Book of Earth

Book of Earth

The Book of the Earth: A Divine Embryology in Ancient Egyptian Funerary Texts


Introduction to the Book of Earth

The Book of Earth, also known as the Book of Aker or the Creation of the Sun Disk, is an ancient Egyptian funerary text that primarily appears on the tombs of Merneptah, Twosret, Ramesses III, Ramesses VI, and Ramesses VII. This text serves as a counterpart to the Book of Caverns and is believed to date back to the New Kingdom and Late Period.

Book of Earth And the Origin of Publication

The earliest known depictions of the Book of the Earth scenes were discovered on the walls of the tombs of Ramesses VI and Ramesses VII. Jean-François Champollion was the first person to publish the scenes and texts from the tomb of Ramesses VI in his Monuments de l’Egypte, where he deciphered the hieroglyphs depicted in the tombs. Alexandre Piankoff was the first scholar to study the composition of images and hieroglyphics in search of meaning behind the illustrations. Later, in 1963, Bruno H. Stricker provided an explanation of the Book as a divine. embryology.

Book of Earth Structure and Composition


Although the exact number of registers and scenes in the Book of the Earth is uncertain, it is generally believed that the surviving panels were each divided into three registers. However, it is unclear whether scenes from other tombs are part of the story or separate compositions. Scholars believe that the Book consists of two halves, with the first half focusing on scenes of punishment and the second half on the creation of the solar disc and the sun god, Re’s journey in the underworld.

Content and Symbolism

The Book of the Earth is divided into five main components: Part E, Part D, Part C, Part B, and Part A.

  • Book of Earth Part E: This part includes six gods praying to a sun disc at burial mounds. Although it is the smallest portion of the Book, it is unlikely to be the beginning of the Book of the Earth.


  • Book of Earth Part D: This part is believed to be the beginning of the composition, where the setting is introduced. The realm of the dead is depicted, with Osiris as the primary figure located within a tomb that is guarded by serpents. Beneath Osiris are Anubis and another god with their arms stretched out to protect his corpse. This scene represents renewal, while the scenes on both adjacent sides depict punishment. In the scenes of punishment, the gods of punishment are represented and are holding cauldrons.


  • Book of Earth Part C: This part comprises three registers that might be connected to Part D, but the exact sequence is unclear. The upper and middle registers both begin with images of the sun god in his ram-headed form. Two ba-birds are praying to him while an unknown god is greeting him in the middle register. Behind the unknown god are two additional gods, one being ram-headed and the other being serpent-headed. These gods have their hands stretched out in front of them, towards the sun disc, in a protective gesture. Out of this gesture, the falcon-shaped head of “Horus of the netherworld” is projected.


  • Book of Earth Part B: The registers of this section are less obvious, and many parts might be considered to belong to Part A. The first scenes in this section consist of four oval shapes with mummies inside, which can breathe from the rays of the sun god. Four burial mounds have been turned over and are being protected by serpents. The main part of this section depicts a mummy, called “the corpse of the god,” which is also the sun disc itself. In front of him, a serpent rises out of a pair of arms and holds a god and goddess in the act of praise. Behind the mummy is another pair of arms, called “the arms of darkness,” that is being supported by the crocodile, Penwenti. Next, there are four more ovals containing mummies with four ba-birds, one ba-bird for each mummy. This, along with two additional hieroglyphs, represents shadows. Underneath this illustration are depictions of barks that contain the mummies of Osiris and the falcon-headed Horus.


  • Book of Earth Part A: At the beginning of this section, the sun god is enclosed by mummies at a burial mound called the Mound of Darkness. Above this mound, a solar bark is shown. Following this scene, Aker is depicted as a double sphinx. The solar barque is located between the entrance and the exit of the realm of the dead, with its stern side facing the exit. Below it shows the resurrection of the corpse of the sun, which is a scene that typically occurs in royal sarcophagus chambers. A falcon head emerges from a sun disc, and the light is shown falling on the “mysterious corpse,” which is lying down. In the next scene, twelve goddesses, each representing an hour of the night, are depicted. Each goddess has the hieroglyph of a star and a hieroglyph of a shadow with a beaming disk above her. At the beginning of the fourth scene, a few of the mummies are enclosed within four large circles. In the fifth scene, a central god, who is thought to be Osiris, is surrounded by the corpses of Shu, Tefnut, Khepri, and Nun. The sixth scene shows a pair of arms rising from the depths. A goddess called Annihilator stands up with her arms reaching to embrace a sun disc. The arms are supporting two praying goddesses named West and East in a reverse orientation. It is believed that the upper register of this part ends with a line containing a title of this work, though it is still unknown.


  • The Book of the Earth: The middle register begins with the solar barque again. It is towed by fourteen ram-headed gods with all of their bas. Next, a god stands in his cave, surrounded by twelve-star goddesses who are extending discs to him. The following scene, which is scattered around the tomb of Ramesses VI, shows five burial mounds with a head and arms emerging from it. They are raised in a gesture of praise. In the third scene, the birth of the sun is represented. This scene also occurs on the sarcophagus of Ramesses IV, but there is more detail and more story on that sarcophagus than in this scene.


  • In conclusion, the Book of the Earth is a fascinating ancient Egyptian funerary text that provides insight into the beliefs and practices of the Egyptian civilization regarding the afterlife and the role of the sun god, Re, in the journey of the soul. The detailed illustrations and hieroglyphs of the Book of the Earth offer scholars a wealth of knowledge about the symbolism and mythology of this remarkable culture. Despite the challenges in understanding the exact sequence and meaning of all the scenes, scholars continue to study and decipher the Book of the Earth to expand our understanding of ancient Egyptian religion and funerary customs

The Tomb Of Ramses VI, and VII

The tomb is simple in plan, consisting of a series of descending, and It includes corridors leading deep underground, in a straight line to the burial chamber.

The exquisitely painted sunk relief walls are very well preserved, and a decline in the quality of the decoration since the Nineteenth Dynasty (c.1295–1186 BC) is evident, however.

The tomb’s decorative program consists of various funerary texts to help the king in his successful transition to the afterlife. The first descending passages are decorated with the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and the Books of the Heavens.

The passages beyond bear scenes from the Amduat, the Book of the Dead, and the Books of the Heavens, and scenes from the Book of the Earth adorn the burial chamber. All ceilings are decorated with astronomical scenes and texts.

Some of these funerary texts are collections of spells, and others are maps of the underworld. It describes the sun god’s daily nocturnal journey through it.

Through them, just like the sun god, the king could achieve a glorious rebirth on the eastern horizon at dawn.

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