A new study published in the recent issue of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, has documented the oldest funerary map in Ancient Egypt. It was found in the necropolis of Dayr al-Barsha, in the Minya Governorate, 300 km south of Cairo.
According to the report, the map discovered in 2012 is "the oldest known form of these maps."
The study Senior Author Harco Williams, professor at the Department of Archaeology at KU Leuven, and director of the archaeological project at Dayr al-Barsha, found the map inside the coffin of a high-ranking woman called Ankh.
It is one of few artifacts found inside the 4,000-year-old tomb, which grave robbers ransacked over multiple visits centuries ago.
The report explained that the map was engraved on two wooden panels recovered by archaeologists. It depicts two zigzagging lines that detail two routes the dead can use to reach Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead in the afterlife. Composed of a mix of hieroglyphs and symbols known to the ancient Egyptians, the spells were written into the text to help the deceased ward off demons on their dangerous journey.
The tombs in which this map was found dates back to the Middle Kingdom, but the spells do not belong only to this period, Egyptologist Bassam el-Shamaa told Asharq Al-Awsat.
"These spells were found in the inscriptions of the Old Kingdom's pyramids," he revealed.
The maps in ancient Egypt were not limited to the funerary form indicated by the study. The ancient Egyptians also knew the maps in their current form, according to Shamaa who explains that "among the most famous maps are those displayed at the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) in Turin, Italy, dating back to the mid-12th century B.C., during the reign of Ramses IV, and describing the quarries of the Wadi Hammamat in the Eastern Desert."