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The Myth of Nut, Geb, and the Creation of the World

Updated: Jan 8

Reproduction Details

  • Object Type: Painted papyrus

  • Date: c. 1069-945 BC (based on style)

  • Period: Dynasty 21, Third Intermediate Period

  • Findspot: Thebes

  • Materials: Papyrus

  • Size: Height 19.3cm

  • Current location: Room 643, Musée du Louvre, Paris

  • Inventory number: E17401 F02 (Frame 2)

  • Print Reference: DP07C

This reproduction of a mythological scene comes from a papyrus that belonged to Nespakashuty (or Nespakachouty), the accountant-scribe of the Theban granaries of Amun in Dynasty 21, c. 1069-945 BC.

The vignette illustrates the myth of the separation of heaven and earth and the creation of the world. We see the sky goddess Nut, represented as a naked woman, whose body arches above that of her brother and husband, the Earth god Geb, lying on the ground.

The solar boat, with its rudder, sails across the space between the two deities. A god is seated in the boat; on his head is the solar disk with a Uraeus cobra and a representation of the goddess Ma’at holding the ankh (the sign of life).

The separation of heaven and earth created a space in which the solar boat could sail, and this episode marks the beginning of the solar cycle and the first day of the world.

Mythological Papyrus

The papyrus containing these types of vignettes is called a "mythological papyrus", a particular kind of funerary book circulated exclusively among the personnel of the temple of Amun at Thebes in the Dynasty 21 (1069-945 BC). These books evoke the deceased's journey through the Underworld to the afterlife, which is compared to the solar cycle. They contain little text in comparison with other funerary works, using vignettes and rich illustrations instead to create a storyboard effect.

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