Ancient Egyptian coffin contains ‘oldest map of the underworld’ inscribed 4,000 years ago


A MAP of “hell” has been found scrawled on a 4,000-year-old coffin in Egypt.

The ancient doodle was designed to help the dead reach the afterlife by guiding them through the perilous obstacles of the underworld.

Scientists found this inscription on two boards of woof from an Ancient Egyptian coffin
Harco Willems

The coffin and its artwork were discovered in a burial shaft in the Egyptian necropolis of Dayr al-Barsha.

An inscription on two wooden panels recovered by archaeologists is a mix of hieroglyphs and symbols known to the Ancient Egyptians as The Book of Two Ways.

It depicts two zigzagging lines that detail two routes the dead can use to reach Osiris – the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead – in the afterlife.

Spells were written into the text to help the deceased ward off demons on their dangerous journey.

Depiction of what the symbols and hieroglyphs found on The Book of Two Ways could show

Getty – Contributor

The text depicts two paths for the deceased to find their way to Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian god of death. This ancient artwork depicts Osiris upon his throne (right)[/caption]

“In many ways, the Book of Two Ways can be described as the first illustrated book in history,” Ancient Egypt expert Dr Foy Scalf, of the University of Chicago, told The Times.

“It offers the first illustrated guide to a sacred geography.”

While the find was made in 2012, a new study reveals it’s the oldest known example of The Book of Two Ways.

The guidebook was written on the inside of a coffin of a high-ranking woman called Ankh.

A brief history of Ancient Egypt

Here's everything you need to know…

  • The Ancient Egyptians were an advanced civilisation who at one point owned a huge portion of the globe
  • The civilisation began about 5,000 years ago when ancient humans began building villages along the River Nile
  • It lasted for about 3,000 years and saw the building of complex cities centuries ahead of their time – as well as the famous Great Pyramids
  • The Ancient Egyptians were experts at farming and construction
  • They invented a solar calendar, and one of the world’s earliest writing systems: The hieroglyph
  • The Egyptians were ruled by kings and queens called pharaohs
  • Religion and the afterlife were a huge part of Ancient Egyptian culture. They had over 2,000 gods
  • Pharaohs built huge elaborate tombs to be buried in, some of which were pyramids – at the time among the largest buildings in the world
  • The Egyptians believed in life after death, and important people’s corpses were mummified to preserve their bodies for the afterlife
  • The Ancient Egytpian empire fell due to a mix of factors, including wars with other empires and a 100-year period of drought and starvation

It’s one of few artefacts found inside the tomb, which grave robbers ransacked over multiple visits centuries ago.

Archaeologists dated the tomb and its contents to around 4,000 years ago based on inscriptions carved within.

They depict Djehutinakht I, an ancient governor who ruled the region from around the 21st to 20th century BC.

If true, that would make the copy of the book found on the coffin around 500 years older than any other found.

The Ancient Egyptians are known for building impressive structures, including huge necropolises and the Great Pyramids of Giza
Getty – Contributor

Several copies have been found before, written on everything from tomb walls to mummy masks.

They were typically reserved for high-ranking officials of the Kingdom of Egypt.

The book is part of a huge body of work known as The Coffin Texts, which includes more than 1,000 spells and religious writings on the afterlife.

Little is known about the Book of Two Ways, including when it was written and by whom.

Curse of the Pharaohs – who died after King Tutankhamun's tomb was opened?

Tutankhamun's tomb was opened on November 29, 1922. These are the deaths that followed…

  • Lord Carnarvon (died April 5, 1923) – a financial backer of the excavation, he died from an infected mosquito bite
  • George Jay Gould I (died May 16, 1923) – a tomb visitor who died from a fever following his visit
  • Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey (died July 10, 1923) – an Egyptian prince who was shot and killed by his wife
  • Colonel The Hon. Aubrey Herbert, MP (died September 26, 1923) – the half-brother of Lord Cardnarvon, he died from blood poisoning related to dental work
  • Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid (died January 15, 1924) – the radiologist who X-Ray Tut’s tomb died from a mysterious illness
  • Sir Lee Stack (died November 19, 1924) – the Governer-General of Sudan was assassinated driving through Egypt’s capital, Cairo
  • A. C. Mace (died April 6, 1928) – a member of Howard Carter’s excavation team, he died from arsenic poisoning
  • The Hon. Mervyn Herbert (died May 26, 1929) – another half-brother of Lord Carnarvon, he died from malarial pneumonia
  • Captain The Hon. Richard Bethell (died November 15, 1929) – Howard Carter’s personal secretary, he died from a suspected smothering in a Mayfair club
  • Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethell (died February 20, 1930) – father of Richard Bethell, he supposedly threw himself off his seventh floor apartment
  • Howard Carter (died February 16, 1923) – Carter opened Tut’s tomb, and died aged 64 from Hodgkin’s disease. His older brother William died the same year

Scientists hope to use the discovery to uncover more of the text’s secrets.

The opening of the tomb is likely to spark fears of the Ancient Egyptian “Curse of the Pharaohs”.

The alleged hex is believed by some to be cast upon anyone who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person.

The research was published in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.

In other news, we revealed last month that Ancient Egyptian grave robbers looted £700,000 of gold from a Pharaoh’s tomb – and were impaled as punishment.

Ancient Chinese people gave their babies coneheads by “moulding their skulls” to show off how rich they were.

And, from headless vikings to ‘screaming’ mummies, here are some of the most gruesome corpses ever found.

What do you think happened to the grave robbers? Let us know in the comments…

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