The Weighing of the Heart, Book of the Dead Chapter 30B (Dynasty 19)



This copy of the Book of the Dead belonged to Ani, a Theban scribe who died around 1250 BC during Dynasty 19 of the New Kingdom. As a scribe, he held an elevated position in society and could afford to have a sumptuous 24-meter-long copy of the Book of the Dead buried with him. This ‘book’, also known as ‘The Book of Going Forth By Day’ provided Ani with all the instructions and spells required to make sure he would safely reach the afterlife.


Supported by his wife, Tutu, Ani enters the Hall of Truth and is greeted by the gods responsible for deciding whether his soul will be granted access to the afterlife or suffer a terrible fate. He bows to the gods surrounding the scales, who are weighing his heart to see if it will be found in balance with the feather personifying Maat, truth and justice. These gods are reporting their findings to the company of 12 gods known as the Great Ennead that are sitting in judgement on their thrones. This is a critical moment for Ani; if he fails this test his heart will be devoured by a terrifying beast and his soul would not be able to reach the afterlife. To make sure this doesn’t happen, Ani is reciting a spell 30B, to ask his heart not to betray him to the gods and for it to be found in balance with Maat. This spell is destined to work, as Thoth, scribe of the God’s tells the Great Ennead that Ani has “been found true on the great balance”.


Reproduction Details

  • Type: Painted papyrus

  • Date: c. 1250 BC, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II

  • Findspot: Tomb of Ani, Thebes

  • Materials: Papyrus

  • Size: Width 42cm (including modern frame); Length 67cm (including modern frame)

  • Current location: British Museum, London

  • Object number: EA10470,3

  • Reproduction Print Reference: DP11B

Ani and Tutu


Ani can be found in the bottom left with his wife Tutu. He is shown as a living man with braided hair and wearing fine white linen, bracelets, and a broad collar. He is bowing to the assembled gods in the pose used by officials to pay respect to their superiors.


Ani is speaking the words of Spell 30B of the Book of the Dead, also known as the Heart Scarab spell, designed to pacify his heart so it won’t speak against him:


“To be spoken by the Osiris Ani.
He says: O my heart which I had from my mother! O my heart which I had from my mother! O my heart of different ages! Do not stand up as a witness against me, do not be opposed to me in the tribunal, do not be hostile to me in the presence of the keeper of the balance, for you are my ka which was in my body, the protector who made my members hale. Go forth to the happy place whereto we speed, do not tell lies about me in the presence of the god; it is indeed well that you should hear!”

Though he is depicted as a living man, this is only one aspect of the deceased Ani, and we see another part of his soul in the form of a bird with the head of a man. This is Ani's ba, which can travel in and out of the tomb after death, and it perches on a shrine-shaped building, ready to be released if judgment is given in Ani's favour.


His copy of the Book of the Dead gives him several titles, including ‘True Scribe of the King’, ‘His Beloved Scribe Reckoning Divine Offerings of All the Gods’ and ‘Overseer of the Double Granary of the Lord of Tawer’. The role of a scribe was only available to the sons of the elite and Ani would have been trained from an early age in the art of reading and writing Egyptian hieroglyphs and hieratic scripts. He worked within grain administration, keeping accurate records, and writing reports and letters to ensure that the king’s granary stores were always full.


Beside Ani is Tutu, his wife and ‘Lady of the House’. She is shown with intricately braided hair with a floral band, a fine white linen gown, bracelets and a broad collar. In her hand, she holds a sekhem or sistrum, a sacred instrument that was used in religious ceremonies and dances. Its handle features the face and horns of the goddess Hathor.


This instrument gives a clue to her privileged position as ‘Chantress of Amun’, a title referring to her role as a singer and musician in the Temple of Amun in Thebes. In the morning she would sing to the statue of Amun in the temple to wake him and she would perform the same ritual at night to send him back to sleep. She would also have participated in religious festivals throughout the year, where the statue of the god would be toured for the public to see and seek favour.


The Scales


The focus of the scene is the balance scales in the centre surrounded by gods. In the left pan is Ani's heart, and this is being weighed against the feather in the right pan representing Maat, the divine personification of truth and rightful order. The crossbar of the balance hangs from another Maat feather peg attached to the upright support, on the top of which squats a small baboon. This is a form of the god Thoth that is associated in the afterlife with the judgment of the dead.


Anubis

The jackal-headed god of the dead and embalming Anubis kneels to the right of the scales. He is wearing a strapped vest with a fish-scale pattern, an archaic and unfashionable garment in the New Kingdom and used to show the great antiquity of the old g