Egyptian artifacts in an Australian museum include a long-lost section of the burial scroll of one of the civilization's greatest builders, a researcher says.
British Museum curator John Taylor -- in Brisbane for the opening of a touring exhibition of mummies from his museum -- spotted a shred of papyrus on display in the Queensland Museum bearing the distinctive hieroglyphs of Amenhotep, a chief builder in the 15th century B.C., whose burial scroll, known as a "Book of the Dead," was scattered across the globe in the 1890s.
The fragment was given to the museum in 1913 as an anonymous gift, and Taylor asked if there were any more such fragments in the museum's storage areas.
"When I was brought into the conservation lab to see them, after a very short period of time it became apparent that we did indeed have many fragments of the Book of the Dead of this extremely important man," Taylor told The Australian. "This is not the papyrus of just anybody -- this is one of the top officials in Egypt at the peak of Egyptian prosperity."
Books of the Dead contained magical spells and were entombed with mummified Egyptians to ensure safe passage from this world to the next life, he said.
Other fragments of Amenhotep's Book of the Dead are in collections at the British Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"If we can reconstruct the whole document, then that's going to tell us a whole lot about how these religious texts were put together in ancient Egypt (and) how they selected different component spells," Taylor said.