Degrees of religious knowledge and textual scholarship: the transmission of Pyramid Texts during the Kushite and Saite Period (750-525 BCE)
Unterprojekt von Dr. Antonio J. Morales
The last decade of research on the transmission and reception of mortuary literature in ancient Egypt has revealed that materials from the third and second millennia BCE experienced multiple forms of dissemination and adaptation beyond mechanic copying and active productivity. During the Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Dynasties –also known as Kushite and Saite Periods– a tendency to search for old religious concepts and compositions materialized and new forms of mortuary literature emerged. The resulting innovative compositions consisted on selections of particular mortuary texts that decorated tombs, coffins and sarcophagi from Saqqara and Thebes.
One of the oldest contributing works for the composition of the new textual programs was the corpus of Pyramid Texts, a composition two thousand years old by the time the priests and scribes of the Kushite Period came to revive it. As the transmission of the Pyramid Texts encompassed the adjustment of the structure of the corpus (and the mortuary rites it represented), the Kushite and Saite configurations of the Pyramid Texts should reveal the particular forms of mortuary ritual of the period. In addition, the textual programs of the monuments in these two dynasties incorporated other mortuary compositions such as the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead. These compositions came to enrich the religious and intellectual constructions in the tombs for the rituals of the deceased.
Therefore, one of the fundamental questions in this study is the degree of priestly proficiency and scribal habit in the transmission of Pyramid Texts. Since the new forms of Pyramid Texts found in the Kushite and Saite tombs do not observe the rules of the corpus –in terms of location, order, and text members– obeyed in the third and second millennia BCE, then one should clarify if the intellectual personnel in temple libraries and archives (mainly scribes and lector priests) still understood the texts, their structure, and language. More importantly, the question of how they came to define new programs with the selection of Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead also requires further research. The identification of particular elements of inspiration such as the local mortuary rituals and the afterlife beliefs could help to answer the question. Additionally, tracing the particular selected texts of this period back into previous times and looking for their archetypes might help to understand the process of textual dissemination, reproductive transsmision and productive creativity.