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illustrated london news

May 30, 1914


  The side aisles only, about ten feet wide, had ceilings. It is doubtful whether the middle nave was roofed. It was, perhaps, only covered at the end over the enterance to the "tomb of Osiris". When the work reached the lower layer of the enclosure wall, a very extraordinary discovery was made. In this wall, all round the structure are cells about six feet high and wide, all exactly alike, without any ornament or decoration. They had doors, probably made of wood, with a single leaf; one can see the holes where they turned. Such cells are not seen in any other Egyptian construction.

What was still more surprising is that they do not open on to a floor, but on to a narrow ledge which ran on both sides of the nave. There was no floor in those aisles; under the ledge, which is slightly projecting, the beautiful masonry goes on, and at a depth of twelve feet water was reached. It is at the level of the infiltration water in the cultivated land, though the structure is in the desert. This year the Nile is lower than it is known to have been for more than fifty years.

Were the river at anormal height, the water would reach the ledge, which is below the cultivated land. Thus the two aisles and the two ends of the middle nave form a continuous rectangular pool, the sides of which are very fine masonry on large blocks.....
The middle nave is a block of masonry also made of enormous stones, which goes down as deep as the water, and on which rest the pillars of the colonnades. The floor is at the same level as that of the cells and of the ledge. This platform is an island; it could be reached only with a small boat or by a wooden bridge; there is water on four sides. Even in front of the  doorway, there is only the ledge; there is no pathway of any kind leading to it. On both sides - east and west - there are two staircases leading from the platform to the watert. The last step is about three feet above the present level of the water. In a normal year the two or three last steps would be covered....

This showed that there was behind the wall something of a funerary character, the tomb of Osiris, perhaps. Osiris, although he was a god, was supposed to have been torn to pieces by his enemy, Set of Typhon, and his limbs had been scattered among the chief cities of Egypt. Abydos being the residence of the god, its share had been the head, which was buried in his tomb. That tomb was very famous, and various excavators have been searching for it for years. When the lower part of the end wall of the nave was cleared, there appeared the door of a cell quite similar to the other ones. The back wall of this cell had been broken through in order to make an opening, a door which had been blocked afterwards with stones. It gave access to a large subterranean chamber, wider than the whole construction, very well preserved, with a ceiling consisting of two slabs leaning against each other. On the ceiling and on the side walls are funerary representations like those of  the tombs of the kings. It is evidently a tomb and the sculptures show it to be what was regarded as the tomb of Osiris. The chamber was quite empty except ofr a heap of sand in one of the corners. When this had been removed, it was found that the sand came through a hole used by robbers. There was no sarcophagus or object of any kind. It is not to be supposed that anything of that sort can be found in a construction used for centuries as a quarry.

The tomb of Osiris is of a later date than the pool with its cells.... As  for the pool, it is probably one of the most ancient constructions which have been preserved in Egypt. It is exactly in the style of the so-called temple of the Sphinx, which is a work of the IVth Dynasty, and one of the characteristic features of which is the total absence of any inscription or ornament. But the pool is even more colossal. In the temple of the Sphinx the pillars are 4 feet square; here they are 8 1/2 feet. It is impossible, in spite of the havor made, not to be struck by the majestic simplicity of the structure, chiefly in the corner where the ceiling has remained.