Ancient Egypt Library

Ancient Egyptian Literature Artefacts Resources



Ancient Egyptian Literature

Ancient Egyptian literature takes a variety of forms and was written in hieratic, demotic and hieroglyphic text for different occassions and purposes. Stelae were inscribed with hieroglyphs and generally used for proclamations and for recording successes (or re-casting a defeat as a success). Similarly, the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the walls of their temples were a useful propaganda tool of the pharaoh and the priests. As a result, they tend to give the most positive view of the current pharaoh or make implications regarding the perceived quality of a previous pharaoh which may have been prompted more by political motivations than a desire to record the "truth". Inscriptions in tombs (also in hieroglyphs) are similarly careful to paint a positive picture, but are likely to include some of the events of the deceased's life and so can provide useful facts about the period as well as illustrating the prevailing religious environment.

Many of the Ancient Egyptian myths are incomplete while others have numerous versions in different locations or times. This makes their already complex mythology very confusing in places, with the characters and attributes of gods reinforced or contradicted by other texts.

The scribe was an essential part of ancient Egyptian life, copying texts and preparing new documents to perpetuate and expand the Egyptian culture as well as performing the more mundane tasks of tax collection, architecture and recording legal rules and verdicts.



Stelae

Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone gave Egyptologists an invaluable key to begin to decipher hieroglyphs.

Palermo Stone
The Palermo Stone gave Egyptologists lists the kings of the early dynasties along with details of their reigns.

The Dream Stele (Sphinx Stele)
The Sphinx promises Tuthmosis IV he will be king if he clears the sand that has engulfed it away.

The Stele of the Rameside Family
Established in Tanis during the reign of Ramesses II.

The Israel Stele (Victory Stele)
Established during the reign of Merenptah, the stele recounts his battle against the Libyans and the Sea People and contains the first known reference to Israel.



Records and Correspondence

Papyrus Anastasi V

The report of two runaway slaves during the time of Seti II who may have followed the route the fleeing Israelites allegedly used when escaping Egypt.

The Armarna Letters

Correpondence between the pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaten to the rulers and vassals of the Middle East.

Letter to Suppiluliuma

An Egyptian Queen (possibly Ankhesenamun/Ankhesenpaaten the wife of Tutankhamun) wrote to Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites requesting that he send one of his sons for her to marry.




Biographies

Biography of Ahmose son of Ebana
Ahmose was a career soldier who served the pharaohs Seqenenre Tao II, Kamose, Ahmose I and Tuthmosis I.



Literature and Poetry

"Story of Sinuhe"
The Story of Sinuhe (Sanakht) was possibly the first historical novel.

"Princess of Bekheten"
The story of how Khonsu healed a foreign princess.

"Westcar Papyrus"
Tales of Wonder from the Court of King Khufu including: Story of Imhotep, Story of the wax crocodile, Story of the turquoise pendant, Story of Khufu and the magician and Story of the birth of the three pharaohs.

Song of the Harper
Poems inscribed on the walls of tombs that were sung during the mortuary feast.

The Instructions of Dua-Khety (The Satire of the Trades)
The Instructions of Dua-Khety (The Satire of the Trades) satirises other occupations and concludes that the life of a scribe is the best.


Religious Texts

Pyramid Texts
The oldest religious texts in the world.

Book of Gates
Charting the journey of the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra through the underworld at night.

Artefacts



Resources

copyright J Hill 2010
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Predynastic period Early Dynastic Old Kingdom First Intermediate Middle Kingdom Second Intermediate New Kingdom Third Intermediate Graeco-Roman period Late period