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  • Substantial parts of the Book of the Dead of Ramose, Egypt, Nineteenth Dynasty. Reign of Seti I

The Egyptians wrote on a material called papyrus, made from a reed-like plant of the same name. Our most important papyrus is the Book of the Dead of Ramose. Much of this spectacular document has lain in thousands of fragments in sixty paper folders since it came to the Museum in 1922. Some fragments were stuck together in the past with bits of tape and paper labels. A detail of a finely observed falcon is shown above, together with the contents of one of the folders. 

The papyrus is now being conserved and the study of the painting materials is in progress. Some of the latter, such as the orange-red mineral realgar, are very light sensitive, so the papyrus will not be put on display in the permanent galleries. Instead it will be available in digital form on the Museum’s website and also in special exhibitions. The first of which will take place during the summer of 2007.

Removal of old repairsA papyrologist helps sort the fragments into the correct order. After cleaning, the removal of old repairs, and humidification to relax the brittle fibres, the fragments are joined using tabs of Japanese tissue paper stuck down with wheat-starch paste to the back of the papyrus.

Gradually the document is being rebuilt. We now know that Ramose’s Book of the Dead must have been over 20 metres long.

Rebuilding the document