Project: : The Book of the Dead in 3D. Visualizing the ancient Egyptian magic for the dead
During this year (AY 2017-2018), we have continued to build 3D visualizations of ancient Egyptian coffins and to progress in disseminating 3D models of previously unpublished ancient Egyptian coffins kept in the storage rooms of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (PAHMA) at UC Berkeley. We are also continuing the textual and iconographic analysis of the 3D models by creating interactive annotations on the models themselves. The study of the coffin texts and inscriptions, most of them belonging to the corpus of the so-called “Book of the Dead” is revealing new and unique versions of spells for the protection of the dead. A number of Egyptologists are joining the project as “annotators” in order to study the texts, such as Joshua Roberson (University of Memphis) and Jonathan Elias (Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium). Currently, six 3D models of ancient Egyptian coffins with preliminary metadata are currently available on the new website of the project, which has been built by the project’s GSR Kea Johnston, using drupal as content management system, and launched on October 31, 2017 (http://3dcoffins.berkeley.edu/). The coffin of Irethoriru, a beautifully textualized wooden anthropoid coffin kept at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, is the last addition to the website (http://3dcoffins.berkeley.edu/coffins/famsf-20022a-b). The extensive text covering its lid is a peculiar magic text for protection of the body, which reflects the scribal skills of the ancient Egyptian in adapting texts on different kind of media, from the two dimensional papyri, where they could use more space for the spells, to the limited writing surface of a coffin, where they had to use abridged versions of the same spells or had to create new ones.
Thanks to the cooperation with the project’s partners (Hearst Museum’s director Ben Porter, RIT’s Director of the Data Management Program Chris Hoffman and the RIT’s Digital Humanities coordinator Quinn Dombrowski), the 3D models of the ancient Egyptian coffins are already being used in an Unity application for the “Hearst Cave”, the museum’s visualization platform and immersive environment.