Ho Wang Fong

Re-understanding the Second Document of Breathing – An Emic Approach (working title)

This research is an in-depth study and re-examination of the nature and property of the Second Document of Breathing. Appearing for the first time during the Graeco-Roman Period, Documents of Breathing gradually replaced the Book of the Dead as the main funerary texts in the Theban area. Unlike other Egyptian funerary texts such as Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead, a corpus of the Documents of Breathing has not been established, thus its definition is not entirely clear. While the term ‘the Document of Breathing (tꜣ šꜥ.t n snsn)’ was used by ancient Egyptians to generally refer to either hieratic or Demotic ‘passports to eternity’ for the deceased, the modern definition by Egyptologists mainly includes only three types of hieratic texts, i.e., ‘Document of Breathing which Isis made for her brother Osiris’, ‘First Document of Breathing’ and ‘Second Document of Breathing’. This general categorisation appears to be sufficient for more standardised texts, but not for the First and Second Documents of Breathing, which have a number of abridged and non-standardised versions. Moreover, most research in the past was mainly focused on text analyses instead of contextualisation, thus a holistic view of the Documents of Breathing is lacking. Therefore, this project, with a focus on the Second Document of Breathing whose origin can be traced back to the Pyramid Text, aims to analyse a corpus of the Second Document and related compositions from textual, social, ritualistic, theological, and archaeological perspectives. In other words, the goal is to understand this composition from an emic perspective: why and how it was deployed, and what relationship it had with the First Document, other funerary compositions, and practices. It will also shed light on the development of the Documents of Breathing from preceding and to succeeding funerary compositions.

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