Statue, chapels and animal mummies found in Egypt

March 12, 2012
This rare example of a royal statue made of wood may represent the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. See more at http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/egypt-photos/. Credit: Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner

A wooden statue of a king, a private offering chapel, a monumental building and remains of over 80 animal mummies found by a University of Toronto-led team in Abydos, Egypt reveal intriguing information about ritual activity associated with the great gods.

Professor Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations presented her team's findings at a recent meeting of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

The wooden statue is one of very few existing royal wooden statues, and may represent the female king Hatshepsut. She was often portrayed as male in stone because the Egyptian pharaoh was understood to be son of the god Amon-Re (she was also known to dress as a man for the role). But this statue has a smaller waist and delicate jawline, acknowledging these aspects of her feminine physique. It is believed to be from a ceremonial procession in which wooden statues of the royal ancestors (spirits of the kings) and gods were carried in boat-shaped shrines by priests from the temple of Osiris to his tomb. The procession was part of a festival celebrating the afterlife of the god Osiris.

Egyptians from all levels of society built chapels and monuments along the processional route as a way of ensuring their eternal participation in the festival and their identification with Osiris. Building too close to the route, however, was prohibited by the state and infringement carried the threat of the death penalty. The offering chapel they uncovered is believed to be that of an elite person, dates from about 1990 – 1650 BC and shows where the boundary to the route was.

"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.

A much larger structure discovered is likely either a temple or royal chapel from the Ramesside Period. Long after its initial construction, the structure was re-used as a repository for animal mummies. In this context, the researchers found a mass of animal bones and linen fragments. Two cats, three sheep or goats, and at least 83 dogs, ranging in age from puppies to adults, were discovered. Several of the animals had recovered from injuries, suggesting that they had been cared for before they were sacrificed, probably for the jackal god Wepwawet, who was an important deity in the Osiris festival as the leader of the procession and protector of the cemetery.

The dig was conducted in Egypt in June and July 2011. It was supported by a research grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation of Anthropological Research with photo and survey equipment provided by U of T's Archaeology Centre. Wegner's team included Ayman Damarany, Barakat 'Eid Ahmed and Mahmoud Mohamed of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, archaeological illustrator Tamara Bower and U of T graduate students Meredith Brand, Amber Hutchinson, Christina Geisen and Janet Khuu.

Explore further: 3,400-year-old Egyptian statue is found

Related Stories

3,400-year-old Egyptian statue is found

January 25, 2006

Johns Hopkins archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a life-sized, 3,400-year-old statue of one of the queens of the powerful king Amenhotep III.

Door to afterlife from ancient Egyptian tomb found

March 29, 2010

(AP) -- Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, the Egyptian antiquities authority said Monday.

57 ancient tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt

May 23, 2010

(AP) -- Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

Archaeologists find statue of Tutankhamun's grandad

October 2, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed part a 3,000-year-old statue of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, believed to be the grandfather of the young King Tutankhamun, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Saturday.

Dig finds statue pieces in pharaonic temple ruins

December 16, 2010

Archaeologists have found fragments of a statue of an ancient god and a pharaoh in a site that once housed ancient Egypt's largest funerary temple, the antiquities council said on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.