April 23, 2012

Queensland Museum discovers 3,000 year old fragments from Egyptian Book of the Dead


Fragment of The Book of the Dead located in the Queensland Museum.

In an unlikely — and slightly disconcerting — story, the Queensland Museum located in Brisbane, Australia, has discovered that its collection houses a fragment from a 3,000-year-old Egyptian manuscript that it didn’t know it had.

The fragment is a portion of a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead that is believed to have been buried with a high ranking official laid to rest in 1420 B.C. NineMSN reports:

Parts of it were discovered in the late 19th century, but archaeologists have never found it all.

Dr John Taylor from the British Museum identified the fragments while being shown part of the museum’s Egyptian collection.

He says a name on one of the pieces caught his eye and his suspicions were confirmed when he viewed the rest of the collection of more than 100 manuscript fragments.

The discovery was very significant, he said.

“This is not the papyrus of just anybody. This is one of the top officials from Egypt at the peak of ancient Egypt’s prosperity,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“After over 100 years we’re in a position to reconstruct this really important manuscript, perhaps in its entirety.”

The manuscript was donated to the museum “by a woman 100 years ago,” says the report, although they are not sure where she obtained it.  The other portions of the manuscript are currently located in the British Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The various fragments will remain in their respective museums after being photographed for reconstruction via computer.  ABC Australia has a video and additional images up.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.