A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Exploring the tombs and temples of ancient Abydos
Dark, rugged cliffs flank the middle reaches of the Nile River. Between them is a fertile floodplain and beyond a vast expanse of desert rich in archaeology. For more than 5,000 years, the Egyptians prospered in this landscape, constructing towns, temples, and memorials to their dead. It was here that Egypt's earliest rulers were interred, Egypt's first writing appeared, and the cult of boat burials was born. It was also here that the New Kingdom pharaoh Seti I built an impressive mortuary complex and temple dedicated to himself and the god Osiris, master of the underworld. Today, these age-old ruins lie beneath the wind-blown sands of a place we know as Abydos, some 300 miles south of Cairo.
For more than three decades, Abydos and its environs has been the focus of an archaeological expedition from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Yale University, and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts in cooperation with Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities. Collectively, these projects have revealed much about the dawn of the pharaonic age and the course of Egyptian civilization.
David O'Connor is Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; professor emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania; and curator emeritus of the Egyptian Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum. Co-director, with William Kelly Simpson, of the Abydos projects, is currently completing a book, The Sacred Landscape of Abydos, to be published by Thames and Hudson. Diane Craig Patch is a researcher in the Department of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.