In this research project, Daniel Werning investigates the diagrammatic representation of the Ancient Egyptian underworld as attested in the Book of Caverns, an Egyptian Netherworld Book from the 13th century BCE.


Three great Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books from the 2nd half of the 2nd millennium BCE each consist of images and accompanying texts which were arranged in a table-like fashion, forming a diagrammatic representation of the underworld.

Schema of the Book of Caverns

Schema of the Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Book ‘Book of Caverns’

Originally, these books were pieces of knowledge literature which contained the ideas of the Ancient Egyptian theologians about the sun god’s journey from the western to the eastern horizon through the underworld, his transformation and especially his interaction with the inhabitants of the underworld. This knowledge was also the background for nightly rituals and liturgies that were executed during the night by priests in order to support the sun god’s journey.

The latest of the three Great Netherworld Books, the Book of Caverns was composed in the 13th century BCE. Like its two predecessors, it does not represent the ideas about the topographical structure of the underworld in form of a topographical map, but rather in a table-like diagrammatic form. Caverns, however, seems to represent much more structural features of the imagined underworld topography than its predecessors.

In this research project, Daniel Werning investigates these diagrammatic representations and the underlying theology. Aspect of this research are: Is it possible to reconstruct a modern topographical map-like representation from the information on the topography of the underworld as laid out in the Book of Caverns? If so, which features of a topographical image of the underworld are not represented in the Egyptian diagram? The aim is to ask in how far the diagrammatic representation was probably more appropriate for the purpose of the Netherworld Books than a topographical map-like representation.


The ‘Book of Caverns’ in tomb TT 33

As part of the project, Daniel Werning also joins the epigraphic mission to the unpublished tomb of the Chief Lector Petamenophis (TT 33) in Luxor (Egypt) from the 7th cent. BCE, headed by Prof. Claude Traunecker (Strasbourg).