Erik Hornung has done a great service in making the ancient Egyptian Books of the Underworld understandable to both the average and trained reader with an interest in ancient Egyptian religion and its texts. David Lorton's translation of Hornung's original German text is excellent,and reflects both Hornung's written German and English lecture styles in describing such concepts as the reuniting of the ba of Osiris with Ra, the development of the idea of salvation of the deceased from the ancient Egyptian context, and the movement of time in the afterlife. Hornung engages in little speculation in this work, citing solid texual or imagery bases for his statements. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, line drawings, and pertinent hieroglyphic texts, which makes it a useful tool for the professional in the field as well. Each set of underworld books (five sets in all) are reviewed in this work. Of the New Kingdom set, twelve such books are reviewed. Hornung structures the discussion of each book, citing their sources, research, structure and language, and content in a manner that is both informative and a pleasure to read. Like Hornung's similar German work, Tal der Könige:Die Ruhestätten der Pharaonen/Valley of the King very complex concepts of Egyptian religion are carefully explained, illustrated from original texts and tomb scenes, and are discussed in the context of history and evolution of the ancient Egyptian funerary ritual. This work is destined to become an invaluable sourcebook for the understanding of Egyptian funerary beliefs, and is a valuable addition to the library of any reader in ancient Egyptian history and culture.
This book elucidates how ancient Egyptians believed that the sun had a position in the center of a cosmography in the afterlife. When Man died, he entered the cosmography of eternity, but faced obstacles anterior to the sun. For example, a gated wall might have obstructed a person's entry into the delectable area close to the sun. Additionally, after death, a person experienced the transmigration of the soul. Thus, a person might have reincarnated into an animal. Altogether, a fascinating look into Egyptian afterlife with detailed illustrations to complement the text. This author used excellent sources, including the pyramid texts, which greatly contributed to the book's historical accuracy. At the end of the book, a useful glossary aids the reader for insight into Egyptian technical terms.
Egyptologists tend to focus mostly on the Book of the Dead, ignoring lesser known texts to a large degree. Here the author offers a concise and detailed summary and explanation of other ancient Egyptian texts. Included here are the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, the Books of Breathing, the Amduat, the Spell of the Twelve Caves, the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, the Book of the Earth, the Book of Nut, the Book of the Day, the Book of the Night, the Litany of Re, the Book of the Heavenly Cow and the Book of Traversing Eternity. The glossary and extensive bibliography are useful. Well translated by David Lorton, illustrated in black and white, this is a recommended book for all searching for details on important Egyptian texts.
Hornung presents us with a fascinating wealth of Egyptian lore. The texts present in the book are fully translated into layman's English, and almost all portions are followed with the copies of the accompinying reliefs and frescoes. This is a magnificent work that allows the reader, whatever his background, to gain some insight into the oft-misunderstood religion of the Ancient Egypt.