Ancient Egypt
Elements of its Cultural History

  by Sjef Willockx



This website presents scholarly papers about several elements of ancient Egyptian culture and history. The papers (all in pdf-format) are organized into four sections.


I. The earliest Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

This section deals with the earliest tombs in the royal necropolis of the New Kingdom: the Valley of the Kings, near modern-day Luxor. Each paper first examines the discovery of a group of tombs, and the original assessments of their discoverers. Then follows an overview of interpretations from later scholars, and an analysis of the often conflicting viewpoints, particularly with respect to the attribution of the tombs. Finally, a resolution is proposed, which provides new insights into the development of this necropolis and its tombs.

  • "Three Tombs attributed to Amenhotep I: K93.11, AN B and KV39"
           To Abstract                              To PDF

  • "Two Tombs attributed to Tuthmosis I: KV20 and KV3"
           To Abstract                              To PDF

  • "The Last of the Experimental Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings: KV42 and KV34"
           To Abstract                              To PDF

  • "Map of the Theban Necropolis"
    There are many plans of the Theban Necropolis, but most show only a small portion of the area. That is why I have combined the data of several maps and plans to create this overview map. (This map has also been published as part of my paper “Three Tombs attributed to Amenhotep I: K93.11, AN B and KV39.”)           To PDF

II. The translation of the ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts
: a new approach

Kurt Sethe, in his monumental publication of the Pyramid Texts (Die altaegyptischen Pyramidentexte), presented all the then known variants of each text, or Spell, in hieroglyphs, side by side. In his subsequent translation however (Übersetzung und Kommentar zu den altaegyptischen Pyramidentexten), he focused for each Spell on one specific version, discussing, where he deemed this necessary, variations in the notes.

In the present translations, each version of a Spell is treated as a separate, stand-alone text, and hence translated in full. I feel that this does more justice to the fact that for the ancient authors, the actual version in front of them was in fact a distinct, self-contained text. This approach leads at times to surprising results: passages that were so far enigmatic or even downright incomprehensible, suddenly make sense after all.

A separate study is devoted to the ancient Egyptian verb Szp. This verb has, depending on context, to be translated as “take” or “receive”. The choice for either translation will obviously lead to very different results. In the Pyramid Texts, the verb is frequently used in the context of presenting offerings to the deceased. Based on arguments, derived from both grammar and the pictorial record, it is shown that in these texts, a translation with “take” is essential, if we want to do justice to the intentions of the original Egyptian authors. Both Allen and Hays translate these instances however consistently with “receive.”

  • "Some remarks about the translation of the verb Szp in the Pyramid Texts"
             To Abstract                           To PDF

  • "Spells 224 and 225 from the Pyramid Texts: Translation and Commentary"
             To Abstract                           To PDF

  • "Spells 224 and 225 from the Pyramid Texts: An Inquiry into their Editorial History"
              To Abstract                          To PDF

  • "Spells 33 and 423 from the Pyramid Texts: Translation and Commentary"
               To Abstract                         To PDF

  • "Spells 258 and 259 from the Pyramid Texts: Translation and Commentary"
               To Abstract                         To PDF

III. Selected papers on ancient Egyptian Kingship

The ancient Egyptians would have strongly disagreed with Shakespeare about the meaning of a name. To them, the name of a thing (or person) incorporated the thing’s (or persons) essence. That is why a man, upon becoming king, received a new name: to mark the fact that this person was no longer just a man, but something entirely different: the link between heaven and earth, between men and the gods. His new identity required a new name.

Over time, the royal name evolved into a royal titulature, consisting of five Great Names, supplemented with numerous epithets. The beginnings of this evolution can be traced back to Ka, a king from “dynasty 0.” The apogee of the royal titulature came during the New Kingdom, when the wealth of the nation found expression in the richness and grandeur of their kings’ names.

  • "The Texts with the Name of King Ka" (now translated into English )
    Abstract                         To PDF

  • "The Cartouche Names of the New Kingdom"
                To Abstract                        To PDF

IV. Selected papers on ancient Egyptian Religion

Two striking aspects of ancient Egyptian religion are the colorful richness of its many gods, and the enigmatic contradictions in its belief system. Both are explored in the papers listed below.

  • "Two Egyptian Gods: Aah and Aker"
                  To Abstract                      To PDF

  • "Three Egyptian Gods: Amentet, Andjeti and Anubis"
                  To Abstract                      To PDF

  • "Magic and Religion in Ancient Egypt: The Roots".  A phenomenological approach.
                 To Abstract                       To PDF




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