty) onwards that there is a defined order.
The Books of the Dead from the Saite period tend to organize the Chapters into four sections:
Chapters 1–16 The deceased enters the tomb, descends to the underworld, and the body regains its powers of movement and speech.
Chapters 17–63 Explanation of the mythic origin of the gods and places, the deceased are made to live again so that they may arise, reborn, with the morning sun.
Chapters 64–129 The deceased travels across the sky in the sun ark as one of the blessed dead. In the evening, the deceased travels to the underworld to appear before Osiris.
Chapters 130–189 Having been vindicated, the deceased assumes power in the universe as one of the gods. This section also includes assorted chapters on protective amulets, provision of food, and important places.
The nature of the afterlife which the dead person enjoyed is difficult to define, because of the differing traditions within Ancient Egyptian religion. In the Book of the Dead, the dead were taken into the presence of the god Osiris, who was confined to the subterranean Duat. There are also spells to enable the ba or akh of the dead to join Ra as he travelled the sky in his sun-barque, and help him fight off Apep. As well as joining the Gods, the Book of the Dead also depicts the dead living on in the ‘Field of Reeds’, a paradisaical likeness of the real world. The Field of Reeds is depicted as a lush, plentiful version of the Egypt of the living. There are fields, crops, oxen, people and waterways. The deceased person is shown encountering the Great Ennead, a group of gods, as well as his or her own parents. While the depiction of the Field of Reeds is pleasant and plentiful, it is also clear that manual labour is required. For this reason burials included a number of statuettes named shabti, or later ushebti. These statuettes were inscribed with a spell, also included in the Book of the Dead, requiring them to undertake any manual labour that might be the owner’s duty in the afterlife. It is also clear that the dead not only went to a place where the gods lived, but that they acquired divine characteristics themselves. In many occasions, the deceased is mentioned as “The Osiris – [Name]” in the Book of the Dead.
Two ‘gate spells’. On the top register, Ani and his wife face the ‘seven gates of the House of Osiris’. Below, they encounter ten of the 21 ‘mysterious portals of the House of Osiris in the Field of Reeds’. All are guarded by unpleasant protectors.
The path to the afterlife as laid out in the Book of the Dead was a difficult one. The deceased was required to pass a series of gates, caverns and mounds guarded by supernatural creatures. These terrifying entities were armed with enormous knives and are illustrated in grotesque forms, typically as human figures with the heads of animals or combinations of different ferocious beasts. Their names—for instance, “He who lives on snakes” or “He who dances in blood”—are equally grotesque. These creatures had to be pacified by reciting the appropriate spells included in the Book of the Dead; once pacified they posed no further threat, and could even extend their protection to the dead person. Another breed of supernatural creatures was ‘slaughterers’ who killed the unrighteous on behalf of Osiris; the Book of the Dead equipped its owner to escape their attentions. As well as these supernatural entities, there were also threats from natural or supernatural animals, including crocodiles, snakes, and beetles.
If all the obstacles of the Duat could be negotiated, the deceased would be judged in the “Weighing of the Heart” ritual, depicted in Spell 125. The deceased was led by the god Anubis into the presence of Osiris. There, the dead person swore that he had not committed any sin from a list of 42 sins, reciting a text known as the “Negative Confession”. Then the dead person’s heart was weighed on a pair of scales, against the goddess Maat, who embodied truth and justice. Maat was often represented by an ostrich feather, the hieroglyphic sign for her name. At this point, there was a risk that the deceased’s heart would bear witness, owning up to sins committed in life; Spell 30B guarded against this eventuality. If the scales balanced, this meant the deceased had led a good life. Anubis would take them to Osiris and they would find their place in the afterlife, becoming maa-kheru, meaning “vindicated” or “true of voice”. If the heart was out of balance with Maat, then another fearsome beast called Ammit, the Devourer, stood ready to eat it and put the dead person’s afterlife to an early and unpleasant end.
This scene is remarkable not only for its vividness but as one of the few parts of the Book of the Dead with any explicit moral content. The judgement of the dead and the Negative Confession were a representation of the conventional moral code which governed Egyptian society. For every “I have not…” in the Negative Confession, it is possible to read an unexpressed “Thou shalt not”. While the Ten Commandments of Judaeo-Christian ethics are rules of conduct laid down by a perceived divine revelation, the Negative Confession is more a divine enforcement of everyday morality. Views differ among Egyptologists about how far the Negative Confession represents a moral absolute, with ethical purity being necessary for progress to the Afterlife. John Taylor points out the wording of Spells 30B and 125 suggests a pragmatic approach to morality; by preventing the heart from contradicting him with any inconvenient truths, it seems that the deceased could enter the afterlife even if their life had not been entirely pure. Ogden Goelet says “without an exemplary and moral existence, there was no hope for a successful afterlife”, while Geraldine Pinch suggests that the Negative Confession is essentially similar to the spells protecting from demons, and that the success of the Weighing of the Heart depended on the mystical knowledge of the true names of the judges rather than on the deceased’s moral behaviour.
Producing a Book of the Dead
Part of the Book of the Dead of Pinedjem II. The text is hieratic, except for hieroglyphics in the vignette. The use of red pigment, and the joins between papyrus sheets, are also visible
A Book of the Dead papyrus was produced to order by scribes. They were commissioned by people in preparation for their own funeral, or by the relatives of someone recently deceased. They were expensive items; one source gives the price of a Book of the Dead scroll as one deben of silver, perhaps half the annual pay of a labourer. Papyrus itself was evidently costly, as there are many instances of its re-use in everyday documents, creating palimpsests. In one case, a Book of the Dead was written on second-hand papyrus.
Most owners of the Book of the Dead were evidently part of the social elite; they were initially reserved for the royal family, but later papyri are found in the tombs of scribes, priests and officials. Most owners were men, and generally the vignettes included the owner’s wife as well. Towards the beginning of the history of the Book of the Dead, there are roughly 10 copies belonging to men for every one for a woman. However, during the Third Intermediate Period, 2/3 were for women; and women owned roughly a third of the hieratic paypri from the Late and Ptolemaic Periods.
The dimensions of a Book of the Dead could vary widely; the longest is 40m long while some are as short as 1m. They are composed of sheets of papyrus joined together, the individual papyri varying in width from 15 cm to 45 cm. The scribes working on Book of the Dead papyri took more care over their work than those working on more mundane texts; care was taken to frame the text within margins, and to avoid writing on the joints between sheets. The words peret em heru, or ‘coming forth by day’ sometimes appear on the reverse of the outer margin, perhaps acting as a label.
Books were often prefabricated in funerary workshops, with spaces being left for the name of the deceased to be written in later. For instance, in the Papyrus of Ani, the name “Ani” appears at the top or bottom of a column, or immediately following a rubric introducing him as the speaker of a block of text; the name appears in a different handwriting to the rest of the manuscript, and in some places is mis-spelt or omitted entirely.
The text of a New KingdomBook of the Dead was typically written in cursive hieroglyphs, most often from left to right, but also sometimes from right to left. The hieroglyphs were in columns, which were separated by black lines – a similar arrangement to that used when hieroglyphs were carved on tomb walls or monuments. Illustrations were put in frames above, below, or between the columns of text. The largest illustrations took up a full page of papyrus.
From the 21st Dynasty onward, more copies of the Book of the Dead are found in hieratic script. The calligraphy is similar to that of other hieratic manuscripts of the New Kingdom; the text is written in horizontal lines across wide columns (often the column size corresponds to the size of the papyrus sheets of which a scroll is made up). Occasionally a hieratic Book of the Dead contains captions in hieroglyphic.
The text of a Book of the Dead was written in both black and red ink, regardless of whether it was in hieroglyphic or hieratic script. Most of the text was in black, with red used for the titles of spells, opening and closing sections of spells, the instructions to perform spells correctly in rituals, and also for the names of dangerous creatures such as the demon Apep. The black ink used was based on carbon, and the red ink on ochre, in both cases mixed with water.
The style and nature of the vignettes used to illustrate a Book of the Dead varies widely. Some contain lavish colour illustrations, even making use of gold leaf. Others contain only line drawings, or one simple illustration at the opening.
Book of the Dead papyri were often the work of several different scribes and artists whose work was literally pasted together. It is usually possible to identify the style of more than one scribe used on a given manuscript, even when the manuscript is a shorter one. The text and illustrations were produced by different scribes; there are a number of Books where the text was completed but the illustrations were left empty.
Discovery, translation, interpretation and preservation
The existence of the Book of the Dead was known as early as the Middle Ages, well before its contents could be understood. Since it was found in tombs, it was evidently a document of a religious nature, and this led to the widespread misapprehension that the Book of the Dead was the equivalent of a Bible or Qu’ran.
The first modern facsimile of a Book of the Dead was produced in 1805 and included in the Description de l’Égypte produced by the staff of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. In 1822, Jean Francois Champollion began to translate hieroglyphic text; he examined some of the Book of the Dead papyri and identified them as a funerary ritual.
In 1842 Karl Richard Lepsius published a translation of a manuscript dated to the Ptolemaic era and coined the name “Book of The Dead”. He also introduced the spell numbering system which is still in use, identifying 165 different spells. Lepsius promoted the idea of a comparative edition of the Book of the Dead, drawing on all relevant manuscripts. This project was undertaken by Edouard Naville, starting in 1875 and completed in 1886, producing a three-volume work including a selection of vignettes for every one of the 186 spells he worked with, the variations of the text for every spell, and commentary. In 1876, Samuel Birch of the British Museum published a photographic copy of the papyrus of Nebseny.
The work of E. A. Wallis Budge, Birch’s successor at the British Museum, is still in wide circulation – including both his hieroglyphic editions and his English translations, though the latter are now considered inaccurate and out-of-date. More recent translations in English have been published by T. G. Allen (1974) and Raymond O. Faulkner (1972). As more work has been done on the Book of the Dead, more spells have been identified, and the total now stands at 192.
Research work on the Book of the Dead has always posed technical difficulties thanks to the need to copy very long hieroglyphic texts. Initially, these were copied out by hand, with the assistance either of tracing paper or a camera lucida. In the mid-19th century, hieroglyphic fonts became available and made lithographic reproduction of manuscripts more feasible. In the present day, hieroglyphics can be rendered in desktop publishing software and this, combined with digital print technology, means that the costs of publishing a Book of the Dead may be considerably reduced. However, a very large amount of the source material in museums around the world remains unpublished.