The Ancient Egyptian “Book of Caverns” (13th century BCE) is a graphic narrative (alias: comic) consisting of images that are accompanied by identifying and descriptive inscriptions plus separate liturgical text blocks. Interestingly, we find that the identifications of the depicted creatures in the inscriptions, on the one hand, and in the liturgical texts, on the other hand, do not always match. For example, the inscriptions identify a certain depicted creature as the god Osiris, while it is identified as the god Atum in the respective litany. In other cases, the identifications are equivalent or even identical. Based on a source critical analysis, I suggest that both interpretations are autonomous interpretations of the same scenes.

In the paper, I would firstly like to show different examples of the evidence and then develop the “two interpretations” hypothesis based on the method of Source Criticism, a method that foremost operates upon contradictions felt by the modern interpreter. The question will arise as to possible temporal scenarios of the creation of the image tableaus and the two interpretations: are the textual interpretations mutually independent in the sense that they have been developed without knowledge of the respective other? Furthermore, based on the ancient interpretations, I would like to explore some frames that were obviously triggered by parts of the images, e.g., the Myth of Osiris. Finally, I would like to discuss whether there are reasons to argue that two different frames, namely a theological vs. a liturgical one, with different affordances envisaged by the ancient authors might have influenced their respective interpretations.