Abydos: Inventing a Landscape

  • Martyn Smith


Abydos is located about three hours north of Luxor. The site is located in Upper Egypt, which is south of Cairo and the Nile Delta. Most modern visitors come to see the New Kingdom mortuary temple of Seti I (1306—1290 BC), set on the west bank of the Nile at the edge of the green cultivated land. Two kilometers back from the beginning of the desert a sharp bay of cliffs rises. Up against these cliffs are a number of burial sites, including one complex that may have been the tomb for the Middle Kingdom king, Senwosret III (1878–1841 BC), and then a much more ancient group of burials located at Umm al-Qab. The scene will strike a visitor to other sites along the Nile as conforming to a common pattern—mortuary sites built along the western desert. The visitor could be forgiven for conflating Abydos with other sites. Our interest in this chapter will be to examine not how ancient Abydos fit into a common pattern, but how it functioned as the home for a unique narrative. For a time the narrative that defined its important features shaped the Egyptian hope for the afterlife.


Great Procession Ancient Egyptian Sacred Space Middle Kingdom Burial Chamber 
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© Martyn Smith 2008

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  • Martyn Smith

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