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london illustrated news

May 30, 1914

by Edouard Naville


The excavations made during this winter at Abydos by the Egypt Exploration Fund, under the direction of the present writer, assisted by Professor Whittemore, from Boston, Mr. Wainwright and Mr. Gibson, have given quite unexpected results. They have led to the discovery of a building which at present is unique in its kind, and which probably is one of the most ancient constructions preserved in Egypt: a great pool with porches and the tomb of Osiris.

It is situated behind the western wall of the temple built by Seti I, which is the chief attraction at Abydos for travellers. It was entirely subterranean, at a depth of more than thirty feet below the temple, and nothing revealed its existence....

This year's work required a considerable number of men. It was begun with 450; at the end there were 639, four-fifths of whom were boys carrying baskets. The sides of the building had to be traced, and tons of rubbish and loose sand had to be removed from the middle; at the end of eleven weeks the whole structure had been laid bare.

tomb of osiris
It consists of a rectangle, the inside of which is about a hundred feet long and sixty wide. The two long sides are north and south; east is the side of the temple of Seti; west the doorway with the lintel, fifteen feet long, which had been discovered in 1912. The enclosure wall  is twenty feet thick. It consists of two casings: the outer one is limestone rather roughly worked; the inner one is in beautiful masonry of red quartzite sandstone. The joints are very fine; there is only a very thin stratum of mortar, which is hardly perceptible. Here and there the thick knob has been left which was used for moving the stones. The blocks are very large - a length of fifteen feet is by no means rare; and the whole structure has decidedly the character of the primitive constructions which in Greece are called cyclopean, and an Egyptian example of which is at Ghizeh, the so-called temple of the Sphinx.

This colossal character is even more striking in the inner part. It is divided into three naves or aisles of unequal size - the middle one being wider. These naves are separated by two colonnades of square monolithic pillars about fifteen feet high and eight and a half feet square. There are five of them in each colonnade. They supported architraves in proportion with them, their height being more than six feet. These architraves and the enclosure wall supported a ceiling, also of granite monoliths, which was not made of slabs, but of blocks, like the architraves more than six feet thick. It had been calculated that one of the few of them remaining weighs more than thirty tons. Unfortunately, in one corner only has the ceiling been preserved. The whole building has been turned into a quarry, especially the inside, which was entirely granite. Pillars, architraves, ceiling, everything has been broken and split with wedges, traces of which are seen everywhere, in order to make millstones of various sizes. Several of them weighing seven or eight tons, have been left.