A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A Landscape of Empty Tombs Volume 54 Number 3, May/June 2001
by William Kelly Simpson


Stele were set up within the cenotaphs or empty tombs. (Penn-Yale-IFA)

During the last part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Abydos was literally mined for stelae, statues, and offering tables--many from the Middle Kingdom (1975-1640 B.C.)--for the collections of museums. The general area from which these antiquities derive is known, but their archaeological and architectural contexts have never been determined. Recent excavations show that these monuments were never used for burial. They were cenotaphs, or empty tombs, built to link the deceased with the Osiris cult.


Artist's reconstruction shows the original appearance of a cenotaph.

William Kelly Simpson is professor of Egyptology at Yale University.

Abydos Intro

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America