In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner of the University of Toronto reveals some recent finds from an archaeological excavation in Abydos, Egypt.
Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner is Assistant Professor of Egyptian Archaeology in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. She also serves at Project Director for the North Abydos Votive Zone Project , an ongoing project which focuses on understanding the social organization of the community that left behind traces of votive activity at the site. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner – Egyptian Archaeology
The site of Abydos in southern Egypt has long attracted pilgrims and archaeologists. As the center of the cult of Osiris, god of death and regeneration, Abydos drew people from allwalks of life to participate in a festival that dramatized the god’s successful post-mortemtransformation. The focal point of the festival was a procession in which statues of Osiris, along with his wife Isis and son Horus, were carried on the shoulders of priests in boat-shaped shrinesacross the desert landscape from his temple dwelling to his tomb.
Along the way, participants dramatically re-enacted the murder of Osiris, then entered thesubterranean tomb, where rituals magically regenerated the inert body of the god. When Osiris emerged from the tomb, he was brought back in triumph to his temple amid general rejoicing. Kings, elites, and commoners all sought to participate in this transformation by constructing monuments and making offerings along the route of the procession.
With the events of the "Arab Spring" still unfolding, a team of researchers from theUniversity of Toronto travelled to Abydos to continue ongoing archaeological investigation ofthis symbolically-charged site. That fieldwork produced remarkable new insights into theactivity of individuals from a broad spectrum of different socio-economic levels, including aseries of mummified dogs that served as votive offerings to the jackal deity Wepwawet (aprotector of Osiris).
The most important recent finds are elements of ceremonial equipment from the Osirisfestival rites: part of the sacred boat shrine of the falcon-headed god Horus, and a royal wooden statue that may represent Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh who ruled Egypt nearly 3500 yearsago. These artifacts provide the first known physical evidence of the shrines in which the localdeities were conveyed across the ancient landscape, otherwise known only through texts and scenes carved on temple walls. They are the tangible traces of moments in the unimaginably distant past in which individuals confronted the essential problem of human mortality.