Papyrus of Hunefer

This papyrus was found in the tomb of the scribe Hunefer in Thebes. It dates from the 19th Dynasty, about 1285 BC. It can be seen in the British Museum.

Click here to see more paintings and spells from the Book of the Dead

What does the papyrus show?

This is a famous scene from the Book of the Dead, chapter 125. It shows the soul of the deceased (Hunefer) being led to judgment by Anubis. A court of gods sits above. Hunefer's heart is weighed on the scales on the left, against the feather of truth (maat) on the right.

The Weighing of the Heart

If the heart is heavy with sin, (if Hunefer has done lots of bad things in his life), then his heart will sink lower than the feather of truth. You can see another Anubis in the middle adjusting a weight on the scales. The goddess Maat is on top of the scales. The spell in the papyrus was supposed to help him pass the test.

What if Hunefer has been bad?

If Hunefer has been bad, then a strange monster called Ammut - that's the creature with the crocodile's head and hippo's body - will devour him!

What if Hunefer has been good?

You can see the god of writing, Thoth, recording the result of the weighing. He is holding the rush pen and palette. If Hunefer has been good he will be brought before Osiris (who is shown just to the right of this scene), and allowed into heaven.

What is heaven like?

In the afterlife, the soul lived a blissful life, perhaps working in the fields of reeds with his loved ones, or hunting in the marshes. The picture here shows Sennedjem with his wife Iyneferti, who sows seeds after he has ploughed the soil.