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Abusir: Realm of Osiris

Miroslav Verner
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    At the center of the world-famous pyramid field of the Memphite necropolis there lies a group of pyramids, temples, and tombs named after the nearby village of Abusir. Long overshadowed by the more familiar pyramids at Giza and Saqqara, this area has nonetheless been the site, for the last forty years, of an extensive operation to discover its past. This exciting new book—richly endowed with black-and-white historical photographs, color plates of contemporary work, and informative illustrations—at last documents the uncovering by a dedicated team of Czech archaeologists of a hitherto neglected wealth of ancient remains dating from the Old Kingdom to the Late Period. This is Abusir, realm of Osiris, God of the dead, and its story is one of both modern archaeology and the long-buried mysteries that it seeks to uncover.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-227-0
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Miroslav Verner
  4. Chapter 1 In the Shadow of Memphis
    (pp. 1-40)

    Flooded with sunlight, the landscape of the Nile Valley is a network of irrigation canals interwoven with a many-colored mosaic of fields, villages, gardens, and palm groves. The area around the village of Mit Rahina, not far from the famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara, is no exception. At first sight there is almost nothing to suggest that it was here, almost within sight of the high-rise buildings of Cairo, which encroach ever campaigns to the Western Asia. It was a city which, at the height of its prosperity, extended over an area of approximately 50 square kilometers, but which then...

  5. Chapter 2 Abusir—The Rise of a Royal Necropolis
    (pp. 41-68)

    Of the sixty or so villages named Abusir in Egypt only one is an archaeological site of first-class importance; the Abusir with the cemetery of Fifth Dynasty kings. The history of Abusir is much older than the Fifth Dynasty, however.

    In the Early Dynastic Period, Abusir became a rapidly growing cemetery. In south Abusir, close to the Early Dynastic cemetery in north Saqqara, a rich, upper middle class cemetery dating from the First and Second Dynasty was revealed at the beginning of the twentieth century by a German archaeological expedition directed by Hans Bonnet. Three decades later another Early Dynastic...

  6. Chapter 3 Under the Sign of the Sun
    (pp. 69-90)

    From ancient times man’s spirit has been drawn towards the sun, that mysterious radiant heavenly body which brings both benefit and destruction, life and death. Yet rarely has fascination with the sun reached the level that it did in Ancient Egypt. Undoubtedly a factor contributing to this was the particular natural environment of Egypt, a fertile strip of land stretching along the banks of the Nile from south to north and closed in on both sides to east and west by seemingly unending and eternally scorched desert. The fertile valley and the desert, water and sun—so sharp yet so...

  7. Chapter 4 The Royal Mother
    (pp. 91-114)

    Visitors to the royal cemetery at Giza, who stand awestruck in front of that wonder of the world, the Great Pyramid, are usually convinced that its owner, Khufu, was the greatest of the Egyptian pyramid-builders. He was not. That pre-eminence belongs to his father Sneferu, who built no less than four pyramids with a total volume that exceeds the work of Cheops by roughly one third. It was on the orders of Sneferu that the pyramid in Meidum, the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid in Dahshur, and the small pyramid in Seila were raised toward the heavens. Altogether, an incredible...

  8. Chapter 5 The Secret of the Unfinished Pyramid
    (pp. 115-142)

    Partly submerged in sand and almost coalescing with the surrounding desert terrain is the lowest step of a pyramid core that lies only a few dozen meters southwest of Neferirkare’s pyramid. For a long time it represented what was, for Egyptologists, one of the mysteries of the Abusir cemetery. Some attributed the building to the little-known Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Neferefre, while others considered it the work of the still lesser-known ruler of the period, Shepseskare (see above p. 58). There were also those who hesitated to make any identification of its owner. They all agreed, however, that it was an...

  9. Chapter 6 The Testimony of the Papyrus Archives
    (pp. 143-166)

    Among the scanty Old Kingdom hieratic documents, the Abusir papyri undoubtedly occupy a very prominent position. At first sight, these fragmentary records of the Abusir pyramid temple administration and economy might seem unattractive and dull. However, their meaning for ancient Egyptian history is invaluable. Moreover, the intriguing circumstances of their discovery, and the tricks which fate played with them make of the Abusir papyri an apt subject for a romantic novel. Nobody can precisely identify the day on which a group ofsabbakhin, the “fertilizer men” from the village of Abusir set out, as they had done so often before,...

  10. Chapter 7 The Dazzling Career of the Royal Hairdresser
    (pp. 167-188)

    Richard Lepsius, the celebrated founder of first German department of Egyptology at Berlin university, and other members of the German expedition who visited Abusir in 1843, were convinced that the remains of a pyramid lay concealed under the huge ruins on the northeast edge of the necropolis. For this reason they assigned the Roman numeral XIX to this antiquity on the maps published subsequently in the first volume of their monumental work,Denkmáler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien. They had earlier decided to use Roman numerals to designate pyramids, starting from the north and proceeding south. The number I was therefore...

  11. Chapter 8 The Traitor’s Tomb?
    (pp. 189-208)

    The Memphite necropolis has been a center of archaeological interest from as early as the start of the last century. It has been criss-crossed by the paths of many scientific expeditions and archaeological surveys. Major reconstruction projects are constantly underway here. The mass of published information and the detailed archaeological maps of individual localities suggest, at first sight, that everything here has long ago been discovered, and studied and described several times over. The casual observer might easily believe that there is now no scope left for a new and surprising archaeological find. But this would be a very superficial...

  12. Chapter 9 Iufaa—an Intact Tomb!
    (pp. 209-224)

    Archaeological field work is patient and seemingly unexciting labor with only rare lucky finds or, as the Arabs say, the “onion” days which are only rarely interrupted by a “honey” day. The Czech archaeological team at Abusir had an opportunity to realize to its full extent the verity of this saying in 1996 when it succeeded in making its luckiest find so far: the unrobbed shaft tomb of Iufaa. The thrilling story of the discovery, excavation, and saving of the tomb of Iufaa taught the team a lesson about the complexity of archaeological field work and the ever present safety...

  13. Chapter 10 South Abusir: At the Crossroads of History
    (pp. 225-244)

    For about two hundred years, the vast Memphite necropolis has attracted the attention of countless archaeologists and it belongs, without any exaggeration, to the best archaeologically examined areas in the world. However, it does not mean—and this has been repeatedly emphasized in the previous chapters—that there are no “white-spots ” on the archaeological map of the necropolis. Indeed, surprisingly large areas remain as yet unexplored by archaeologists. The same cannot be said, however, for the robbers and their “mapping” of the Memphite necropolis antiquities. Both these statements are illustrated by a large cemetery identified by the Czech team...

  14. Chapter 11 In Search of Lost Time
    (pp. 245-260)

    Like so many of Ancient Egypt’s illustrious places, into an oblivion from which it seemed there would be no recall. It was an oblivion only confirmed by the activities of generations of tomb robbers,sabbakhin, and stone thieves, whose work of destruction started as early as the end of the second millennium BCE and gradually turned the once noble pyramids into heaps of unlovely ruins. Desert and sand have done no more than mercifully conceal the damage inflicted by man. Nevertheless it seems that the casing of the Abusir pyramids was still largely preserved and the monuments were standing, more...

  15. Chronological List of Rulers and Dynasties
    (pp. 261-268)
  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 269-270)
  17. Index
    (pp. 271-274)