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Seti I is one of the lesser-known pharaohs of the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. However, his temple in Abydos is among the most famous, cited by many as the most impressive religious structure still standing in Egypt.
Seti I’s place in history was overshadowed by that of his son, Ramesses II , arguably one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history. Yet, Seti was an important character in his own right, as he was one of the pharaohs who had to bring order back to Egypt and re-establish Egyptian sovereignty over its eastern neighbors (Syria and the Levant) following the social disruption caused of Akhenaten’s religious reforms . Seti was also responsible for commissioning the construction of a grand temple in Abydos, often referred to as the Temple of Seti I or the Great Temple of Abydos.
A view down the axis of the hypostyle hall of the temple of Seti I at Abydos. ( ernie /Adobe Stock )
Seti I’s Temple on Osiris’ Sacred Lands
Abydos has a special place in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be the place where Osiris was buried. Thus, Abydos was an important cult center for Osiris. A number of temples dedicated to Osiris, all of which were located in one area, were built prior to Seti I’s reign. The Temple of Seti, however, was built on new ground to the south of said temples.
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Seti’s temple was mainly built of limestone, though parts of it were constructed with sandstone. Although work began under Seti, the temple was only completed during the reign of his son, Ramesses II. This is visible in some of the temple’s reliefs depicting Ramesses slaying Asiatics and worshipping Osiris.
Chapel dedicated to Amun Re at the Temple of Seti I in Abydos, Egypt. (kairoinfo4u/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )
Although Ramesses II completed the temple, most scholars believe that the best artwork at the site was created during Seti I’s lifetime. Seti had artist’s depict him with many of the gods presented in the temple and Ramesses added in some scenes with him and his father as well as representations of his successful military campaigns .
Entrance to the Temple of Seti I. ( CC BY SA 2.5 )
Like the temples of his predecessors, Seti’s temple was dedicated to Osiris, and consisted of a pylon, two open courts, two hypostyle halls, seven shrines, each to an important Egyptian deity ( Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Ra, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah) and one to Seti himself, a chapel dedicated to the different forms of the god Osiris, and several chambers to the south.
In addition to the main temple, there was also an Osireion at the back of it. Various additions to the temple were made by later pharaohs, including those from the Late, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods.
The Osireion at the back of the Temple of Seti I. ( MariaJose /Adobe Stock )
A Declaration of Legitimacy to the Throne
The Temple of Seti played an important role in his family’s claim as a legitimate royal household. Prior to the ascension to the throne by Seti’s father, Ramesses I, Seti’s ancestors were merely warriors, generals at most. Without royal blood in his veins, Seti had to consolidate his position, and one of the ways to do so was to build temples.
Seti taking a flail from Horus . ( BasPhoto /Adobe Stock)
In addition to the worship of Egypt’s traditional gods, Seti’s temple had another feature that made his rule legitimate. This was the Abydos King List , which was found carved on a wall of the temple. The Abydos King List contains the names of 76 kings of ancient Egypt, predecessors whom Seti acknowledged to be legitimate pharaohs.
On the other hand, earlier rulers who were considered illegitimate, such as Hatshepsut and Akhenaten, were conveniently omitted from the List. The Abydos King List was arranged in three rows, each containing 38 cartouches. While the first two rows consisted of the names of his predecessors, the third row is just a repetition of Seti’s throne name and praenomen (personal name).
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As Akhenaten’s religious reforms did away will the old gods, Seti’s dedication of his temple to Osiris and other important Egyptian deities symbolized a return to the traditional way of life, thus allowing himself to be seen as a restorer of order.
Drawing of the Abydos King List. (PLstrom/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Apart from being an important legitimizing tool for Seti’s dynasty, the Abydos King List was also an incredibly important document for our understanding of the kings of ancient Egypt, especially those from the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period . Although the List provides the order of the Old Kingdom rulers, it is far more valuable for the fact that it is the only known source for the names of many of the kings from the first two dynasties of the First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7 and 8).
The Temple of Seti at Abydos was a strategic building project on the part of Seti I in order to bolster his family’s claim to the Egyptian throne . This desire for legitimacy has also indirectly benefitted us today, as Seti I left behind a list of kings that helped patch some holes in the history of Egyptian kingship, as well as a spectacular monument that continues to be visited by thousands of people every year.
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The Monuments of Abydosby William Flinders Petrie
published in 1911
from: The Gutenberg Encyclopedia
Adapted for AscendingPassage.com.
ABYDOS, one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, about 7 miles West of the Nile in lat. 26 deg. 10' N.
The Egyptian name was Abdu, 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 Dardanelles, the narrow strait between European and Asiatic Turkey) 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 IInd 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 IInd 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 honor 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. (This attribution is disputed)
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 (Ophols, 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. (now believed to be about 3050 B.C.) to the XXVIth dynasty, 500 B.C. The first was an enclosure, about 30X 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 10 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.
Offering found at the Osiris Temple
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. (In 2016 this still is the only known image of the builder of the Great Pyramid, however Zahi Hawass argues with some cause that it is a much later imitation.)
The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I (2332-2283 B.C.) in the VIth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos and an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40X50 ft. inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type.
In the XIth dynasty Menthotp (Mentuhotep) III (1997-1991 B.C.) 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 130X200 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 (1183-1152 B.C.) added a large building and Amasis II (570 - 526 B.C.) 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 Ancient Temple of Osiris today lies below a modern town and thus is mostly unavailable to archeology. This may not be all bad, techniques continue to improve and there should be some undisturbed sites for scientists of future centuries.)
Seti's Temple at Abydos
Photograph by Henri Bechard 1887
The Temple of Seti I (1294-1279 B.C.) 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 Seti's Temple 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 Pharaoh 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 (the Osiron) for the celebration of the Osiris mysteries, built by Mineptah
(Osirion at Abydos by Murray).
The temple of Seti 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 (1279-1213 B.C.) 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.
Many of the limestone blocks of the Temple of Ramsses were burned to make cement, leaving only the lowest courses.
Plan of Ramsses II's Temple at Abydos.
Auguste Mariette Expedition 1869
The Royal Tombs of the earliest dynasties were placed about a mile back on the great desert plain. The earliest is about 10X20ft. inside, a pit lined with brick walls, and originally roofed with timber and matting. Others also before Menes are 15X25 ft. The tomb probably of Menes (c. 3050 B.C.) is of the latter size.
Tombs of early Pharaohs
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. With its dependencies it 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.
Stele are flat carved stones, similar to tombstones, although they do not always mark graves. Here are some of those gathered by Mariette:
The "forts" lay behind the town. (These are rough stone or brick enclosures now considered tombs.) That known as Shunet el Zebib is about 450X250 ft. over all, and still stands 30 ft. high. It was built by Rhasekhemui (Khasekhemwy), the last king of the IInd dynasty around 2700 BC.
Bronze bowl and ewer. (British Museum)
Found in the tomb of Khasekhemwy,
these mark the beginnings of the bronze age in Egypt.
Bronze chisels make dressed (squared) stone buildings practical.
The greatest achievements of Egypt
were created without iron.
Photograph from EgyptArchive.
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, iii).
The Monuments of Abydos
by William Flinders Petrie, 1911.
At least 14 brick lined pits have been discovered near the funerary enclosure of Pharaoh Khasekhemwy in Abydos, each holding a 60 to 80 foot (18 - 25 meter) wooden boat from the first or second Dynasty. First found in 1991, excavation and conservation of these boats is continuing.
The discovery of the Osirion is discussed
by Sir William Flinders Petrie and Margaret Alice Murray in:
The Osirion at Abydos
Countless beautiful 19th century images of ancient Egypt
and 75 pages of architecture, art and mystery
are linked from the library page:
The hypostyle halls were the first I saw in Egypt. For that reason, the Temple of Seti I will have a special place in my memory. What for me conjures up ancient Egypt as much as the Giza Plateau are these halls and their towering and beautifully inscribed columns, bathed in mysterious, diffuse light.
Seti I may principally be known to history as being the father of Rameses II, who overshadowed his father by being the second longest ruling pharaoh in history and the greatest temple builder, but Seti’s temple in Abydos is considered one of the most beautiful and best preserved.
Relief of Isis and the king with djed pillar, Osiris Conplex
Aside from its artistic and design qualities, the temple’s curiosities lingered in my mind longer.
Who’s Who in the Pharaoh Zoo
If it weren’t for king-lists, very little would be known about the chronology of the pharaohs. The most famous one was compiled by Manetho, an Egyptian priest who lived in Ptolemaic times. His grouping of pharaonic history into dynasties is still used today. I had the opportunity to see the one in Seti’s temple inscribed along one wall of a passage between two halls. If it weren’t for Waleed’s explanation, it would have been just another beautiful wall of inscriptions. The list identifies 76 kings, including the names of pharaohs missing from other lists. However, for political reasons, it also omits the names of others considered illegitimate, some of them notable, including Akhenaton, Tutankhamen and the Hyksos rulers, which contributes to the problem of king-lists as a whole not being entirely consistent.
Rotorcraft and Submersibles of Ancient Egypt?
It was something I had to see for myself. Its fame has been circulating in alternative history circles for years. The temple has a controversial bas-relief panel depicting objects that look like modern vehicles, one of which has been called a helicopter. Another looks like a submarine. What in the world! you wonder. The more mundane explanation is that it’s a combination of two layers, the underlying one carved in sandstone, the other carved in an overlay of plaster. On the limestone is inscribed an epithet of Seti I, the plaster, of Rameses II, overlaid in just such a way as to cause a stir today. Fair enough, but why this modification was made only in this spot in the temple and then resemble modern-day conveyances thousands of years later are curious, to say the least. By themselves, the ‘vehicles’ are not hieroglyphs and therefore don’t mean anything other than firing up the imaginations of vimana and ancient alien fans.
But then, what about those Vedic flying ships?
What the L?
Curiously, Seti’s temple is designed in an “L” shape. No other Egyptian temple, before or since, was built in this way, a clear departure from tradition. The thing is, a structure now known as the Osireion was directly behind it. It’s been suggested that the design was changed to make a left turn, so to speak, when Seti uncovered a buried Osireion, but this is unlikely since the central axes of the main temple and Osireion are aligned. It’s likely that Seti didn’t build the Osireion but wanted to incorporate it in an overall temple plan. But the project couldn’t be completed for some reason and the L-shaped revision had to be made.
The Osireion was another monument I wanted to see. There is something profound about it, the sense of being very old. Seti is regarded as the builder, but its design is completely different from the rest of his temple. As beautifully embellished as the temple is in a classically Egyptian style, in contrast the Osireion is megalithic and austere. It also was constructed 50 feet lower than the level of the main temple in sand saturated with water.
I questioned as others do if the two sections were built at the same time. The Osireion bears much closer resemblance to the Valley Temple of Khafre on the Giza Plateau, which would put its construction date at the latest to the reign of Khafre in the Fourth Dynasty, some 1,300 years earlier. Like the Valley Temple, the central hall consists of massive granite posts and lintels. Granite is found nowhere else in Seti’s temple. The central hall at one time was roofed over by thick granite slabs that are now mostly gone. The stones used in the rest of the Osireion are limestone and sandstone.
Incredibly, the base upon which the central hall sits is over 40 feet high above the bedrock, most of it submerged in water. Did Seti have the time, skill and wherewithal to build the Osireion and its colossal foundation underwater, along with his other building projects in Egypt? Estimates vary but his reign lasted approximately 11 years.
Yet, there are New Kingdom inscriptions on the walls that surround the older structure, including many cartouches of Seti I, which conceivably were added later. The only etchings on the granite are two flower of life symbols on a single post (the source of which is unknown and possibly added in modern times).
Flower of life symbols, Osireion (image enhanced from abdutemple.blogspot.com)
If Seti didn’t build the Osireion, who did? The mysteries surrounding the Osireion to this day don’t have definitive answers. Nevertheless, I was in awe of yet another example of ancient Egyptian achievement that wasn’t diminished for the lack of personal exploration.
Abydos and Onwards
Journal: Thursday 6 November 2003
The route we were taking to the Western Desert meant driving north as far as Sohag with the convoy. By 7.30am we were lined up in Luxor’s ‘Convoy Street’ with all the other coaches, minibuses and taxis waiting for the tourist police to give the signal to be off. It’s mayhem with drivers meeting and greeting each other, leaning against their vehicles and chatting while trying to keep an eye on their passengers who are wandering about, buying last minute supplies of cold drinks and snacks at the little kiosk. Eventually we were off and the long snake of traffic began to slither out of the street and through Luxor. As well as Abdul who accompanies us on all our trips as driver/guide, we have with us Mohammed who is the official driver of the hired minibus.
This particular convoy goes to Abydos, so we were all glad to stop there for a brief visit. Most of the group had never been to Abydos and they tore around the Seti temple in the hour and a half allotted, while Sam and I wandered more leisurely taking pictures of scenes we particularly wanted to look at again. This is one of my favourite temples and the exceptionally well-crafted colourful reliefs of Seti and his son Rameses always take my breath away. There was no time to walk along to the Rameses Temple today, but we did manage a quick coffee in the cafe in the park in front of the Seti Temple. There was a stall selling some really good replica antiquities where I found a lovely little shabti that looks surprisingly genuine. and I was still haggling as the convoy police blew their whistle to signal time to leave. The stall-holder didn’t want to lose the sale and I came away with a bargain, though not so much from my powers of haggling but because he remembered me from previous visits.
Back in our bus we drove with the convoy as far as Sohag and then had a change of police who would take us down to Asyut. This lot were really crazy and we had to endure some very fast driving with the lovely countryside whizzing past too fast to appreciate as we bounced up and down on the seats over the potholes and ridges in the road and tried to hang on as best we could. Poor Mohammed was driving and getting very stressed trying to keep up. At Asyut we crossed the river to the West Bank and onto the desert road where the police left us to travel onwards by ourselves. We still couldn’t dawdle because there are checkpoints at intervals on the long desert highway and if we didn’t arrive at the next checkpoint when we were supposed to there would be trouble. In the early evening we had a spectacular view coming down off the escarpment into the oasis of Kharga with the soft orange afterglow of the sunset ahead of us and lights beginning to flicker in the scattering of houses at the edges of the cultivated area. At 8.00pm we pulled up outside our hotel in Kharga City, all of us feeling very stiff and tired from our long journey.
There are only two tourist hotels in Kharga. One of them is the Solymar Pioneer and quite a bit more expensive than the hotel that we were booked into. After ten minutes in our hotel we all wished we’d chosen the more expensive option. ‘Basic’ is a generous description, but ‘clean’ obviously isn’t in their vocabulary. This was when the problems began. After a little time spent swapping around unacceptable rooms we learned that the hotel didn’t serve food, but that was OK, we’d planned to go out to eat. Mohammed had done all the driving and he had to be almost carried up to his room – already half asleep. It was at this point that we all realised the implications of travelling in the month of Ramadan, which we had been assured was not a problem.
While we westerners had been at least guzzling bottled water all the way here, Abdul and Mohammed had had nothing to eat or drink since dawn this morning. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is held as a holy time by most Egyptians. When the sun has set Muslims are permitted to break their fast, usually with a simple snack before evening prayers in the mosque. Prayers are followed by Itfar, often a quite elaborate feast enjoyed by friends and family together. It’s a time of joyful celebration and companionship. The only other meal is Suhoor, which traditionally includes dates and is taken before sunrise – i.e. about 5.00am! Mohammed the driver, dumped unceremoniously on top of his bed in the hotel room, was oblivious to Itfar tonight. He could not be woken. The rest of us went out into town to look for a restaurant, only to find that the few there were had closed at 7.00pm after the Itfar meal.
Eventually we found our way to the Pioneer Hotel, whose deserted restaurant, the manager opened for us. Tired as we were, I think the others enjoyed their meal, though my recollecton of tepid spaghetti with a thin tomato sauce – the only vegetarian option – leaves a less happy memory. Once back in our own hotel later however, the Pioneer suddenly seemed very grand and palatial. I slept on top of the bed and didn’t unpack anything.
The Osirion: Once an Antediluvian Freestanding Temple
Freddy Silva digs into the history, geology and archaeoastronomy of the Osirion of Abydos, Egypt—a monument he argues was built sometime before 10,000 BC and is mistakenly attributed to Seti I by academics.
When discussing ancient Egypt, much of the attention falls upon grandiose structures like the pyramids, because their superhuman scale is candy to the eye and humans are so easily seduced by the scale of things. Yet as mystery tradition teaches, the eye is easily deceived by scale to the detriment of seemingly trivial things that lead to greater illumination.
That said, it would be a travesty to describe the temple of Seti I at Abydos as trivial, for it is a beautifully preserved jewel of a sacred space. Certainly, ancient people treated the location with reverence, so much so that Abydos was already a thriving city by 5400 BC, 1 and two thousand years later pre-dynastic pharaohs were still building shrines, temples and mortuaries there.
Seti I added his own masterpiece in the thirteenth century BC, during a reign that barely lasted a decade—an elegant temple featuring a series of interconnected halls and side chambers, covered from floor to ceiling in exquisite friezes. Still, people had long been coming here to witness another wonder.
Geological and archaeological considerations
Twelve thousand years ago, Abydos bore no resemblance to the partly parched, partly cultivated strip of land it is today. The climate was wetter, it sustained a verdant and lush landscape as far as the eye could see, and to the west where now lies an endless desert, there existed an inland sea, much of which drained into the Atlantic when the events that generated the Great Flood overhauled the terrain. A small saltwater lake at Siwa is all that remains. Referring to an older source, Diodorus of Sicily describes how it “disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay toward the ocean were torn asunder,” leaving behind the Sahara. 2
The course of the Nile was different, too. Its shore was five miles closer to Abydos, its waters reaching another kind of temple named after the Egyptian god of resurrection, Osiris—the Osirion. When it was cleared of debris, The Times of London described it as “a gigantic construction of about 100 feet in length and 60 feet in width, built with the most enormous stones that may be seen in Egypt.” 3
In terms of construction and style, the temple bears no resemblance to Seti’s. It is stark yet hauntingly beautiful, one of the finest examples of simplicity and economy of line, expressed with heavyset blocks of red granite, one of the hardest rocks on Earth, ferried from a quarry two hundred miles away. The construction logistics pose a conundrum for any modern engineer, yet the Osirion belongs to a remote age. It was created with the sole intent of defying time.
The structure consists of two rows of columns connected by substantial architraves upon which a voluminous stone roof once stood. These are poised on a raised rectangular platform surrounded by a deep moat cut into the stone two ascending staircases lead out of the water and onto the platform, where two sunken rectangular pools lie.
The surrounding courtyard is one massive and impenetrable wall made of 25-foot thick red sandstone, fitted without mortar, with corner stones cut and angled much like they are in Cuzco. Seventeen side chambers are meticulously cut into the wall and face the central platform. 4 The plan of the courtyard bears a passing resemblance to the head of Pachacamac carved above the Sun Door at Tiwanaku. It’s a passing observation for sure, but the same can be said for the knobs carved on sections of the courtyard wall, for they are almost identical to those in Andean temples.
There are no inscriptions inside the Osirion, no dedications, and no name to identify its creator—only a set of hieroglyphs carved into the wall adjoining Seti’s temple, no doubt put there during the pharaoh’s reign.
Until recently the Osirion was believed to be a type of underground chamber fitted inside hollowed bedrock, an extension of Seti’s temple. If so, it represents a complete departure from standard temple design. However, a geological appraisal contradicts this opinion. In ancient times the level of the Nile was fifty feet lower than today, its course seven miles closer to and beside the Osirion. When North Africa was subjected to major flooding between 10,500-8000 BC, layers of Nile silt gradually compacted and rose inch by inch until they surrounded and covered the Osirion. In other words, the temple was originally a freestanding feature on the floodplain. 5
Legend has it that people once reached the Osirion and navigated its interior by boat, an opinion expressed by Henri Frankfort, one of the early archaeologists at Abydos. 6 But as the Nile crept eastwards, it eventually became necessary to connect the Osirion to the river with a long canal. 7
Seti I’s temple bears no visual relationship to the Osirion, and its plan veers abruptly to the left, in violation of temple protocol.
The Osirion. The build-up of Nile mud turned it into the underground temple we see today.
In this regard, the Osirion has two counterparts downriver at Giza—the Sphynx Temple and the Valley Temple, all constructed with identical megalithic blocks of red granite (those of the Sphynx Temple were looted for building material) using the same clean, graphic layout, devoid of inscription. The Giza temples were also reached by boat when the waters of the Nile lapped at their respective entrances. The intermediate walls of the Valley Temple are made from massive blocks of limestone quarried from the Sphynx enclosure next door and are clearly eroded by water, lots of water. Since it has been convincingly argued that the Sphynx itself was carved to face its counterpart in the sky, the constellation Leo on the spring equinox c.10,400 BC, ostensibly the two sites are contemporaries of each other. 8 Furthermore, during the epoch prior to 10,000 BC, the enclosure in which this lion sits was also weathered by extensive flooding and rainfall, when northeast Africa had a pluvial climate. 9 Thus by weathering and design alone, the Osirion, Sphynx Temple and Valley Temple were built contemporaneously.
Returning to the Osirion, there is the question of why so many temples and shrines appear in its vicinity to which none relate, as though the Osirion was no longer visible by pre-dynastic times, so when pharaohs went to mark their devotion they were essentially honouring the sanctity of place. By the time Seti I came to build his temple—one of the last to be erected—he may have rediscovered the Osirion because his temple follows the same orientation, but stops short of the underground structure before resuming to the left and creating an L-shape, forcing the most holy of chapels to be placed sideways to the body of the temple, a complete violation of temple protocol. 10 The only rational explanation for such a drastic measure is that Seti’s superimposed building broke through the chamber beneath during construction.
Could the enigmatic structure be a remnant of an antediluvian age? With its raised platform surrounded by a water channel, the Osirion can be regarded as a recreation of the primeval island of the gods in stone, an artificial representation of the original home from which the gods emerged. To determine exactly when it was built we must turn to archaeoastronomy.
Archaeoastrononomical and mythological considerations
Time and again I have stood dumbstruck in the Osirion. Its orientation has puzzled me, for it neither faces the solstices or equinox, nor the pole star or any obvious object in the sky. Myth states that this is a resting place of Osiris, even if the association, as in so many cases of ancient lore, is metaphorical. Osiris is the classic representation of the hero who is dismembered before ascending the Milky Way to reach the origin of souls—typically the Pole Star or the belt of Orion—and whilst in the Otherworld is reconstituted by his consort, Isis.
A look at the night sky at the time of Seti I produces no relationship to any stellar object. It seems the pharaoh broke yet another convention by ignoring the sky-ground dualism essential to the foundation of the temple and its function as a mirror image of the sky. Seti was, however, an astute student of temple protocol and would not have made such an obvious mistake. Since his temple is aligned to the same axis as the Osirion, it follows that he may have attempted to revive its eminence.
I turned my focus to Orion, the constellation with which Osiris is intimately associated. Perhaps this obvious clue would yield a sky-ground relationship. But no such relationship exists, not unless the Earth was upside down 14,000 years ago.
Only in the epoch of 10,000 BC do connections begin emerge, for the constellation Cygnus appears in full upright ascent over the horizon in conjunction with the axis of the temple, the entrance framing its brightest star, Deneb. As does the Milky Way, forming a vertical river for Cygnus to sail on, towards the vault of heaven. The correlation took place on the Spring Equinox c. 10,500 BC, and again on the Winter Solstice that year.
Deneb in Cygnus rides a vertical Milky Way, as seen from the entrance on the winter solstice c.10,500 BC (rear of site pictured).
By way of validation, the sky goddess Nut, who is identified with the Milky Way, is painted as a naked female spread across the sky on the ceiling of the Osirion’s northeastern chamber, her legs formed by the bifurcation at Deneb in Cygnus. 11 The symbol couldn’t be more apt. Cygnus itself was regarded as both a swan and as a kite hawk, and it is likely that Egyptian references to the “kite of Osiris” may have had this constellation in mind. Osiris’ bride Isis, who took on the form of a kite hawk when resurrecting souls, is depicted with outstretched wings as a symbol of protection, and to demonstrate her ability to fan the breath of immortality into those whom she oversaw, particularly her consort Osiris.
For immortality to occur, ancient Egyptian texts state that the soul of the hero had to reside in the pole star, which was regarded by ancient cultures as the region of regeneration, a place in the sky protected by seven great akus (souls), each represented by the seven circumpolar stars, Deneb being one of them. 12 Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson explains this in the context of Egyptian ideology:
“Circumpolar stars are a very good metaphor for the afterlife because when viewed, they never seem to set: they simply rotate around the pole star. They are the undying stars, or in Egyptian terminology, the Indestructibles, a perfect destination for the soul.” 13
The Indestructibles or ikhemu-sek (the ones not knowing destruction) was a name created by ancient Egyptian astronomers, although the idea that these stars protect a portal of regeneration is shared by extant indigenous cultures. 14 Interestingly, Cygnus appears to occupy a region in space where such regeneration might occur. Research by NASA reveals this constellation to be a source of the most energetic and penetrating form of light—gamma rays. More to the point, it is one of our Galaxy’s richest-known stellar construction zones. In essence, Cygnus is a star-forming region. 15 Perhaps it is for this reason that temples of the magnitude of the Osirion are referred to as places where an individual goes to be transformed into a god or bright star.
Indestructible? Portal of regeneration? What apt epiteths for a temple named for the god of rebirth and designed to outlast time! Incidentally the derivative of aku is akh—a person filled with inner spiritual radiance, a Shining One—from which is derived the term ahu, the name given to the ceremonial stone platforms of Easter Island.
‘Shining Ones’ was also the nickname given to the pre-flood gods of Egypt, the Aku Shemsu Hor, the Urukehu gods of New Zealand and Easter Island, Viracocha and his seven Hayhuaypanti, and the Anunaki sages. Could any of these antediluvian seafaring gods have been responsible for the Osirion? Probably, based on there being a direct correlation between the Osirion and the position of Deneb c. 10,500 BC, when this brightest of stars not only rose along the axis of the temple but, due to the effects of precession, had also taken up its position as one of the Indestructibles.
Reconstruction of the Osirion from 1914, shortly after its excavation.
1. Goenka, Himanshu. Egypt Ancient History: 7300-year old city Found in New Excavation Along the Nile, IBT Times, 11/24/2016.
2. Diodorus of Sicily III, 55, trans C.H. Oldfather, Loeb Classical Library, 1939.
3. The Times, London, 17 March 1914.
4. Frankfort, Henri. The Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos, 39 th Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Society, London, 1933, p.18.
5. Also stated by John Anthony West in The Traveller’s Key to Ancient Egypt: A Guide to the Sacred Places of Ancient Egypt, Quest Books, Wheaton, 1996, p.392.
7. Strabo, Geography, vol. VIII, p.111.
8. Bauval and Gilbert, op cit.
9. West, John Anthony. Serpent In The Sky, Quest Books, Wheaton, p.184-242.
11. Wells, Ronald A., and Christopher Walker, ed. Astronomy Before the Telescope, St. Martins Press, New York, 1996, p.29–32.
12. Massey, Gerald, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, Vol. II, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1907, p.613-4.
13. “Pyramids Seen as Stairways to Heaven”, Tim Radford, The Guardian, May 14, 2001.
14. Wells and Walker, op cit, p. 35.
16. Higgins, W.H., Stars and Constellations, p.22.
The Impressive Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I to Be Reborn in 3D
Seti I, son of Ramses I, was the chief of archers and a vizier. But before being a soldier and Pharaoh, he was a priest of Set, linked with Horus - the god of weapons, war, and the army.
During his rule (1305-1289 BC), Seti I advanced the extraction of gold from the mines, worried over the need to recover lost territories in Asia, and had to deal with a rebellion in Nubia - which he quickly suppressed. He has been considered one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history, however Seti I is often outshined by the enormous fame of his son and successor, Ramses II.
Seti I’s tomb, KV17 of the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, was found in 1817 by the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni. It is one of the most beautiful and complete tombs in the famous necropolis. In fact, it is the longest and deepest tomb not only in the Valley of the Kings, but in all the Theban necropolis - and even all over Egypt.
The tomb’s so complex that its exact length is uncertain, although it is assumed that it may be double the size of the currently known portion. Nonetheless, after three years of study, a team has managed to digitize the part of the tomb that experts have been able to bring to light so far. According to the information published by EfeFuturo, the digitization will allow the use of a facsimile to show the public the tomb while preserving the original.
About fifteen years ago, the Spanish company Factum Arte digitized their first wall of the tomb of Seti I, but when the team returned to the site in 2009 to continue work, the conditions of the burial (which were recently restored) did not allow them to continue, which led them to start the facsimile of the tomb of Tutankhamen instead.
But now that the Spanish team has completed the project related to the young pharaoh, they have resumed their work in the darkness and high temperatures that are surrounded by the colorful walls of Seti I’s tomb.
The mission will last for at least a year and aims to get an exact facsimile of this historic site, at a 1:1 scale in high resolution. Thus, the human eye will not notice any difference between the replica that can be visited, and the real royal tomb which will be available for archaeologists and scientists to study it more thoroughly - as is already being done with the tomb of Tutankhamen.
“This project to document the graves and make facsimiles serves the purpose of making the monuments visible to the public and helping in their preservation [. ] We propose the use of a non-contact technology, in any case we are restaurateurs, but we document the graves in their current state,” explained the project manager, Carlos Bayod to EFE
The facsimile of Seti I’s tomb will be presented at the entrance of the Valley of the Kings, near the home of British Egyptologist Howard Carter and the replica of the tomb of Tutankhamen. Factum Arte is also restoring a house as a training center in three-dimensional scanning to transfer their knowledge and technology in situ on the ground where the research itself is established.
"The goal is to make replicas of tombs, and ideally for the project to be sustainable over time. Hopefully the people of Luxor will be able to take over the documentation and protection of these monuments soon" Carlos Bayod told EFE.
Finally, it is interesting to note that it was precisely the accuracy of the facsimile of the "boy king’s" tomb which allowed the British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves to distinguish slits in the walls and announce his hypothesis about the possible presence of the chamber of Queen Nefertiti in Tutankhamen’s tomb.
Top Image: Photograph of one of the chamber walls of the sarcophagus of Seti I, where you can see hieroglyphics regarding the second hour of the Book of Amduat and the sky and its constellations. Source: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/CC BY-SA 2.0
After being declared dead, Dorothy changed
She began speaking English with a foreign accent. She would sit beneath the kitchen table, crying, and asking her parents to take her home. She had vivid dreams of the vast building with large columns and beautiful gardens.
When she was four, her parents took her to the British Museum in London. Initially, Dorothy felt bored, but then she saw the Egyptian sculptures. She began hugging them and didn’t want to leave the museum. She told her parents these were her people.
At the age of seven, she discovered a photo of the Temple of Seti I from Egypt. She immediately ran to her parents and told them she had found her home. Young Dorothy also explained there used to be more trees and a beautiful garden next to the temple.
Eventually, she got married to an Egyptian man and moved to Egypt. There, she began to have mysterious dreams which revealed her true identity.
Day Trip from Luxor to the Temple of Horus at Edfu
The Naos at the Temple of Horus at Edfu.
The Temple of Horus at Edfu is located 109 km south of Luxor. It roughly takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach the city of Edfu.
Just want to give you heads up, that when I went to Edfu, once I reached the city limits, I had to take a horse drawn carriage to get to the temple. I was told that the streets leading to the temple are so narrow, that cars or buses are not permitted on these streets. It was not an inconvenience, instead it made it as one of the more interesting day trips from Luxor.
Image Source: Map data ©2020 ORION-ME
As my guide told me, the Temple of Horus at Edfu was built during the Ptolemaic Period. Specifically, it was started in 237 BC by Ptolemy III Euergetes and finished some 180 years later, around 57 BC by Ptolemy XII Auletes. The temple was dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus.
Once you get to the temple, take your time and notice the entrance to the temple. It is composed of an impressive Pylon.
The front of the Pylon is decorated with reliefs of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII defeating his enemies.
Next, cross the Pylon and turn around. The back of the Pylon has some amazing reliefs depicting Happy Reunion feast, in which Horus of Edfu is united with Hathor of Dendera.
The stunning Courtyard at the Temple Horus at Edfu.
And , then, take your time and enjoy the magnificent Courtyard surrounded by columns with open papyrus capitals.
Next, continue to the majestic Outer Hypostyle Hall made up of twelve columns in two rows.
Furthermore, beyond the Outer Hypostyle Hall lies the second, smaller, yet even more impressive, the Inner Hypostyle Hall. It has twelve columns which are lined up in three rows.
The Inner Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Horus at Edfu.
Eventually, you will reach the Naos. It is the oldest part of the Temple of Horus at Edfu. It was built by Nectanebo II.
Today, you can still see a black monolithic block engraved with the cartouche of Nectanebo II. As my guide told me, the shrine contained the sacred barks of Horus and Hathor which were used in processions. As well as, the statue of Horus.
For more details of what else to see at the Temple of Horus at Edfu, how to get there, and how much are the entrance tickets, made sure to read my post: Why Temple of Horus at Edfu Needs to Be in Your Egypt Itinerary.
READ: Why Temple of Horus at Edfu Needs to Be in Your Egypt Itinerary
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The temple seems to have been constructed toward the end of the reign of Seti, and may have been completed by his son Ramesses the Great after his death.  One of the chambers contains a shrine dedicated to Seti's father Ramesses I. The ruler reigned a little under two years, and did not construct a mortuary temple for himself.
The entire court and any pylons associated with the site are now in ruins, and much of the eastern part of the complex is buried under the modern town of Qurna.
- ^"Creatness eclipsed by magnitude". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on 2006-12-10 . Retrieved 2007-02-15 .
- Weigall, Arthur (1910). A Guide to the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. London: Mentheun & Co. p. 258. ISBN1-4253-3806-2 .
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