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The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife Paperback – June 17, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A concise and detailed summary. . . This is a recommended book for all searching for details on important Egyptian texts."—Francesca Jourdan, quik.com

"Erik Hornung's new book. . . goes a long way toward beginning to correct and to inform our understanding of religion in Ancient Egypt."—Tom Collins, Religious Studies in Secondary Schools, April, 2000.

"There has long been a need for a thorough English language survey of this material, a need that is well met by the present volume. . . . even specialists in Egyptian funerary literature will find much of interest . . . . The ancient Egyptian literature of the afterlife is a complex and involved subject and the volume under review provides a clear and concise overview of the individual texts. It will be useful for anyone interested in these ancient Egyptial books for the dead."—Terry G. Wilfong. University of Michigan, Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Hornung's book is a good general survey, with a voluminous bibliography that Egyptologists will find useful."—James Allan Evans, University of British Columbia. The Classical Outlook. Fall, 2000, Vol. 78, No. 1

"It is a fortunate circumstance that Eric Hornung. . . has rendered the invaluable service of producing a complete guide and manual to the texts. . . It now appears in an admirable English translation by David Lorton."—Leo Depuydt, Brown University. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 2000

"Hornung's study of ancient Egyptian afterlife books, translated into English for the first time by D. Lorton, fills a major gap in the available literature in English and will prove indispensable to students of Egyptian funerary religion. . . His presentation is clear and thorough."—Denise M. Doxey, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Religious Studies Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 2000

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (June 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801485150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801485152
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Francesca Jourdan on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Egyptologists tend to focus mostly on the Book of the Dead, ignoring lesser known texts to a large degree. Here the author offers a concise and detailed summary and explanation of other ancient Egyptian texts. Included here are the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, the Books of Breathing, the Amduat, the Spell of the Twelve Caves, the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, the Book of the Earth, the Book of Nut, the Book of the Day, the Book of the Night, the Litany of Re, the Book of the Heavenly Cow and the Book of Traversing Eternity. The glossary and extensive bibliography are useful. Well translated by David Lorton, illustrated in black and white, this is a recommended book for all searching for details on important Egyptian texts.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Katherine M. Griffis (Greenberg) on November 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Erik Hornung has done a great service in making the ancient Egyptian Books of the Underworld understandable to both the average and trained reader with an interest in ancient Egyptian religion and its texts. David Lorton's translation of Hornung's original German text is excellent,and reflects both Hornung's written German and English lecture styles in describing such concepts as the reuniting of the ba of Osiris with Ra, the development of the idea of salvation of the deceased from the ancient Egyptian context, and the movement of time in the afterlife.

Hornung engages in little speculation in this work, citing solid texual or imagery bases for his statements. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, line drawings, and pertinent hieroglyphic texts, which makes it a useful tool for the professional in the field as well.

Each set of underworld books (five sets in all) are reviewed in this work. Of the New Kingdom set, twelve such books are reviewed. Hornung structures the discussion of each book, citing their sources, research, structure and language, and content in a manner that is both informative and a pleasure to read.

Like Hornung's similar German work, Tal der Könige:Die Ruhestätten der Pharaonen/Valley of the Kings, very complex concepts of Egyptian religion are carefully explained, illustrated from original texts and tomb scenes, and are discussed in the context of history and evolution of the ancient Egyptian funerary ritual.

This work is destined to become an invaluable sourcebook for the understanding of Egyptian funerary beliefs, and is a valuable addition to the library of any reader in ancient Egyptian history and culture.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Alex on February 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hornung presents us with a fascinating wealth of Egyptian lore. The texts present in the book are fully translated into layman's English, and almost all portions are followed with the copies of the accompinying reliefs and frescoes. This is a magnificent work that allows the reader, whatever his background, to gain some insight into the oft-misunderstood religion of the Ancient Egypt.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Dray on March 15, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hornung takes a fascinating topic and renders it fairly dry and academic, but that's probably his purpose here. Unfortunately, everything is touched on only sketchily, so that you only get tantalizing hints without any real depth.
I will likely have to get a second resource now since this was too general for my purposes. It was, however, wonderfully illustrated, and is probably a great 'quick guide' if you need some information fast.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on July 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're like me, you didn't know there were more than one Egyptian Book of the Afterlife. I was familiar with the famous Book of the Dead but ignorant of the numerous other Egyptian funeral texts described in this book.

Author Erik Hornung begins with the oldest of the Egyptian "books"--which are not actually books at all, but sets of spells engraved on the walls of tombs. Among these oldest are the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts, all of which are essentially spells meant to be read by the deceased in the afterlife. As time went on, the sets of spells became more elaborate and carefully attentive to the possible incidents that could occur beyond the grave, and Hornung charts the development of these different "books" carefully. As an ardent student of Dante, I was perhaps most interested in the Amduat, which is an hour-by-hour description of the sun's journey through the Netherworld to be reborn at dawn the next day. The Amduat catalogs every obstacle and opponent the dead king--identified with the sun-god--may meet in the afterlife and how he may overcome them. The pharaoh must rely on friendly gods and certain spells in his journey.

The book is lavishly illustrated--almost half of it is made up of illustrations of the various books. In fact, this is where my only complaint comes up--the way in which the illustrations are arranged makes for difficult reading. Rather than placed over the text concerning the individual scenes Hornung describes, each book is printed whole in a section following Hornung's description. This arrangement results in a lot of flipping, turning, and diligent searching when what he describes is not readily apparent.

But this issue aside, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife is a fascinating and detailed catalog of the funerary texts so sacred to the Egyptians.

Recommended.
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