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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Letters to the Dead

  • Author(s): Troche, Julia
  • et al.

Letters to the Dead is the conventional, modern name for a collection of texts that petition the recently deceased, typically for assistance with problems of inheritance, illness, or fertility. They are known from the Old Kingdom through the Late Period and have been preserved upon ceramic vessels and figurines, stone stelae, papyrus, and linen. The Letters were written by male and female petitioners and are addressed to both male and female dead. Though only a few dozen Letters to the Dead have been identified, they are important artifacts for better understanding interactions between the living and the dead in ancient Egypt. Notably, they illuminate the quotidian, social networks that existed between the living and the dead, help us to understand how the ancient Egyptians conceived of and interacted with the dead, and expand upon our knowledge of mortuary culture and popular religious practices in ancient Egypt.

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