藏有大量古埃及文物的大英博物馆正在举办《死后生活之旅：古埃及的亡灵书》（Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead）展览，展期为2010年11月4日至2011年3月6日，有兴趣的同学可以访问博物馆的网站（www.britishmuseum.org），了解这次展览的内容。
Ancient Egypt was a land of mysteries, and one was the collection of prayers, spells, 1)incantations, and instructions known as the Book of the Dead.
For one thing, the Book of the Dead was not in fact a book, since the Egyptians didn't have book 2)binding. It was a 3)papyrus 4)scroll that was placed in the 5)sarcophagus with the 6)deceased, and texts from it were also often written on the walls of the tomb and inside the sarcophagus.
For another, the Egyptians themselves didn't call the collection the Book of the Dead. That was a name given by German 7)Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius in 1842 when he published some of the texts.
The Egyptians believed that when a person died, he still had a lot of work to do. What? Are you kidding? He had to make a long journey to paradise and 8)encounter a series of 9)ordeals on the way. The Book of the Dead contained the prayers and spells—and instructions for how to use them—that he would need on the trip; a sort of afterlife travel guide.
The Egyptians believed that if the person made it to the afterlife, his soul could come out of the tomb during the day and, 10)in essence, live again. He could enjoy all the same things he had in life. The Egyptians had a complicated view of the soul. Every person had a ba, which was like his personality, and a ka, which was his life force. The ba was dependent on the physical body, and that's why Egyptians were 11)mummified. After all the proper funeral 12)rituals and after the person made it to paradise, the ba and the ka were united to become the akh, or the completed soul. The akh was a blessed spirit that could then live the good life for 13)eternity.
But first there was one last ordeal for the 14)candidate, and that was the weighing of the heart. Before Osiris, who was the god of the underworld, and several other judges, his heart was placed on a scale. It was weighed against a feather, which represented justice. If his heart was free from sin, the scale would balance and he was welcomed into paradise. But if his heart was heavy with sin, it was immediately 15)devoured by a terrible monster, and he was out of luck. He 16)ceased to exist, an unthinkable disaster to an Egyptian.
Egyptian civilization lasted for a long time, and the Book of the Dead went through 17)revisions. The Pyramid Texts注1 were written during the Old Kingdom, about 2500 to 2000 BC. During that time, only the Pharaoh could live after death, so the writings belonged to him and were written on the inside walls of his pyramid. By the Middle Kingdom, about 2000 to 1500 BC, everyone could 18)attain the afterlife, and the Book of the Dead contained new writing as well as writing from the Pyramid Texts. Not only was it more 19)relevant to ordinary people, they could also buy a copy personalized just for them. During the Late Period, which ended in the fourth century BC, the Book of the Dead was called the Book of Breathings. By this time, Egypt had been conquered by the Greeks and was under many foreign influences.
One personalized Book of the Dead was made for a 20)scribe named Ani who lived in Thebes about 1240 BC. It was translated by E. A. Wallis Budge注2 in 1895, and is considered a standard in the field of Egyptology. However, Budge cut the 78 foot scroll into 37 sheets of nearly equal size to make it easier to work with. Today the scroll is in the British Museum.
In Ani's scroll, we learn that his titles were “royal scribe and accountant of the 21)divine offerings of the gods.” Ani's wife was Thuthu, and she was a 22)priestess; she played a musical instrument in the temple. They were wealthy and important people.
In the papyrus, Ani's journey has a good outcome. Horus, the son of Osiris, speaks up for him, and he's admitted into paradise.
From their writings, including the Book of the Dead, we can get a sense that the ancient Egyptians were not so different from us. They thought about the meaning of life and about their 23)ultimate destiny. They believed that individuals are 24)accountable for their actions. And, like us, they hoped for peace and happiness in the end.