The Egyptian Book of the Dead
A code for an ethical, moral life and the guidebook to the afterlife and quest for immortality, The Egyptian Book of the Dead has influenced philosophy, religion, even the Ten Commandments, for more than 4,000 years. The most famous version, the Scroll of Ani, is gorgeously crafted, but sullied by the treasure-stealing, adventure-seeking Egyptologist who smuggled it out of Egypt and into immortality in 1887.
The burial rituals of the Ancient Egyptians have fascinated the world for centuries: the elaborate preparations for the afterlife, from mummification to the burial of treasure with the body. But none of this had any purpose without the guidebook, spell book, and protective talisman of the underworld, The Book of the Dead. With up to 189 chapters and 186 spells to choose from, each book was unique and could easily cost half a year’s wages. Over 3,000 years ago, temple scribe Ani decided the cost was worth the benefit for an eternity in a blissful earth-like paradise, and it rested with his body as a guide until 1887 when the scroll was found by a controversial curator at the British Museum.
E. A. Wallis Budge was a real life “Indian Jones” style archaeologist, buying artifacts off the black market at a time when Egypt was beginning to institute its national treasures policy, forbidding the removal of ancient objects. In a tale of bribery, arrest, and tunneling through walls, Budge stays two steps ahead of the authorities and sneaks away with hundreds of artifacts, including the 78 foot long Scroll of Ani. Villain or hero, Budge almost single-handedly supported interest in Egyptology to current times, and immortalized the study of the philosophy, religion, and cultural relevance of The Egyptian Book of the Dead.