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Abydos Abydos Abydos

PLEASE NOTE: This article is about Abydos the ancient Egyptian necropolis, NOT Abydos the planet in Stargate!

Abydos is one of the oldest sites in Egypt and it was in continual use from the Pre-Dynastic Period until the 30th Dynasty. It is located 7 miles (11 kilometres) west of the River Nile, 6 miles (10 kilometres) west of El Balyana and covers an area of 4 square miles (10 square kilometres). It is considered as one of the most vital archaeological sites in Egypt as it contains many ancient temples and a huge necropolis (Umm El Qa’ab).

Umm El Qa’ab was the burial site for most of the 1st Dynasty Pharaohs, including Narmer (Menes), Aha, and Djer. The tomb of Djer is particularly interesting as from the Middle Kingdom onward, Egyptians believed that the body of Osiris was inside it. King Khendjer, the twenty-first pharaoh of the 13th dynasty during the Second Intermediate Period, even provided a statue of the deity, lying on a bed. Because of this Middle Kingdom belief, Djer’s tomb became a centre of annual pilgrimage, with the re-enactment of the Osiris myth, a type of passion play, performed there.

The memorial temple of Seti I attracts visitors to Abydos nowadays. This temple contains a 19th Dynasty inscription, the Abydos King List, a chronological record showing the cartouches of most of Egypt’s pharaohs from Narmer (Menes) until Ramses I, Seti's father. It also features seven sanctuaries, set in a row, each dedicated to a different deity, Ptah, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Seti I himself, who was included with his funerary shrine. Seti I died before his temple was finished and so his son, and successor, Ramses II completed it.

Immediately behind the temple is a subterranean building known as the Osireion. Built by Merenptah, son and successor of Ramses II, it features many offering scenes, as well as passages from the Book of Gates and the Book of the Dead.

Ahmose constructed the last Egyptian royal pyramid at Abydos in the New Kingdom. He drove the Hyksos out of Lower Egypt and was the founder of the 18th Dynasty. Ahmose’s pyramid may have been unfinished, and today it is just 32 feet (10 metres) high. It is estimated that the completed pyramid would have been 172 feet (53 metres) high. Nearby there is a pyramid temple, which revealed fragments of a decoration including scenes showing the warrior king, defeating the Hyksos.

There is also a 30th Dynasty temple built by Nectanebo I. This could have been the last building to be erected on the site.

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