Das Hohlenbuch: Textkritische Edition und Textgrammatik. 2 vols. Teil I: Uberlieferungsgeschichte und Textgrammatik. Teil II: Textkritische Edition und Ubersetzung. By daniel A. werning. Gottinger Orientforschungen, Agypten, vol. 48. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011. Pp. xviii + 345, 13 pits., illus; xv + 543, illus. [euro]159.
In 1997, the eminent Egyptologist Erik Hornung--widely considered the foremost authority on ancient Egyptian funerary texts--remarked in his Altagyptische Jenseitsbucher (Darmstadt), better known in the English-speaking world as The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife (Ithaca, 1999), that an adequate scholarly treatment of the Book of Caverns had yet to be published. And indeed, apart from A. Piankoff's pioneering articles on "Le Livre des Quererts" in the Bulletin de l'Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale 41 (1942): 1-11, pits. 1-9; 42 (1944): 1-62, pits. 10-79; 43 (1945): 1-50, pits. 80-81; and 45 (1947): 1-42 (index), as well as his publication of The Tomb of Ramesses VI (New York, 1954), no systematic presentation of this work had been attempted. One would like to think that Professor Hornung now wholeheartedly approves of the present book under review.
The Book of Caverns is one of the so-called New Kingdom Books of the Afterlife, which describe the sun god's nightly journey through the Netherworld. Like the earliest such compilation, the Book of Amduat, which is divided into the twelve hours of the night, the Book of Caverns is also split into a number of sections. The work, which is heavily illustrated, consists of two halves, each containing three "caverns" (qereret, a feminine word); the name Book of Caverns is a modern one, originating from these designations. The last cavern shows the concluding tableau where the now-rejuvenated sun god will be reborn in the eastern horizon at dawn.
In fact, the motif of a cave or a cavern as a symbolic place of rebirth is well known (S. Onstine, "The Relationship between Osiris and Re in The Book of Caverns," JSSEA 25 : 73-74; A. Schweitzer, The Sungod's Journey through the Netherworld: Reading the Ancient Egyptian Amduat [Ithaca, 2010], 27-30). The introductory scene shows a ram-headed Re standing before a group of underworld divinities, who face him. He extends his hand toward them as he begins his speech with a vocative: "Oh gods who are in the underworld (duat), (in) the first cavern of the west." Re realizes he is "entering in the twilight...