The Potsherds of Abydos

My blog this week will focus on Abydos and a few of its interesting traits. In lecture, it was briefly mentioned how the ground is covered in broken pottery. On a quest to find out why there were once so many pots there, I discovered a few other interesting facts about the place and wanted to share.

We also learned in lecture that Abydos was believed to be one of many entrances to the under world. For this reason, many pharaohs chose to build their tombs here. In an article from National Geographic, I read about an archaeologist by the name of David O’Connor. He came looking for several things at Abydos, and after spending several years at the site, discovered a fleet of boats, each buried in its own mud-brick lined tomb. There were 14 boats total, and they measured up to 75 feet long. It was also noted that they had been completely functional and in good shape when buried. They were probably buried to serve as transportation for the kings so that they could reach the underworld successfully.

Along with the boats, servants’ bodies were also discovered. The presence of so many bodies dating back to dying at such close times is very good evidence of the Egyptians’ practice of human sacrifice. Research suggests that there may have been physical movement even after the bodies were buried which could mean that the individuals were only unconscious (not necessarily dead) at the time of burial. Drugs or strangling may have been used to put them down. The sacrificial practice ensured that the kings would be assisted by their servants in the afterlife.

Although Abydos was not always the most popular place for kings to build their tombs, the Middle Kingdom saw another spike in popularity. Osiris, king of the afterlife, was known to be the first king of Egypt, according to legend. Priests were sent by pharaohs to locate Osiris’ tomb, finally designating Djer’s tomb as the one. This process led Abydos to become the “mecca of Ancient Egypt.” Several thousand Egyptians made the pilgrimmage every year to visit the ‘tomb of Osiris’ and to celebrate his resurrection. This is where the potsherds come in. Offering pots full of fruit and burning incense were laid out in hopes of receiving Osiris’ blessing to pass through to the afterlife. Now they lay scattered, in a billion pieces.


1 thought on “The Potsherds of Abydos

  1. I found the site of Abydos really interesting this week as well. The fact that the ground is covered in broken pottery makes it a very special site where as you said the ancient Egyptians believed it to be one of the entrances to the underworld. I really appreciated that you went out and found additional information on this site and the article you found supplied a lot of fascinating things about Abydos. What I found especially fascinating were the details about the bodies of the servants and how they may have only been unconscious at the time of burial. I understand that Egyptians used to sacrifice humans but burying them when they are still alive and only unconscious surprised me. I now want to know why they kept them alive and didn’t kill them like I would have believed them to. Where they buried alive so that they could “consciously” assist in taking their king to the afterlife, or for some other reason?

    I also thought that the story of Osiris and the reason for all the pot shards was very interesting. The fact that Abydos is the “mecca of Ancient Egypt” makes it an especially extraordinary site to research and learn more about. Abydos can tell us more the pilgrimage they went on every year to offer pots of various items at the tomb of Osiris in order to make it to the afterlife and about the religious life of the Egyptians and their lives in general.

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