On Friday 10th December, the dream of many members of the team came true. After several seasons of trying, we were finally able to make a two-day trip to Abydos.
It was a journey of more than four hours by bus along the desert route. This route allowed us to contemplate the beauty of the Egyptian desert, very different from what we are used to seeing in the Theban necropolis.
As it is such a long trip, we decided to make the most of the day by stopping at the necropolis of El-Hawawish. It is a little-known necropolis where elite members of the fifth and sixth dynasties are buried, located in the city of Akhmim.
Raúl studied these tombs for his doctoral thesis, so we were fortunate to have the benefit of the explanations of an expert in the field. We were all delighted to hear him talk about the funerary rituals that took place in the Old Kingdom and their participants.
We also took the opportunity to quickly visit the temple of Meritamon, the daughter-wife of Ramses II, where we enjoyed the colossal statues of both of these royal figures.
From Akhmim we continued on to Sohag, where we spent the night. There we dined in a delicious Syrian restaurant before returning to our hotel where we played cards and danced and sang some songs. We didn’t stay up too late though, because Abydos awaited us in the morning!
Abydos is located some 91 kilometres northwest of Luxor, in the present-day city of El Araba, and is a site whose archaeological remains extend over an area of around 8 square kilometres. For four millennia Abydos saw everything from the burial of the first Egyptian kings to the construction of great temples, along the way becoming one of the most important religious centres in the country, with Osiris as its main god.
One of the projects digging there is led by American Josef W. Wegner. It is a combined expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University that has been working at the site since the 1990s. Their 2021 campaign had just started a few weeks ago, so we had the immense honour of receiving a guided tour of the site.
Wegner began by showing us the excavations taking place in the southern area. We were also fortunate to have Nicholas Picardo (Harvard University) show us part of the Wah-Sut settlement that is currently being excavated.
We then went to the tomb of Senwosret III. It is an immense complex, more than fifty metres underground, full of passages and impressive chambers. We saw the sarcophagus and the canopic chest, and the internal areas that Wegner plans to excavate in the near future. It was quite an experience and for many members of our team it rated as the most spectacular place they had ever seen.
Afterwards we said goodbye to Wegner and visited the temple of Ramses II, the Osireion and the temple of Seti I. The latter is one of the most impressive cultural complexes in ancient Egypt and we spent at least a couple of hours visiting every chapel, nook and cranny, beginning with the royal list of Abydos!
The trip ended with a visit to Shunet el-Zebib. This is an immense mud-brick complex dating from the second dynasty, the reign of Khasekhemuy, whose function is still debated in Egyptology.
From the processional wadi of Abydos we set off for home. As it was Sergio’s birthday, the trip turned into quite a party, with singing and even attempts at belly dancing on the bus. This did not stop when we arrived at the Marsam because, as always, the wonderful employees of the hotel were waiting for us with cake and their now legendary happy birthday songs.
It might cost us a bit more to go to the site tomorrow as we are all a bit tired from our adventure, but it was certainly worth it. It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of this campaign.