March 14, 2012

Archeological Team Makes Interesting Egyptian Discovery

A team from the University of Toronto in Abydos, Egypt have discovered a wooden statue of a king, a monumental building, a private offering chapel, and more than 80 mummified animals during a 2011 expedition. The artifacts they´ve discovered provide details into the rituals performed by ancient egyptians to the gods.

Professor Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner with the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations led the University of Toronto team. She presented the team´s findings at a recent meeting of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

The items found by the research team provide some very intriguing details about an ancient festival for the god Osiris.

The wooden statue is one of only a very few remaining of its kind. The team believe this statue represents Egypt´s female king, Hatshepsut. Egyptian´s believed pharaohs to be the son of god Amon-Re, therefore Hatshepsut dressed as a man in order to fit into her role. The statue in question, however, features a soft jaw line and a thin waist, leading the researchers to believe that this statue is made in her likeness. These wooden statues were a part of a ceremonial procession celebrating the afterlife of Osiris.

To ensure identification with Osiris and their eternal participation in the festival, Egyptians from all levels of society would build monuments and chapels along the processional route. These monuments could not be built too closely along the route, however, and the punishment for such a crime was death. The monumental building discovered by the team is thought to have been built as closely along the route as possible. Therefore, it is believed that a member of elite society built this monument to Osiris. The building is estimated as having been built between 1990 and 1560 BC.

“The offering chapel proves that people – probably elites – were able to build monuments right next to the processional route in the Middle Kingdom, and that at least one such chapel was allowed to stand in this increasingly densely built-up area and continued to receive offerings even 800 years after its initial construction,” says Pouls Wegner.

An important deity in the Osiris procession was the jackal god Wepwawet. Wepwawet was a war god and an “opener of the ways”. He protected the dead on their way into the afterlife and, as such, led the procession of Osiris. In another, larger building discovered by the University of Toronto team, the mummified remains of more than 80 animals were found. These animals are believed to have been sacrificed to Wepwawet and may have even been pets before they were used in this processional. The researchers found 2 cats, 3 sheep or goats, and at least 83 dogs inside the larger building. This building may have been constructed as a large temple or royal chapel before being repurposed as a storage area for mummified animals.

The team conducted the dig during June and July of 2011. They were supported by a research grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation of Anthropological Research.


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