The "Lost Tombs" Revisited:
"Success Has a Thousand Fathers ..."

Part IV

So, where are we?

Remember, this all began (this time!) in an ancient southern Temple ... at a distant place called Abydos ... in Egypt.

 

What, then, is "Abydos?"

The real question should be: what is the larger context of this ancient, highly revered place where these "annoying Temple glyphs" (above) were first discovered ("rediscovered?") by groups of recent tourists visiting the magnificent 3300-year-old "Great Temple of Seti-I ..?" Abydos is located at the edge of the Western Desert, inland from the Nile, about three hundred miles south of Cairo. It is here to Abydos, long before Seti-I built his unique Temple, that the oldest known religious pilgrimages -- millennia ago -- were inexplicably begun, initially from all over Egypt ... but now literally from all the world!

The earliest stated reason was to pay respects to "Khenty-Amentiu," the reigning deity of this remote "City of the Dead" [a name meaning, incidentally, "First (or President!) of the Westerners," (i.e. the Dead -- identified as such because they were always buried on the Western side of the Nile). The honorific

very early on, according to Egyptologists, became synonymous with "Osiris" himself -- as "Osiris Khenty-Amentiu" -- ultimately, Ancient Egypt's "'President' and everlasting god ... of the Resurrected Dead"].

A practical reason for choosing Abydos as the remote location for such a major necropolis, i.e. a "City of Osiris" (lying at the edge of the desert, 22 miles south of the region's major city on the Nile, "Thinis") is still unclear; it is historical fact that ancient royal tombs were never built on "virgin ground," but always near some older cemetery, so the presence of pre-dynastic graves at Abydos could have influenced the decision. But other archaeologists have pointed out that "there are plenty of pre-dynastic burials much nearer to Thinis -- at Salmani, for example ..." so the mystery remains.


Photo Hanny El Zeini

Some have suggested that the answer may come from the mountains lying directly to the West of Seti's glorious Temple (above, right) -- which form the barrier between Abydos and the Great Western Desert itself. In those mountains there is a pass (above, left) -- called "Pega-the-Gap"-- believed by the ancient, pre-dynastic Egyptians to lead directly to the Kingdom of the Dead. As the ancient royal tombs of Abydos lie closer to the mountains (and this gap), its presence some argue may have inspired later kings to build their "Houses of Eternity" here at Abydos literally, on the very "edge of Forever ..."

At least, that's how some Egyptologists attempt to "explain" the initial, fundamental mystery surrounding Abydos ... it's sheer existence where it is ...

One remarkable "coincidence" about this explanation involves "Pegasus" -- the well-known Grecian "flying horse" (right), which got us initially involved with Abydos (see Part I). For Pegasus (as a white horse) is also, curiously, closely associated with the theme of "death" in many other cultures, by way of "a steed who carries souls to the Beyond ..." He is also strongly associated with water -- having (in Greek mythology) ostensibly been born of it. (More on this, below.)

Some scholars believe the Greek name "Pegasus" derives from the ancient Egyptian word at Abydos for the very "Sacred Gap in the Mountains that leads directly to the Afterlife" (see box, below); others believe the Greeks (who clearly "borrowed" heavily from the earlier Egyptians, both in myths and terms) named their "flying horse" after the Pega Spring ... the site of the oldest (c. 2000 B.C.) known shrine to Osiris, also found at Abydos.

The linkage of the Greek "Pegasus" to these Egyptian roots, with one possible interpretation being "a flying metal horse" (pega ses -- an aircraft?!), which assists in "transport to the Afterlife from Abydos" ... all leading, ultimately, to "Osiris" himself ... is quite revealing. After all, what is depicted in terms of the mysterious "glyphs" found inside Seti-I's Temple at Abydos ... if not, various means of "mechanical transport" ... i.e., simple variations on "a metal horse?!"

"Abydos."

It is extraordinary (in terms of our continuing examination of a potentially modern "Cult of Osiris," apparently still alive and well after all these millennia -- and now lurking deep inside NASA ... just examine the ill-concealed, official NASA "Pegasus" patch for the ill-fated Apollo13 -- left) that our continuing search, stretching from the planet Mars ... to Ancient Egypt ... then to Arizona ... and through Washington itself ... should have ultimately led us here -- to "Abydos."

For, as it has been for thousands of years, it is "Abydos" which, it turns out to be, is the literal heart and soul of all that was ... and is ... connected to "Osiris" in all Egypt ... if not in all the world.

Or, so it certainly appeared to one well-known modern chronicler of Abydos, the legendary "Omm Sety" (right). A remarkable woman in her own right, a former British subject (originally christened Dorothy Eady), Omm Setys Arabic name (it translates as "Mother of Seti") was given as a result of her bearing an Egyptian child whom she deliberately named after "Seti, the First". For Eady, from the age of four, fervently believed she was in fact the reincarnation of a former Egyptian priestess in service to Seti-I, part of his Great Temple retinue who lived at Abydos during the Nineteenth Dynasty, around 1300 B.C.

In this lifetime, Eady left England for Egypt in 1933 at the age of 29; subsequently married an Egyptian, became "Omm Sety" and an employee of the Egyptian Antiquities Service (editing field notes and archaeological journals), and died at 77 -- after becoming an acknowledged world-class expert on "Abydos and its Great Temple of Seti-I ..."

Along the way, Omm Sety took up permanent residence in Abydos (in a mud-brick peasant house near the "Great Temple") in 1956 -- and remained there (as in her previous incarnation!) with her cats, a goose, a donkey and an occasional snake, assisting archaeologists, documentarians, visiting dignitaries, scientists and countless tourists in getting to know "her" Temple, until her death in 1981. After her departure, none other than Carl Sagan -- that perceived paragon of "rationalist" thinking and hard scientific skepticism -- revealed an unexpected interest in Omm Sety and her "most extraordinary" claims (if not in

Ancient Egypt, and in Abydos itself!), when he wrote the forward to a book on her own controversial life -- "The Search for Omm Sety" -- in 1987.

Her own written works included a last, co-authored volume on this fabled "Osirian City of the Dead " (with photographs by Hanny El Zeini), titled Abydos: the Holy City of Ancient Egypt (LL Company, Los Angeles, 1981). This lavishly illustrated volume (left) describes in elegant words and stunning pictures the history and archaeology of this remote but unique Egyptian center, the real "Abydos" that Omm Sety truly loved ...

It was in that Abydos where the inexplicable had once again occurred: where a set of provocative, highly controversial and illuminating "glyphs" had briefly come to light ... only to be instantly dismissed. Glyphs potentially "connected" now (simply, because of where they were -- in the ceiling of Seti's Great Temple) to the deeper meaning of the already ancient, already profound, already over-arching "mystery" of Abydos itself ... the venerable center for the crucial "Death and Resurrection of Osiris" ...

* * *

Who was this "Osiris" -- and what, as "President of the Westerners" was his obviously special relationship to this out-of-the-way place ... now known to us as "Abydos?"

Omm Sety's Appendix to her book, "the Gods represented in the Temple of Abydos," describes him thus:

"Osiris [sar, in Egyptian], was one of the children of Geb and Nut. He became the King [Pharaoh] of Egypt and brought civilization to his people who had previously been primitive, semi-nomadic hunters. Osiris taught them the arts of agriculture, gave them a settled existence, and introduced the hieroglyphic script, which had been invented by the God Thot. In all his work, Osiris was helped by his sister-wife Isis, and the royal pair was greatly honored and beloved by their subjects.

"But the God Set, their evil brother, was jealous of the esteem in which Osiris was held, and he wished to have a share in the government of Egypt. Knowing the evil nature of his brother Osiris refused this request, and in anger, Set murdered him and seized the throne.

"This original account has been repeatedly modified. According to the earliest [written] version which occurs in the Pyramid Texts (Vth Dynasty -- c. 2600 B.C.), Set murdered Osiris at Abydos and left his body lying on the banks of the canal. Here it is found by Isis and Nepthys [another sister] who with the help of Anubis [the God of Mummification] embalmed and buried it.

"But with the rise in the importance of the Cult of Osiris, this simple and natural story was elaborated, and it was later said that Set found the embalmed body of Osiris and tore it into fourteen pieces which he scattered up and down the whole length of Egypt. On hearing of this fresh outrage, Isis set out to search for the scattered fragments of the body of Osiris, and wherever she found one, she buried it and built a shrine to mark the spot. According to this version of the story, the head was buried at Abydos.

"Later the story of Osiris was still further elaborated, and the classical author Plutarch tells that under the guise of friendship, Set tricked Osiris into entering a beautiful decorated chest which was then fastened shut and thrown into the Nile. The river carried the chest out to sea, and it was finally washed up on the beach at Byblos in Lebanon where overnight an acacia tree sprang up and enclosed it. The King of Byblos had the tree cut down and made into a pillar for his palace.


Photo Hanny El Zeini
"Meanwhile, Isis, by supernatural means, learned the whereabouts of the body of her husband and, disguising herself as a poor widow, obtained a post as nurse to the ailing, only son of the King of Byblos. As in the ancient Greek story of Demeter (Ceres), Isis cured the child by laying him each night in the fire. The child recovered from his sickness and Isis claimed as her reward the pillar, which contained the body of Osiris. To the astonishment of the King and Queen of Byblos, Isis opened the pillar and revealed the chest containing the body of the God with which she returned to Egypt leaving the empty pillar to be preserved as a sacred relic in the temple at Byblos. This element of the story is probably based on the annual religious ceremony [held at Abydos -- left] of 'Setting Up the Djed Pillar,' which symbolized the resurrection of Osiris.

"Both early and late accounts tell how Isis, fearing the wrath of Set, fled to the marshes of the Delta where her son Horus was born and reared. When he reached manhood, Isis inspired Horus to avenge the murder of Osiris and claim the throne of Egypt as his rightful inheritance. After many military and legal battles, Horus finally vanquished Set and regained the throne of Egypt ruling in the high traditions of Osiris and becoming the perfect type of pharaoh for all future kings to imitate.

"Because of his virtuous life on earth, Osiris was resurrected to rule as King and Judge of the Dead in the Other World. In his great Hall of Justice, the heart (the seat of the conscience) was weighed in a balance against the ostrich feather of Maat [the goddess of Truth -- right]. This element is also found in the early and late versions of the story and is the earliest written evidence ever known of the belief in man's responsibility for his actions on earth, and shows the high ethical character of the Egyptian religion attained at such an early stage in man's attempt to build his moral and ethical principles [emphasis added] ..."

 

One of the central questions, still unanswered by any current archaeology, is the obvious: was this "Osiris" a "real" pre-historic pharaoh?; was there actually an "Isis," a "Set" or "Horus" in his kingdom? And was he cruelly murdered as demanded by the "plot?"

Or, were these endlessly retold and reenacted myths, involving these key "players," in fact, carefully "coded" allegories ... crafted by the Egyptian priest- hood as a specific means of preserving -- yet, at the same time, masking from "the profane" -- far deeper, ancient truths ..?

Omm Sety herself details some of these "secret" ceremonies, orches-trated across millennia for "the faithful" by the resident priesthood at Abydos:

"... on the days of annual pilgrimage, which coincided with the Great Feast of Osiris [from the 23rd to the 30th of the month of Khiak, which corresponds to January of the modern calendar], the [Abydos] necropolis became like an overcrowded city. Families [that] had tombs there would be encamped in the courtyards. Early comers no doubt found accommodation in the inns of the city, and the tardy, for whom 'there was no room at the inn,' could camp out in the temple courts or take shelter under the massive walls of the Temenos where they would have to share space with vendors of 'souvenirs of Abydos' (scarabs, small bronze figures of Osiris, amulets, etc ...).


Photo: Hanny El Zeini

"Although [the play] had probably been in existence since very early times, we now find proof and even details of the sacred Mystery Play [titled by Egyptologists "The Great Procession of Abydos"] performed here at this season. This play showed incidents in the life, death and resurrection of Osiris. In this play the part of Osiris was taken by a life-sized wooden statue of the God, adorned with gold and semiprecious stones. Horus was traditionally played by the King [Pharao

h] himself, although he sometimes delegated this honor to some important official. The other gods were personified by the priests and priestesses, and it was stipulated that women who played the parts of Isis and Nepthys should be virgins ...

"Each episode of the play took place on a separate day and in a special place. Some scenes, such as the murder of Osiris, took place inside the Temple (above) with only the king and priesthood present.

The sacred boat of Osiris, called Neshmet, was an important factor in this play, and sailed from Thinis to Abydos bearing the statue of Osiris and the sacred actors ...

"As we have said, the murder of Osiris was too sacred, too tragic and harrowing for public presentation, and the next episode [in the play] was the search for the body. This was enacted on the banks of the canal [connecting Abydos to the Nile] where the original incident was supposed to have occurred ..."

So, the ultimate "special meaning" of this remote place -- which demonstrably became the holiest in all of Egypt for both pharaoh and "commoner" alike -- was that here at Abydos is where "Osiris" actually was murdered ... and lies buried (or, at least his head!) ... somewhere underneath its "sacred sands."

This major assertion -- reinforced repeatedly in annual reenactments of Osiris' tragic death for literally thousands of years (if such a circumstance is even

comprehensible by "Western" minds) -- was further reinforced in 1909 by the chance discovery at Abydos of a mysterious underground "structure" ... which some believed could finally be Osiris' "Long Lost Tomb" ... much older and far more provocative than even Seti's splendiferous New Kingdom Temple:

Presupposing the whole issue, it was even called from the moment it was found: the "Osirion" ... the Monument to Osiris.

Omm Sety wrote it up this way:

"This imposing subterranean building (right) is one of the great puzzles of Egyptian Archaeology. No one really knows who built it or for what purpose, and so far as is known, there is not another one like it in the whole of Egypt. Curiously enough, certain elements of its architecture closely resemble the 'Gates of the Sun' in Peru, high up in the Andes Mountains ...

"... it was not until the early 1920's that the whole building was excavated and an account was published by Professor Henri Frankfort. Because he found the name of Sety I in the decoration of the ceiling of one of the rooms, he attributed the building to him and called it the Cenotaph of Sety I ... This is only one of many restorations to ancient monuments carried out by Sety. But it is no proof of his contribution to the construction of the building.

 

"The Osirion has also been attributed to the Middle Kingdom [c. 2160 - 1788 B.C.], but judging by its style, the method of building, the material used, and its original stark simplicity, it seems much more likely to be a product of the early IVth dynasty although the [geological] level at which it lies might tempt one to think of a much earlier date [emphasis added] ..."

Then, Omm Sety grapples with the central question ...

"What was the purpose of this mysterious building (left)? The fact that Mer-en-Ptah [13th son of Ramesses II, grandson successor to Seti-I] decorated the Entrance Passage with scenes and texts normally found in royal tombs suggests that in his day the building was apparently regarded as a tomb. The Great Hall itself suggests a stone sarcophagus, and the rectangular island [in the center of the Complex, surrounded by nine feet of water ...], the wooden coffin that it contains.

"Frankfort thought that the island, with its two flights of steps, was supposed to represent the first hill of dry land that emerged from the Primeval Ocean at the time of the Creation. He also thought that the large rectangular and square depressions in the surface of the island were for a sarcophagus and canopic chest, but they seem to be much too large for such a purpose ...

 

"Is it possible that some ruler of the Old Kingdom, thinking that a mud-brick mastaba tomb was unsuitable for Osiris, rebuilt it in eternal stone? In some of the ancient hymns Osiris is referred to as, "He who sleeps surrounded by water." If he were buried on (or in a still undiscovered chamber, inside) the island, this would certainly be true ...

"It would seem as though some Egyptians regarded it [the Osirion] as the Tomb of Osiris ... But as the channel surrounding the island has never yet been freed of its water, despite the use of powerful pumps, and probably never will be, it is unlikely that the mystery of the Osirion will be solved. It will always remain one of the most breath-taking puzzles of Egyptology; a challenge for a future generation of Egyptologists who must really make an exceptional effort [emphasis added] ..."

Indeed!

Omm Sety's striking description of "one of the most breath-taking puzzles of Egyptology '' -- this enigmatic granite structure, long buried underneath the sands at Abydos -- was obviously heavily influenced by the widespread thinking of early Egyptologists ...

 

Because, the same massive granite architecture and "original, stark simplicity" (in sharp contrast to the profuse adornment seen in Seti's over-whelming Temple), is also seen in the so-called "Valley Temple" on the Giza Plateau (above) ... hundreds of miles to the north!

Which led Omm Sety to conclude:

"... the inner corners of the walls of the halls and chambers [of the Osirion] are cut in one block of stone thus avoiding a vertical joint (below, left). This is a characteristic of IVth dynasty architecture and may also be seen in the Valley Temple of Khafra (below, right) beside the Great Sphinx of Giza ..."

 

But, though constrained in her thinking by the detailed similarities of aspects of the Osirion to features seen on the Plateau (which, all of her contemporaries emphatically know were built by IVth Dynasty pharaohs and no one else!), Omm Sety still retained enough observational skills and political independence to note a major geological discrepancy at Abydos ...

"... [the Osirion] seems much more likely to be a product of the early IVth dynasty although the [geological] level at which it lies might tempt one to think of a much earlier date [emphasis added] ..."

Sharp lady!

"Rogue" Egyptologist John Anthony West, and Boston University geologist Dr. Robert Schoch, leaders in the major redating controversy of the past few years that has erupted over the creation of the Sphinx (and its associated granite-lined Temples on the Plateau -- left), quietly concur; based on the previously highlighted Abydos architectural and geological evidence, and new geological data on water erosion from Giza itself (which radically redates the carving of the Sphinx), both now believe that the Osirion -- hundreds of miles to the south -- could well have been contemporaneous ... constructed, like the structures at Giza, by a still-unknown, sophisticated pre-Dynastic civilization ... literally thousands of years before Egypt's Old Kingdom ... possibly as far back as 10,500 B.C.

And, remember, the architectural style of the Osirion (as Omm Sety herself noted) shares striking characteristics with much of the "megalithic" walled architecture visible throughout the continent of South America (see above comparison with Abydos and Egypt) -- a quarter of the way around the world from Ancient Egypt!; architecture currently attributed by archaeologists to "Incan engineers," but clearly also from a culture now which inexplicably produced designs for perfect model airplanes that once flew ..!

 

 

(Continued in Part V)