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Abydos
Abydos is located in Egypt
Abydos
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 26°11′6″N 31°55′8″E / 26.185°N 31.91889°E / 26.185; 31.91889
Country  Egypt
Time zone EST (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)

Abydos is the common English name of one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, and also of the eight Upper Nome of which it was the capital city. It is located about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) west of the Nile at latitude 26° 10' N, near the modern Egyptian towns of el-'Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana. The city was called Abdju in the ancient Egyptian language (3bdw or AbDw as technically transcribed from hieroglyphs) meaning "the hill of the symbol or reliquary", a reference to a reliquary in which the sacred head of Osiris was preserved.

Considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Ancient Egypt, the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, including a Umm el-Qa'ab, a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed.[1] These tombs began to be seen as extremely significant burials and in later times it became desirable to be buried in the area, leading to the growth of the town's importance as a cult site.

Today, Abydos is notable for the memorial temple of Seti I, which contains an inscription from the nineteenth dynasty known to the modern world as the Abydos King List. It is a chronological list showing cartouches of most dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from Menes until Ramesses I, Seti's father.[2] The Great Temple and most of the ancient town are buried under the modern buildings to the north of the Seti temple.[3] Many of the original structures and the artifacts within them are considered irretrievable and lost, many may have been destroyed by the new construction.

The English name comes from the Greek Άβυδος, a name borrowed by Greek geographers from the unrelated city of Abydos on the Hellespont. Its equivalent in Arabic is أبيدوس.

Contents

History

Name of Abydos
in hieroglyphs
Ab b Dw
O49
Location of Abydos on the map of Egypt

Abydos was occupied by the rulers of the Predynastic period,[4] whose town, temple and tombs have been found there. The temple and town continued to be rebuilt at intervals down to the times of the thirtieth dynasty, and the cemetery was used continuously.

The pharaohs of the first dynasty were buried in Abydos, including Narmer, who is regarded as founder of the first dynasty, and his successor, Aha.[5] Some pharaohs of the second dynasty were also buried in Abydos. The temple was renewed and enlarged by these pharaohs as well. Funerary enclosures, misinterpreted in modern times as great 'forts', were built on the desert behind the town by three kings of the second dynasty; the most complete is that of Khasekhemwy.[6]

From the fifth dynasty, the deity Khentiamentiu, foremost of the Westerners, came to be seen as a manifestation of the dead pharaoh in the underworld. Pepi I (sixth dynasty) constructed a funerary chapel which evolved over the years into the Great Temple of Osiris, the ruins of which still exist within the town enclosure. Abydos became the centre of the worship of the Isis and Osiris cult.

During the First Intermediate Period, the principal deity of the area, Khentiamentiu, began to be seen as an aspect of Osiris, and the deities gradually merged and became regarded as one, with Osiris being assigned the epithet, Foremost of the Westerners. In the twelfth dynasty a gigantic tomb was cut into the rock by Senusret III. Associated with this tomb was a cenotaph, a cult temple and a small town known as Wah-Sut, that was used by the workers for these structures.[7]

Part of the Abydos King List

The building during the eighteenth dynasty began with a large chapel of Ahmose I. Then Thutmose III built a far larger temple, about 130 × 200 ft (40 x 61 m). He also made a processional way leading past the side of the temple to the cemetery beyond, featuring a great gateway of granite.

Seti I, in the nineteenth dynasty, founded a temple to the south of the town in honor of the ancestral pharaohs of the early dynasties; this was finished by Ramesses II, who also built a lesser temple of his own. Merneptah added the Osireion just to the north of the temple of Seti.[7]

Ahmose II in the twenty-sixth dynasty rebuilt the temple again, and placed in it a large monolith shrine of red granite, finely wrought. The foundations of the successive temples were comprised within approximately 18 ft (5.5 m). depth of the ruins discovered in modern times; these needed the closest examination to discriminate the various buildings, and were recorded by more than 4000 measurements and 1000 levellings.[8]

The latest building was a new temple of Nectanebo I, built in the thirtieth dynasty. From the Ptolemaic times of the Greek occupancy of Egypt, that began three hundred years before the Roman occupancy that followed, the structure began to decay and no later works are known.[9]

Cult centre

Tomb relief depicting the vizier Nespeqashuty and his wife, KetjKetj, making the journey of the dead to the holy city of Abydos - from Deir el-Bahri, Late Period, twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt, reign of Psammetichus I

From earliest times, Abydos was a cult centre, first of the local deity, Khentiamentiu, and from the end of the Old Kingdom, the rising cult of Osiris and Isis.

A tradition developed that the Early Dynastic cemetery was the burial place of Osiris and the tomb of Djer was reinterpreted as that of Osiris.

Decorations in tombs throughout Egypt, such as the one displayed to the right, record journeys to and from Abydos, as important pilgrimages made by individuals who were proud to have been able to make the vital trip.

Major constructions

Great Osiris Temple

Panel from the Osiris temple: Horus presents royal regalia to a worshipping pharaoh.

Successively from the first dynasty to the twenty-sixth dynasty, nine or ten temples were built on one site at Abydos. The first was an enclosure, about 30 × 50 ft (9 x 15 m), surrounded by a thin wall of unbaked bricks. Incorporating one wall of this first structure, the second temple of about 40 ft (12 m) square was built within a wall about 10 ft (3 m) thick. An outer temenos (enclosure) wall surrounded the grounds. This outer wall was thickened about the second or third dynasty. The old temple entirely vanished in the fourth dynasty, and a smaller building was erected behind it, enclosing a wide hearth of black ashes.

Pottery models of offerings are found in these ashes and probably were the substitutes for live sacrifices decreed by Khufu (or Cheops) in his temple reforms.

At an undetermined date, a great clearance of temple offerings had been made and a modern discovery of a chamber into which they were gathered has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles that show the splendid work of the first dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple hieroglyphs inlaid into a green glaze and tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces found. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this great pharaoh.

The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I in the sixth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40 × 50 ft (12 x 15 m) inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the eleventh dynasty Mentuhotep I added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Mentuhotep II entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pavement over the area, about 45 ft (14 m) square, and added subsidiary chambers. Soon thereafter in the twelfth dynasty, Senusret I laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor. A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area and the new temple itself was about three times the earlier size.

Temple of Seti

Temple of Seti I, Abydos

The temple of Seti I was built on entirely new ground half a mile to the south of the long series of temples just described. This surviving building is best known as the Great Temple of Abydos, being nearly complete and an impressive sight. A principal purpose of it was the adoration of the early pharaohs, whose cemetery, for which it forms a great funerary chapel, lies behind it. The long list of the pharaohs of the principal dynasties—recognized by Seti—are carved on a wall and known as the "Abydos King List" (showing the cartouche name of many dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from the first, Narmer or Menes, until his time)- with the exception of those noted above. There were significant names deliberately left out of the list. So rare as an almost complete list of pharaoh names, the Table of Abydos, re-discovered by William John Bankes, has been called the "Rosetta Stone" of Egyptian archaeology, analogous to the Rosetta Stone for Egyptian writing, beyond the Narmer Palette.[2]

There also were seven chapels built for the worship of the pharaoh and principal deities. At the back of the temple is an enigmatic structure known as The Osirion thought to be connected with the worship of Osiris (Caulfield, Temple of the Kings); and probably from those chambers led out the great Hypogeum for the celebration of the Osiris mysteries, built by Merenptah (Murray, The Osireion at Abydos). The temple was originally 550 ft (168 m) long, but the forecourts are scarcely recognizable, and the part still in good condition is about 250 ft (76 m) long and 350 ft (107 m) wide, including the wing at the side.

Except for the list of pharaohs and a panegyric on Ramesses II, the subjects are not historical, but mythological. The work is celebrated for its delicacy and artistic refinement, but lacks the life and character of that in earlier ages. The sculptures had been published mostly in hand copy, not facsimile, by Auguste Mariette in his Abydos, i.

Ramesses II temple

The adjacent temple of Ramesses II was much smaller and simpler in plan; but it had a fine historical series of scenes around the outside that lauded his achievements, of which the lower parts remain. The outside of the temple was decorated with scenes of the Battle of Kadesh. His list of pharaohs, similar to that of Seti I, formerly stood here; but the fragments were removed by the French consul and sold to the British Museum.

Tombs

Seti I, wearing the Deshret crown of Lower Egypt, with Prince Rammeses, (Rammeses II) is ready to rope the sacred bull for sacrifice

The Royal necropolis of the earliest dynasties were placed about a mile into the great desert plain, in a place now known as Umm el-Qa'ab, The Mother of Pots, because of the shards remaining from all of the devotional objects left by religious pilgrims. The earliest burial is about 10×20 ft (3 x 6 m) inside, a pit lined with brick walls, and originally roofed with timber and matting. Others also built before Menes are 15×25 ft (4.6 x 7.6 m).

The probable tomb of Menes is of the latter size. Afterward the tombs increase in size and complexity. The tomb-pit is surrounded by chambers to hold offerings, the sepulchre being a great wooden chamber in the midst of the brick-lined pit. Rows of small pits, tombs for the servants of the pharaoh surround the royal chamber, many dozens of such burials being usual. Some of the offerings included sacrificed animals, such as the asses found in the tomb of Merneith. Evidence of human sacrifices exists in the early tombs, but this practice was changed into symbolic offerings later.

By the end of the second dynasty the type of tomb constructed changed to a long passage bordered with chambers on either side, the royal burial being in the middle of the length. The greatest of these tombs with its dependencies, covered a space of over 3,000 square kilometres (740,000 acres), however it is possible for this to be several tombs which have met in the making of a tomb; the Egyptians had no means of mapping the positioning of the tombs. The contents of the tombs have been nearly destroyed by successive plunderers; but enough remained to show that rich jewellery was placed on the mummies, a profusion of vases of hard and valuable stones from the royal table service stood about the body, the store-rooms were filled with great jars of wine, perfumed ointments, and other supplies, and tablets of ivory and of ebony were engraved with a record of the yearly annals of the reigns. The seals of various officials, of which over 200 varieties have been found, give an insight into the public arrangements.[10]

The cemetery of private persons began during the first dynasty with some pit-tombs in the town. It was extensive in the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties and contained many rich tombs. A large number of fine tombs were made in the eighteenth to twentieth dynasties, and members of later dynasties continued to bury their dead here until Roman times. Many hundreds of funeral steles were removed by Mariette's workmen, without any record of the burials being made.[11] Later excavations have been recorded by Edward R. Ayrton, Abydos, iii.; Maclver, El Amrah and Abydos; and Garstang, El Arabah.

"Forts"

Some of the tomb structures, referred to as "forts" by modern researchers, lay behind the town. Known as Shunet ez Zebib, it is about 450 × 250 ft (137 x 76 m) over all, and one still stands 30-ft (9 m) high. It was built by Khasekhemwy, the last pharaoh of the second dynasty. Another structure nearly as large adjoined it, and probably is older than that of Khasekhemwy. A third "fort" of a squarer form is now occupied by the Coptic convent; its age cannot be ascertained.[12]

Other

Some of the hieroglyphs on the site have been interpreted in certain esoteric mysticist and "ufological" circles as showing a helicopter, a battle tank or submarine, and a fighterplane or even a U.F.O., but these are commonly explained as the result of erosion and later adjustments to the original inscriptions. This concept was adopted in the plot of the Stargate series.[13][14][15]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Tombs of kings of the First and Second Dynasty". Digital Egypt. UCL. http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/abydos/abydoskingstombs.html. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  2. ^ a b Misty Cryer (2006). TravEgypt-WJB "Travellers in Egypt - William John Bankes". TravellersinEgypt.org. http://www.travellersinegypt.org/archives/2004/10/william_john_bankes.html TravEgypt-WJB. 
  3. ^ "Abydos town". Digital Egypt. UCL. http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/abydos/abydostown.html. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  4. ^ William Flinders Petrie, Abydos, ii. 64
  5. ^ Wilkinson (1999), p. 3
  6. ^ "The Funerary Enclosures of Abydos". Digitial Egypt. UCL. http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/abydos/abydosfuneraryenclosures.html. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  7. ^ a b Harvey, EA24, p.3
  8. ^ Petrie, Abydos, ii.
  9. ^ Petrie, Abydos, i. and ii.
  10. ^ Petrie, Royal Tombs, i. and ii.
  11. ^ Mariette, Abydos, ii. and iii.
  12. ^ Ayrton, Abydos, iii.
  13. ^ http://www.ufocom.org/pages/v_us/m_archeo/Abydos/abydos.html
  14. ^ http://www.catchpenny.org/abydos.html
  15. ^ http://members.tripod.com/~A_U_R_A/abydos.html

References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

  • Ayrton, Edward Russell; William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1904). Abydos. iii. Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund. http://books.google.com/books?id=NF0LAAAAIAAJ. 
  • Harvey, Stephen (Spring 2004). "New Evidence at Abydos for Ahmose's funerary cult". Egyptian Archaeology (EES) 24. 
  • Murray, Margaret Alice; Joseph Grafton Milne, Walter Ewing Crum (1904). The Osireion at Abydos. ii. and iii. (reprint edition, June 1989 ed.). B. Quaritch. ISBN 1854170414. 
  • Wilkinson, Toby A. H. (1999). Early Dynastic Egypt. Routledge. 
  • Mariette, Auguste, Abydos, ii. and iii.
  • William Flinders Petrie, Abydos, i. and ii.
  • William Flinders Petrie, Royal Tombs, i. and ii.

External links

Coordinates: 26°11′5.50″N 31°55′7.96″E / 26.184861°N 31.9188778°E / 26.184861; 31.9188778


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ABYDOS, one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, about 7 m. W. of the Nile in lat. 26° so' N. The Egyptian name was A bdu, " the hill of the symbol or reliquary," in which the sacred head of Osiris was preserved. Thence the Greeks named it Abydos, like the city on the Hellespont; the modern Arabic name is Arabet el Madfuneh. The history of the city begins in the late prehistoric age, it having been founded by the pre-Menite kings (Petrie, Abydos, ii. 64), whose town, temple and tombs have been found there. The kings of the Ist dynasty, and some of the Ilnd dynasty, were also buried here, and the temple was renewed and enlarged by them. Great forts were built on the desert behind the town by three kings of the Ilnd dynasty. The temple and town continued to be rebuilt at intervals down to the times of the XXXth dynasty, and the cemetery was used continuously. In the XIIth dynasty a gigantic tomb was cut in the rock by Senwosri (or Senusert) III. Seti I. in the XIXth dynasty founded a great new temple to the south of the town in honour of the ancestral kings of the early dynasties; this was finished by Rameses (or Ramessu) II., who also built a lesser temple of his own. Mineptah (Merenptah) added a great Hypogeum of Osiris to the temple of Seti. The latest building was a new temple of Nekhtnebf in the XXXth dynasty. From the Ptolemaic times the place continued to decay and no later works are known (Petrie, Abydos, i. and ii.).

The worship here was of the jackal god Upuaut (Ophois, Wepwoi), who "opened the way" to the realm of the dead, increasing from the Ist dynasty to the time of the XIIth dynasty and then disappearing after the XVIIIth. Anher appears in the XIth dynasty; and Khentamenti, the god of the western Hades, rises to importance in the middle kingdom and then vanishes in the XVIIIth. The worship here of Osiris in his various forms begins in the XIIth dynasty and becomes more important in later times, so that at last the whole place was considered as sacred to him (Abydos, ii. 47).

The temples successively built here on one site were nine or ten in number, from the Ist dynasty, 5500 B.C. to the XXVIth dynasty, Soo B.C. The first was an enclosure, about 30 X 50 ft., surrounded by a thin wall of unbaked bricks. Covering one wall of this came the second temple of about 40 ft. square in a wall about so ft. thick. An outer temenos (enclosure) wall surrounded the ground. This outer wall was thickened about the IInd or IIIrd dynasty. The old temple entirely vanished in the IVth dynasty, and a smaller building was erected behind it, enclosing a wide hearth of black ashes. Pottery models of offerings are found in the ashes, and these were probably the substitutes for sacrifices decreed by Cheops (Khufu) in his temple reforms. A great clearance of temple offerings was made now, or earlier, and a chamber full of them has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles which show the splendid work of the Ist dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple inlaid hieroglyphs in green glaze and the tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this greatest ruler. The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I. in the VIth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40 X 50 ft. inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the XIth dynasty Menthotp (Mentuhotep) III. added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Sankhkere entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pavement over the area, about 45 ft. square, besides subsidiary chambers. Soon after Senwosri (Senusert) I. in the XIIth dynasty laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor. A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area, and the temple itself was about three times the earlier size.

The XVIIIth dynasty began with a large chapel of Amasis (Ahmosi, Aahmes) I., and then Tethmosis (Thothmes, Tahutmes) III. built a far larger temple, about 130 X 200 ft. He made also a processional way past the side of the temple to the cemetery beyond, with a great gateway of granite. Rameses III. added a large building; and Amasis II. in the XXVIth dynasty rebuilt the temple again, and placed in it a large monolith shrine of red granite, finely wrought. The foundations of the successive temples were comprised within about 18 ft. depth of ruins; these needed the closest examination to discriminate the various buildings, and were recorded by over 4000 measurements and 1000 levellings (Petrie, Abydos, ii.). The temple of Seti I. was built on entirely new ground half a mile to the south of the long series of temples just described. This is the building best known as the Great Temple of Abydos, being nearly complete and an impressive sight. A principal object of it was the adoration of the early kings, whose cemetery, to which it forms a great funerary chapel, lies behind it. The long list of the kings of the principal dynasties carved on a wall is known as the "Table of Abydos." There were also seven chapels for the worship of the king and principal gods. At the back were large chambers connected with the Osiris worship (Caulfield, Temple of the Kings); and probably from these led out the great Hypogeum for the celebration of the Osiris mysteries, built by Mineptah (Murray, Osireion). The temple was originally 550 ft. long, but the forecourts are scarcely recognizable, and the part in good state is about 250 ft. long and 350 ft. wide, including the wing at the side. Excepting the list of kings and a panegyric on Rameses II., the subjects are not historical but mythological. The work is celebrated for its delicacy and refinement, but lacks the life and character of that in earlier ages. The sculptures have been mostly published in hand copy, not facsimile, by Mariette in his Abydos, i. The adjacent temple of Rameses II. was much smaller and simpler in plan; but it had a fine historical series of scenes around the outside, of which the lower parts remain. A list of kings, similar to that of Seti, formerly stood here; but the fragments were removed by the French consul and sold to the British Museum.

The Royal Tombs of the earliest dynasties were placed about a mile back on the great desert plain. The earliest is about I X 20 ft. inside, a pit lined with brick walls, and originally roofed with timber and matting. Others also before Menes are 15 X 25 ft. The tomb probably of Menes is of the latter size. After this the tombs increase in size and complexity. The tomb-pit is surrounded by chambers to hold the offerings, the actual sepulchre being a great wooden chamber in the midst of the brick-lined pit. Rows of small tomb-pits for the servants of the king surround the royal chamber, many dozens of such burials being usual. By the end of the IInd dynasty the type changed to a long passage bordered with chambers on either hand, the royal burial being in the middle of the length. The greatest of these tombs with its dependencies covered a space of over 3000 square yards. The contents of the tombs have been nearly destroyed by successive plunderers; enough remained to show that rich jewellery was placed on the mummies, a profusion of vases of hard and valuable stones from the royal table service stood about the body, the store-rooms were filled with great jars of wine, perfumed ointment and other supplies, and tablets of ivory and of ebony were engraved with a record of the yearly annals of the reigns. The sealings of the various officials, of which over 200 varieties have been found, give an insight into the public arrangements (Petrie, Royal Tombs, i. and ii.).

The cemetery of private persons begins in the Ist dynasty with some pit tombs in the town. It was extensive in the XIIth and XIIIth dynasties and contained many rich tombs. In the XVIIIth-XXth dynasties a large number of fine tombs were made, and later ages continued to bury here till Roman times. Many hundred funeral steles were removed by Mariette's workmen, without any record of the burials (Mariette, Abydos, ii. and iii.). Later excavations have been recorded by Ayrton, Abydos, iii.; Maclver, El Amrah and Abydos; and Garstang, El Arabah. The forts lay behind the town. That known as Shunet ez Zebib is about 450X 250 ft. over all, and still stands 30 ft. high. It was built by Khasekhemui, the last king of the IInd dynasty. Another fort nearly as large adjoined it, and is probably rather older. A third fort of a squarer form is now occupied by the Coptic convent; its age cannot be ascertained (Ayrton, Abydos, (W. M. F. P.)


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