Abydos

Greek rendering of the name of the ancient city that was once the capital of the eighth Upper Egyptian nome, also called the Thinite nome. Here, near the modern site of Umm el-Qa'ab, are located the remains of the tombs of a number of kings from the Proto-dynastic Period, including that of King Djer, which from at least the Middle Kingdom on was considered to be the tomb of Osiris, ruler of the hereafter. Osiris' cult and temple largely superseded that of the original local god of Abydos, Khentimentiu. According to tradition, after Seth had cut Osiris to pieces and had his body parts scattered throughout Egypt, Osiris' head was buried at Abydos. The nome symbol for the city symbolises this head, wearing the Osiris crown with a double plume.

Considered to be a holy place, Egyptians wanted to be buried here, though, if impossible, a cenotaph at Abydos or at the very least a stela would safeguard their name and representation there. Thousands of these memorials, from roughly the Middle Kingdom on, have been found at Abydos, many near the temple of Osiris. Abydos was also a popular place of pilgrimage, both for the living (preferably during the celebration of the mystery festivals) as for the dead, who would travel here during their funeral through the depictions of the boat journey in their tomb. The most important buildings still visible here are some temples dating to the 19th Dynasty. Apart from a temple of Ramesses II, the sanctuary built by Seti I is particularly well preserved, with its associated 'Osireion', assumed to be a cenotaph for the king. Its walls contain parts of the Book of the Dead and the Book of Gates, as well as a cosmological scene of the sky goddess Nut bent over the earth. Famous too is the king-list carved in the temple itself, a list of 76 kings from Menes up to and including Sethos I.