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Spells Against Snakes

March/April 2024

DD Egypt Spells Snakes AbusirArchaeologists have unearthed the unusual tomb of an Egyptian dignitary who was interred in the necropolis at Abusir around 2,500 years ago. The ornately decorated burial chamber, which was found at the bottom of a 45-foot-deep shaft, belonged to a man named Djehutyemhat, who served as a royal scribe. Although the grave’s artifacts were looted, the room’s rich decoration was preserved. The walls are covered with depictions of gods and textual passages intended to aid the deceased’s transition to the afterlife, and the ceiling has a carved scene of the sun god’s journey across the sky. An image of Imentet, goddess of the West, who served as Djehutyemhat’s guide and symbolic mother, was carved inside his sarcophagus.


The scribe also had another layer of protection. A set of magical spells meant to ward off serpents and snakebites was inscribed on the chamber’s entrance wall. “Snakes were one of several ubiquitous dangers characterizing the ancient Egyptian landscape,” says archaeologist Miroslav Bárta of Charles University. “Egyptians conceptualized their afterlife as similar, if not identical, to their earthly existence, so dangers in this world were supposed to occur in the afterlife as well. Precautions in the form of protective spells had to be taken.”


Analysis of Djehutyemhat’s skeletal remains suggests that the scribe was around 25 years old when he died, and that his profession had taken a toll on his body, as his vertebrae showed signs of severe wear. “Being appointed as an official in state offices took decades off your life,” Bárta says. “The sitting pose of a professional scribe was with legs crossed and torso bent forward to read and write. This led to chronic problems with the cervical vertebrae, hips, knees, ankles, and wrists, and quite often very painful arthrosis.”


DD Egypt Spells Snakes Abusir Goddess Tomb Combo



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