Book of the Dead: notes on translations
There are often problems that occur with translating, and this is particularly true for ancient languages. This note explains some of the conventions that have been used in these translations.
Some ancient Egyptian words are difficult to translate directly into English, such as ba and ka (two parts of what we might call the ‘soul’). Words of this kind have been left untranslated and appear in italics.
Gaps in the text
Ancient texts often have breaks in them. In the case of Ramose’s papyrus, it was actually found in pieces and has been re-assembled, so there are many gaps.
- Where these occur and we do not know what the missing words would have been, they are shown by /// in the translation.
- Where these occur and we are fairly certain about what is missing (because we can compare this Book of the Dead with others), then the restored words are in square brackets, e.g. [supervisor].
From time to time scribes made mistakes, as we all do. Where a word has been omitted, it is marked with angled brackets, e.g. <every>.
Special features of these translations
The translations on this website are presented with a transcription into standardised hieroglyphs for those who might like to translate the texts for themselves. The individual spells are broken up into sections, with the relevant hieroglyphs with the sections of translation.
In some cases, a phrase runs over from one column to the next and the Egyptian words have to be translated in a different order to that written in the text. In these cases, the words from the preceding or following column, which have to be included in the translation for making it comprehensible, are enclosed in parentheses, e.g. a great hawk (whose back is) 7 cubits in length.