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Exploring the Greenfield Papyrus: An Insight into the Creation of the World in Ancient Egypt

Updated: Jan 8


  • Object Type: Book of the Dead of Nestanebetisheru; Frame 87

  • Material: Papyrus

  • Date: c. 950-930 BC

  • Period: Dynasty 21-22, Reign of Psusennes II/Shoshenq I

  • Findspot: Theban Tomb TT320, Deir el-Bahari, Egypt

  • Dimensions: L: 93 cm x W: 47 cm (without frame)

  • Current Location: British Museum, London

  • Inventory Number: EA10554,87

  • Reproduction Number: DP91

Creation in Ancient Egypt

This scene is a symbolic representation of the creation of the world, which occurred when the sky goddess Nut was raised aloft to form a heavenly canopy above the earth god Geb. The process of creation was closely linked in the minds of the Egyptians with the renewal of life for the dead, and this scene became a common one on papyri and coffins in Dynasty 21.

In this depiction, Nut is supported by the god of the atmosphere, Shu, who is aided in his task by two ram-headed deities. Her elongated body arches over the reclining figure of Geb, with her feet touching the ground at the eastern horizon and her fingers at the western horizon.

In funerary spells, Nut is often described as the mother of the creator sun god and by extension, mother to the deceased. She is depicted embracing them in the celestial netherworld and protecting them during their journey on the solar barque to join the ‘Imperishable Stars’ in the sky.

Greenfield Papyrus

This vignette comes from the Greenfield Papyrus, one of the longest and most beautifully illustrated copies of the Book of the Dead to have survived from ancient Egypt. It was made around 950-930 BC (Dynasty 21-22) for a woman named Nestanebetisheru, a priestess of high rank and daughter to the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem II. Her mummy and some of her grave goods were discovered amongst the 50 royal mummies reburied in the Royal Cache found in the Theban necropolis (TT320).

1 Comment

Mohamed Afifi
Mohamed Afifi
Nov 23, 2023

Nwt is sometimes depicted with stars of the nightsky. Very wonderful! But I wonder why is she considered the mother of the sun god (whom i assume is Ra'a) when Ra'a is the first god.

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