Papyrus Westcar - Introduction

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The actual origin of the Westcar Papyrus, named after the British collector Henry Westcar, is unknown. It was acquired by the German Egyptologist Richard Lepsius during a visit to England in 1838/39 and was given to the Berlin Museum upon his death, there to be catalogued as pBerlin 3033.

The papyrus contains a collection of tales that were supposedly told to Kheops by his sons. The style and language used for the composition suggest that it was written during the 12th Dynasty, although the papyrus itself is of 15th Dynasty date. The Westcar Papyrus is the only known copy of this interesting composition.

Unfortunately, the beginning and end of the papyrus are lost. As a result, we do not know how many stories were part of the original composition.
Only a few lines remain of the first story that is preserved on the papyrus. This story appears to have been about a magician, whose name is unfortunately lost in a lacuna, and was set during the reign of Netjerikhet (named Djoser in the composition). It is tempting to suggest that the magician may perhaps have been none other than Imhotep.

The second story is very fragmentary, and was set during the reign of the elusive Nebka. The fact that this story follows the one of Netjerikhet is interesting: both the Turin King-list and Manetho have recorded Nebka as Netjerikhet's direct predecessor, while on the Westcar Papyrus, he is listed between Netjerikhet and Snofru.

The third story is set during the reign of Kheops' father and predecessor, Snofru, while the fourth story happens at the courts of Kheops himself. The fifth and last story to be preserved on the papyrus, is a prediction by the magician introduced in the fourth story about the origins of the kings of the 5th Dynasty

The translation of what remains of the story is provided here. The text in red in the translation was marked in the same colour on the original papyrus. The translation is my own and is based on the hieroglyphic transcription made by A.M. Blackman for his publication of the papyrus in The Story of King Kheops and the Magicians, 1988.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017