Abydos has a long and honorable history. By the first dynasty, Abydos was a mud brick town with tombs in the western section for the rulers of that dynasty. Before the third dynasty, there were three main centers in Upper Egypt: Naqada, Hierakonpolis/ Nekhen, and Abydos. Abydos is famous because of the many early kings who are either buried in Abydos or have cenotaphs here. (Cenotaphs are monuments for people who are physically buried somewhere else). The cenotaphs were of mud brick and at first looked like mastabas. (Nowadays, we build them to look more like pyramids).
Burials at Abydos suggest that there could have been 15 kings before Narmer, but we know for sure that the kings from the first dynasty are buried here. Aha has a cenotaph there. Djer has a big tomb, showing evidence of being buried with 300 people around him. Merneith (Djer's queen) is also buried here with 41 graves. Djet is surrounded by 174 and has particularly wonderful stelae. Den was buried with 174. Anedjib has a small tomb, surrounded by 64 graves. Semerkhet has a very nice tomb. Qaa is also buried in Abydos.
In the second dynasty, Hotepsekhemwy was unusual in that he did not add to Abydos. However, Raneb has a granite stela, and Peribsen also has a stela and tomb here. Khasekhemwy has a huge stone tomb here.
Each king is buried in a large, rectangular structure. The king is in the central room and is naturally surrounded by others rooms with oil, beer, grain, and other food in pottery jars for the afterlife. There were also grave goods of gold and imported lapis lazuli and obsidian. The people from the king's court surround the king in burial as in life, a practice we do not follow anymore. In front of the royal tombs are pairs of stone stelae. The stelae identify the Horus-name of the king and each royal name is surrounded by a serekh. (A serekh functions as a cartouche does now in that a serekh set off the name of a royal person.) The stone stelae have offering tables. The potsherds around the tombs are the offerings of generations of people on pilgrimage. (There are so many pots left as offerings in this area that future generations could call it Umm el-Qa'ab or "Mother of pots!")
Another part of Abydos to visit is the large walled mortuary temples, which could be mistaken for fortresses, that are built on the plain below the burial ground. They have double walls, are of mud brick, and are covered with white plaster. The two temples are from the time of Peribsen and Khasekhemwy, and Khasekhemwy of the second dynasty has the largest mortuary temple.
Clayton, Peter A. 1994. Chronicles of the Pharaohs: The reign-by-reign record of the rulers and dynasties of ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
Kamil, Jill. 1984, 1996. The Ancient Egyptians: Life in the Old Kingdom. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.
Kees, Herman. YEAR?(Translated by T.G.H. James). Ancient Egypt: A cultural topography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Manley, Bill. 1996. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt. London: Penguin Books.
Midant-Reynes, Béatrix. 1992. The Prehistory of Egypt: From the first Egyptians to the first pharaohs. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.
Return to Abydos
Return to Takhaet's personal pages