Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Sandrine Vuilleumier, Un rituel osirien en faveur de particuliers à l'époque ptolémaïque: Papyrus Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10. Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion 15. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. xii, 644. ISBN 9783447104548. €148.00.

Reviewed by Mark Smith, The Oriental Institute, Oxford (mark.smith@orinst.ox.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of Princeton University Library has a small collection of Egyptian papyri. These include a number of demotic texts and thirteen hieroglyphic or hieratic manuscripts. Many of the latter are inscribed with spells from the Book of the Dead. One of the most interesting hieratic texts is P. Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10, which is edited and published for the first time by Sandrine Vuilleumier (hereafter the author) in the volume under review. This substantial roll preserves parts of twenty-two columns of writing. The text is undated, but can be assigned to the Ptolemaic Period, perhaps more specifically to the third century BC, on palaeographical grounds. The provenance of the manuscript is unknown, and there is little in the way of internal evidence to suggest where it may have originated. Of the toponyms mentioned in it, those from Lower Egypt predominate. There are twelve of these, as opposed to four from Upper Egypt, but, as the author remarks, this in itself is insufficient reason to assign the text to the Delta.

The texts inscribed on P. Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10 are ritual in nature. A bark or barks figure prominently in them, as does the 'work which is unknowable', i.e. the figure of Osiris which was fabricated during the Khoiak mysteries of that god. Some of the texts are completely new, while others are attested elsewhere. The new texts include addresses to the four sons of Horus, glorifications for Osiris, and a formula for making libations and entering the divine bark. Those known from other sources include the conclusion of the Ritual for Bringing Sokar out of the Shrine, the Book of the New Moon, a series of anti-Sethian imprecations, the Spell for Sailing in the Bark, various offering formulas, and a litany in which Osiris, or Sokar-Osiris, is enjoined to raise himself.

The presence of such compositions, or extracts from them, raises questions about the integrity of the manuscript as a whole and the relationship of its constituent parts to one another. The author argues that, even if not all of the texts preserved in the Princeton manuscript were composed by the same person, they nevertheless constitute a single, continuous, coherent ritual in that papyrus, and are not simply a random collection. As evidence she cites the notation 'It has concluded' which occurs at the end of the entire roll but not after any of its constituent parts. Thus she would describe the contents of the roll as an original composition drawn from a range of sources. It is not clear whether this arrangement was made by the scribe who actually wrote the manuscript or whether he copied an existing model.

The main beneficiaries of the ritual texts inscribed in P. Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10 are the gods Osiris and Sokar- Osiris. However, two non-divine beneficiaries are named at various points in the manuscript as well, a pair of men called Padihorpakhered and Mesreduwief. Both share the same mother, who is called Tahebet. No titles are attributed to Padihorpakhered. Mesreduwief has the title 'god's servant'. The name of the former occurs thirteen times, that of the latter, thirty-two times. In one instance, it is written in between two lines. In others, it has been written over the previously erased name of Padihorpakhered. Wherever it occurs, the name of Mesreduwief appears to have been written by a different hand and with a different implement to the rest of the text. The author considers various possibilities to account for this, but settles on the idea that the two men were brothers, who were intended to benefit from the same ritual scroll. A manuscript in Spain, P. Barcelona Palau-Ribes inv. 80, which preserves formulas 9 and 10 of the First Book of Glorifications, was inscribed for a Padihorpakhered son of Tahebet, who could be identical with the co-owner of the Princeton text.

The book under review begins with a history and survey of the papyrus holdings of the Princeton University Library. This is followed by a detailed description of P. Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10, its format, and its writing. The author is to be commended for her careful work in establishing the text. She has been able to identify a number of its fragments which are incorrectly positioned and determine where they actually belong. Regrettably, due to the fragility of the manuscript, it has not been possible physically to reposition the fragments in question. But she has made a digital reconstruction of the text which reflects her improvements. (Several small fragments, mostly anepigraphic, remain unplaced.) A comparison of plate XXIII, which shows the actual state of the roll, with plate XXIV, which shows her virtual reconstruction of it, will reveal what an important contribution she has made to its reconstitution.

The author devotes a lengthy section to the palaeography of P. Princeton Pharaonic Roll 10. She provides an elaborate catalogue of the forms of individual hieratic signs, comparing these with those of the same signs in other more securely dated manuscripts. The palaeography is followed by a discussion of the names of the two beneficiaries of the manuscript, their relationship, and the reasons why their names appear together, with one sometimes replacing that of the other. The explanation for this given by the author has already been cited above. The edition proper divides the text of the manuscript into sections. Each section is given an annotated transliteration and translation, followed by a more detailed commentary where appropriate. In most cases, the individual sections are marked by formulas like 'words to be spoken' or 'another spell'. More rarely, there is a more elaborate title or a rubric specifying ritual actions that must be undertaken in conjunction with the recitation of the words of the text, for example, fabricating images of the god Seth and his confederates from wax and throwing them onto a brazier. As noted above, some of the constituent sections of the manuscript are paralleled in other sources. In such cases, the author has been scrupulous in noting all parallels and taking them into account in her treatment of the relevant portion of the Princeton roll.

The author's section by section edition of the papyrus roll is followed by a chapter of analysis, in which the officiants who perform the rituals, those who were intended to benefit from them, and the sequence of the rites are discussed in detail. This is turn is followed by a running translation of the entire text, which enables the reader to form an idea of the whole, and a glossary which lists the officiants and other actors who figure in it, the divine barks, the deities, festivals and their dates, toponyms, titles of rituals, and general vocabulary. The book concludes with a bibliography and a section of plates. The latter are of excellent quality. Each column of the manuscript is reproduced in a colour photograph with the hieroglyphic transcription on a facing page.

All in all, the author has produced an excellent edition, which will be received with enthusiasm by students of this genre of text. She has transcribed the hieratic accurately. Her transliteration and translation of it are reliable, and the commentaries which she provides for the individual sections of the manuscript show evidence of deep erudition and wide acquaintance with relevant primary and secondary sources. The new text which she presents so impressively here will form a valuable addition to the ever-growing corpus of texts for the afterlife from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

One criticism that might be made of the author's edition is that she could have given more attention to the language of manuscript's constituent texts. She devotes three lines to this topic on p. 46, describing it there as 'égyptien de tradition', a label which is widely used but not very informative. She devotes a few additional paragraphs to the grammar of the manuscript on pp. 48−9. These draw attention to the use of post-Middle Egyptian forms like the definite articles. But no attempt is made to characterise the language in more detail, nor is any justification given for the translations that she adopts for suffix conjugation verbal forms. This is a failing, it has to be said, which is shared with a number of other recent editions of late hieratic ritual texts, in which questions of grammar do not always receive the attention they deserve. So there is room for improvement in this area, not just in the present edition, but in others as well.

It would be wrong to conclude on a negative note, however. With this book, the author has made an outstanding contribution to the study of ancient Egyptian rituals and ritual texts. Her work will be used and cited by many. As with any papyrus of this type, there are a number of intractable problems which remain to be solved. This is only to be expected, given the difficulty of the material and the fact that so much of it is new. Nevertheless, this is a book to be warmly welcomed. On p. 505, the author describes her plans for a new research project which will investigate the process whereby rituals originally composed for use in the divine cult were adapted for the benefit of deceased humans, a subject which is attracting more and more interest from scholars. In view of the promise shown in the book under review, the results of her next study will be keenly anticipated.

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