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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Papyrus Coloniensis 10207: Judgement with saying 125. Copyright: Department of Egyptology, University of Cologne

The Book of the Dead of Iahtesnakht

Preservation of Germany‘s longest Papyrus

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Richard Bußmann | Egyptology

Funded by the Coordination Office for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage
State Library, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

The papyrus collection of the department of Egyptology holds a remarkable document from the later history of ancient Egypt, papyrus Coloniensis 10207. The papyrus roll originally measured approximately 10 cm in diameter and 25 cm in height. It was unrolled and turned out to be a Book of the Dead, 23.50 m long, written for an Egyptian woman called Iahtesnakht (“The-moon-is-her-strength”). It contains spells and vignettes for the deceased, dating to around 600 BCE. The document reflects the growing efforts in this period to canonize the mortuary literature of ancient Egypt. It is a good example of the reorganisation of written knowledge at a time the philosopher Karl Jaspers called the “axial age”.
The papyrus roll comprises ca. 95 individual sheets fixed to one another and was inscribed on one side only. The document was originally written for a male individual. However, when Iahtesnakht died – perhaps when she was still a child – the text was adapted accordingly, her name was inserted, and images of Iahtesnakht were added to the vignettes wherever possible. Two wooden coffins belonging to Iahtesnakht showed up in a private collection in Brussels. A strip of papyrus in the inner part of the inner coffin, above the head of the mummy, indicates that a papyrus roll had been placed there, presumably papyrus Coloniensis 10207.
The Book of the Dead of Iahtesnakht was cut into 32 sheets and, in 1985, was mounted between plexiglass. However, the sheets eventually began to move inside the glass frames and ink and coloured pigments were abraded. The papyrus was also threatened by mildew. In cooperation with Professor emeritus Dr. Robert Fuchs and the conservator Marc Holly from the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, this project is dedicated to the cleaning and sustainable remounting of the papyrus, using new technology. Adequate mounting on special paper materials under UV resistant glasses and specifically custom-made padded cases for storage and transport will create the required microclimate between the glass frames. The aim is to prepare the papyrus for further research, teaching and public exhibitions.

Text: Richard Bußmann


Prof. Dr. Richard Bußmann

Researchers: Prof. em. Dr. Robert Fuchs (University of Applied Science, Cologne), Marc Holly (University of Applied Science, Cologne)

E-mail r.bussmann(at)