This books gives us a vision of the underworld as a series of six pits, or caverns over which the sun god passes. Most of the underworld is illustrated, while the text primarily praises Osiris. It stresses the destruction of the enemies of the sun god, and references afterlife rewards and punishments. The dead King, in order to complete his journey through the underworld, must know the secret names of the serpents and be able to identify his guardian deities. We only know of a nearly complete version in the tomb of Ramesses VI, though it appears in the upper parts of others
Book of Caverns, fifth division: Nut holding forms of Ra (sun disk and ram-headed man).KV 6 Valley of the Kings East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes New Kingdom, Dynasty 20, Rameses IX
KV 9 Drawing/Painting after Book of Caverns, sixth division: detail. right wall New Kingdom, Dynasty 20, Rameses VI Original caption: Sujets mystérieux et détails de costumes, peints dans le 5e tombeau des rois à l'est et dans d'autres tombeaux.
KV 9 Drawing/Painting after Book of Caverns, sixth division: detail. New Kingdom, Dynasty 20, Rameses VI Original caption Sujets mystérieux et détails de costumes, peints dans le 5e tombeau des rois à l'est et dans d'autres tombeaux
In section two, Re must reach the various gods and goddesses in their sarcophagi who are guarded by several serpents. He meets various forms of Osiris in the second register and beseeches them to "open their arms to me...receive me". In the third register, Re encounters Osiris in his coffer, which sits aside the ram and jackal headed posts of the sun god found also in the Book of Gates. Other forms of Osiris are encountered in the fourth register, while in the lowest register, we again find Osiris' enemies who are bound and beheaded. Some of these figures are depicted hanging head first with their hearts torn out. Once again, Re condemns them to nonexistence, sending them to the Place of Annihilation where their punishment is carried out by guards with knives. Now, Osiris is told by Re that he will enter the "cavern where Aker is".
The motif of the lowest register, consistently followed throughout the Book of Caverns, is once again present in this final part of the sixth section. Again, we find scenes of punishment in the place of Annihilation, where at first, goddesses wielding knives torture supine, beheaded figures with their heads set at their feet and who's hearts have been torn from their bodies. The accompanying text also explains that the soul and shadows of these enemies have also been punished. In the second scene, we encounter four bound female enemies who are guarded by two jackal headed goddesses. Re has condemned these enemies, once again, to the "Place of Annihilation, from which there is no escape". Next, four more headless, kneeling and bound enemies are guarded by a god and goddess, and finally in the last scene, the enemies are thrown head first into the depths of the Place of Annihilation, while Osiris rises out of the abyss.
The Book of Caverns appears to have originated in the Ramessid Period (the 20th Dynasty). As an underworld book, it seems almost to emphasize that previous text had been too soft on those deceased who fail their judgment in the afterlife, while at the same time focusing also on the rewards of those who do. It is, in fact, one of our best sources on the ancient Egyptian concept of Hell.