The First Book of Breathing (FMNH 31324)

In recent years, a renewed focus has emerged on the dynamic vitality witnessed in the production and transmission of Egyptian funerary literature during the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods. The so-called Books of Breathing have been central to this ongoing discussion. In the following article, a new analysis of the First Book of Breathing is provided based on an edition of Papyrus FMNH 31324, published here for the first time. By closely examining the origins of the First Book of Breathing, it can be clearly demonstrated that the composition was created through a careful exegetical process beginning with a selection of Book of the Dead spells following the sequence of the so-called “Saite Recension” that were then interwoven with new compositions, commentary, and the reworking or omission of specific passages. In the context of Papryus FMNH 31324, this process coalesced the previously independent Book of the Dead spells into a single coherent “narrative” structure focused on the divinization of the deceased and their presentation to the community of gods. Recognized as a new and distinct composition, the text was designated as the First Book of Breathing (tꜢ sʿ.t n snsn mh-1.t) in the opening of many manuscripts. Scribes thus leveraged the inspiration of authoritative ancient texts in the production of new sacred scripture.

Read the full article on the JNES website:

Popular Press Reports:

  • Journal of Near Eastern Studies press release
  • “Mysterious Ancient Egyptian Papyrus Reveals Cliffs Notes to the Afterlife” by Elizabeth Rayne for Syfy
  • Newswise
Photo A115261d_020d of Papyrus FMNH 31324 © Field Museum

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