4,000-year-old Egyptian Scroll Rediscovered

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September 20, 2015

An Egyptian manuscript more than 4,000 years old has resurfaced, after being locked up at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum in the 1930s.

The scroll, which measures more than 8 feet long when unfurled, is filled with colorful illustrations on both sides. Egyptologists think that because the scroll is covered with spells and drawings of divine beings, it was used as a portable source for religious ceremonies.

One set of illustrations on the scroll is “The Book of Two Ways,” an early funerary text containing several dozen spells designed to guide Egyptians through the underworld. Other illustrations have yet to be seen, according to the scholar who made the announcement, Wael Sherbiny (left).

Sherbiny, now working in Belgium but originally from Egypt, made the announcement at a meeting of the International Congress of Egyptologists.

The scroll, which has been dated at 2300–2000 B.C., was even more brittle than would normally be the case with such an old item because it was made from leather, not papyrus, as was usually the case for such manuscripts. Sherbiny said he spent a long time patching up the scroll, which had deteriorated in the past several decades. The manuscript was hidden away before the start of World War II and then forgotten, Sherbiny said.

Only six other portable manuscripts have survived from the days of Ancient Egypt. All of those are papyri.

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