British media reported that the world’s earliest illustrated book was discovered in an ancient tomb abandoned by archaeologists.
A century ago, the first group of Western archaeologists to visit the tomb abandoned it because they found cigarette butts on the ground and believed that tomb robbers had beaten them to the tomb’s treasures.
Only now has the true treasure within the tomb been discovered: the earliest known copy of the world’s first illustrated book. It was a guide of sorts used by the ancient Egyptians regarding the afterlife. This book, which contains both hieroglyphs and pictures, was painted on the wooden coffin of a woman named Ankh 4,000 years ago.
There are some spells in the book that are used to drive away demons that the owner of the tomb thinks he may encounter in the underworld. There are also some things in the book that look like maps to modern people, so it is also called “The Book of Two Roads”. It depicts two winding roads – perhaps the path that travels through the underworld and ultimately reaches its ruler Osiris (Pluto in ancient Egyptian mythology).
“In many ways, The Book of Two Roads is the first illustrated book in history,” said Foy Scalf of the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study. He added: “It is the first illustrated guide to the Holy Land.”
The coffin with the book on it dates to the reign of the pharaoh Mentuhotep II around 2010 BC. This makes it half a century older than any other version that has been discovered.
The fragment of the coffin with the book on it was found in a tomb in the monastery of Balsa. The tomb was first excavated by a Western archaeological team led by American Egyptologist George Leissner. Lessner soon realized that the tomb had been looted by grave robbers and lost interest in it.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Dr. Haco Williams, an Egyptian archaeological researcher at the University of Leuven in Belgium, and his team surveyed the site again and found several wood fragments. But it wasn’t until four years later that researchers figured out what they were. “When we realized it was a Two Roads book, we were so excited,” Dr. Williams said.
According to reports, this kind of book is still a mystery, and humans have discovered more than twenty “Books of Two Roads” so far.