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<   No. 192   2003-08-05   >

Comic #192

1 Monty: {rushing in to save the day, pistol drawn} Hands off that Mayan Codex, Colonel Haken!
2 Haken: {as Erwin puts his hands up} Herr Doktor Jones! But you were retrieving the Egyptian Book of the Dead!
3 Monty: Turns out the Brazilian Museum has a very good Egyptian display...
4 Haken: Scheiße! I told die Führer we should have kept all those artefacts in Berlin!

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Alternate punchline:

But I'd have to be a brave person to try to pull that one off.

2012-06-09 Rerun commentary: Indeed, the last time we saw Monty was back in strip #170, in which he said explicitly that he was going in search of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Colonel Haken even complained to Hitler's Brain in strip #176 that Monty had gone to Egypt to find the Book of the Dead when Hitler's Brain assigned him to get the Mayan Codices.

Continuity! Who said this comic didn't have any?*

While this strip illustrates continuity, it also illustrates more looseness with historical facts. The Book of the Dead is in fact not a single artefact, but a text of which many different copies were made. Looking for "the" Book of the Dead is a bit like looking for "the" Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Book of the Dead Weighing of the heart
The text of the Book of the Dead is a collection of mystical and religious spells and rituals which the Ancient Egyptians believed would aid the passage of the deceased into the afterlife. Anyone rich enough to afford it would have their own copy of the Book of the Dead transcribed (by actual trans-scribes) and buried with them.

There are several extant copies of the Book of the Dead in various museums around the world now. They vary widely in their content, with the list of spells being somewhat different, and with major differences in their illustrations. On my recent vacation I was fortunate enough to visit the Louvre Museum in Paris, which has a beautiful copy, which is laid out on a single papyrus scroll displayed along about 20 metres of wall. The photos here show parts of it. The second photo is the iconic scene in which the jackal-headed Anubis, the god of the dead, weighs the heart of the deceased to see if the deceased lived a life worthy enough to gain entry into the afterlife.

Seriously, how cool is it that you can visit a museum and see this stuff?

* Okay, it was me.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 9 June 2012; 03:11:01 PST.
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