The Egyptian conceptions of the origin of the world are studied through the most ancient written sources of the pharaonic civilization, the Pyramid Texts from the Old Kingdom and the Coffin Texts from the Middle Kingdom. The relevant passages are translated and classified according to the main stages of the creative process: the phase of the preexistence, the transition towards existence with the self-creation of the god Atum, the creation of the principal components of the universe through different means, and the phase of the maintenance of the creator’s work. Atum is the only creator god attested before the New Kingdom; other important deities are subordinate to him and attend to the propagation of the principle of life.
The conceptions of cosmogony never form a coherent account but rather present themselves as independent mythical images. The myth appears as an essentially non-narrative structure which functions as a huge complex of knowledge that can become meaningful in several contexts.