Question: Was the original head of the priest in Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 actually the jackal head of Anubis?

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Question: Was the original head of the priest in Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 actually the jackal head of Anubis?

The high-resolution photos show evidence that the head of the priest was originally the jackal-head of Anubis

The head of the priest in the Hedlock restoration appears to simply copy the head of the reclining figure. An examination of the papyrus, however, shows evidence that the head was originally that of Anubis. In this case, the Larson restoration appears to be correct. Theologically, it would not matter to scenes such as this one. Ancient art depcting religious situations such as this frequently had other people impersonating other Gods. Thus, even if this is an incorrect restoration, it would not matter to the overall message of the scene portrayed.

The priest of Elkenah likely could have been wearing an Anubian headdress while performing this scene and the interpretation would still be, for all intents and purposes, correct. Those performing rituals often donned a mask impersonating a particular god for theological effect.[1]

John Gee has written:

The discussion about figure 3 has centered on whether the head should be that of a jackal or a bald man. Whether the head is a jackal or a bald man in no way affects the interpretation of the figure, however, since in either case the figure would be a priest.

His footnote here reads as follows:

The argument for the identification runs as follows:
(1) Assume for the sake of argument that the head on Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is correct. What are the implications of the figure being a bald man? Shaving was a common feature of initiation into the priesthood from the Old Kingdom through the Roman period. Since “Complete shaving of the head was another mark of the male Isiac votary and priest” the bald figure would then be a priest.

(2) Assume on the other hand that the head on Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is that of a jackal, as was first suggested by Theodule Devéria. We have representations of priests wearing masks, one example of an actual mask, [and] literary accounts from non-Egyptians about Egyptian priests wearing masks. . . . Thus, however the restoration is made, the individual shown in Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is a priest, and the entire question of which head should be on the figure is moot so far as identifying the figure is concerned. (John Gee, “Abracadabra, Isaac, and Jacob,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7/1 [1995]: 80–82)[2]

Gee gives an example of this of a bald priest donning the head of Anubis at the temple of Dendara. The first image is an actual drawing created during the Ptolemaic period from Dendara of the priest putting on the mask. The second is an example of such a mask that would be placed on them.

An actual drawing from the Temple at Dendara of a priest putting on an Anubian mask
An actual Anubian mask

  • Note that there is a portion of the back of Anubis's headdress visible in the original.
  • It is more likely that the back of the headdress showed hair rather than a solid as represented in the Larson image.


  1. See Robert K. Ritner "Osiris-Canopus and Bes at Herculaneum". As Ritner writes herein: "Although the Herculaneum dancer probably represents a masked participant impersonating the god, the matter is theologically unimportant. The British Museum Bes statue, noted above, has been assumed to be a masked man because of his kilt, moderate belly and flattened face, but no clear cords or fittings indicate that the face is a mask. A Middle Kingdom mask of Bes does survive from Kahun proving the existence of Bes—masked priests, but statue ary of masked humans is more problematic than masked figures in religious scenes. A potentially more relevant sculpture derives from a far earlier period in Egyptian history, on a Fifth Dynasty relief also in the British Museum. Defying the general taboo on representing gods in Old Kingdom tombs, this relief (EA 994) includes a leonine Bes in profile carrying a wand within a scene of the 'd‘ance of the youths.' As in the Herculaneum fresco more than two millennia later, a priest masked as Bes performs at a ritual dance."
  2. John Gee, "A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri" (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000) 36-9, 66