- Abydos -

"The construction of the Temple of the Kings by Sety I and Ramess II
involves many interesting problems which we can begin now to unravel,
but which require also still more examination of the structure
before they can be fully solved.."

Flinders Petrie
("The Temple of the Kings at Abydos", 1902, page. 13)

Temple of the Kings is the largest ancient surviving Temple in Abydos (after completely ruined Osiris Temple, located in a kilometer to the north - west). The construction works of the Temple of the Kings were started by the Pharaoh Seti I - King of the XIX Dynasty. The finishing works, including the Temple yard and the first Hypostyle Hall were arranged by his son - Ramses II.

The total length of Temple complex, including subsidiary buildings, made 170 meters. Now, the survived and restored perimeter of the Temple complex makes 110 x 76 meters. The first major archaeological work in the Temple of Seti I was made in 1863 by French Egyptologist - Auguste Mariette.

Being built of blocks of limestone and sandstone, the Temple of the Kings has an "L"-shape. The question "what could serve the reason of building the Temple in such a form?" - always puzzled the minds of Egyptologists and architectors.

"The temple is irregular in shape. Mariette says that this is due to the rock formation which had to be cut into to lay the foundations, and that to avoid excessive labour, the builders altered the original plans. The nearest rock is at least a mile and a half away, and the foundations of the temple simply follow the outline of the desert surface. No excavating for foundations was attempted."


("The Temple of the Kings at Abydos", 1902, page. 1)

The same question, concerning the shape of the Temple, also attracted our interest from the engineering and architecture point of view. We return to this point later, but for now, we would like to invite our readers to the virtual photo tour inside the Temple of the Kings.


A big part of attention, during our expeditions, is paid to artistic component of ancient historical buildings - drawings and inscriptions. The scenes, depicting lives of the Kings, the founders and Governors of Ancient Egyptian Civilization - are looking at the visitors from the walls of the Temple.


As well as in Luxor Temple, the walls of the Temple of Seti I are keeping the "log" of the History, which is reflected not only in bas-reliefs, but also reveals in the cartouches containing the names of the Pharaohs, written one over another. This process, common in the time of Ramses II, meant the carving of the name of the present governing King instead of the resigned one, on the same cartouche. The old cartouche was "removed" from the sight with the help of clay or cement (thus making the surface smooth), and the new one was carved in the same place, with the same depth of relief. Ancient clay or cement can't withstand the millennial time intervals, and eventually came off the walls, leaving to us only the original stones with both reliefs of the same depth. The double cartouches with different names, are hard to read, and sometimes they wake fantastic imaginations, generating the most impossible associations in the minds of the tourist.

Below is "a classic example", showing two inscriptions one upon another, located on the architrave of the first Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of the Kings. This inscription contains the names of the two Egyptian Kings - Seti I and Ramses II (father and the son).


Chamber "K".

Considering the features of the internal architecture of the Temple (according to the following scheme of Auguste Mariette), it is impossible not to get puzzled with the question, concerning the origin and purpose of the room, specified by the author of the scheme with the letter "K". This room is a two-storey chamber with blank walls.

In his work, "Description des Fouilles" Vol1. Auguste Mariette wrote the following, concerning the Chamber "K":

"Here we show the description of the room, the purpose of which is difficult to imagine. This room is different from all the others. Its walls are made of rough stone and have no pictures. The floor is made of huge blocks and has a hole in the middle. There is no access for the air, no windows, no doors. In general, the chamber consists of two rooms, built one upon another.
Each room has two columns for support the ceiling. In the lower right corner of the basement room, there are a hole in the wall, close to the stairs. Why the "Chamber K" was included into a rectangular plan of the Temple?
If to suppose, that the tunnels under the Temple had ritual purposes, this chamber could be the entrance to one of them. Its strange shape is unclear. It is hard to explain.
When we began the excavations, we were sure that we have found that very water well, which was mentioned by Strabo, and which may have been used later by the people of the surrounding villages. This idea came into our minds, because of the fact, that the rubble which filled the chamber, almost on a three-quarters consisted of pieces of ceramic jars for carrying water. This can be explained by the close proximity of the water source. "


Auguste Mariette
Click here to see the original in French language.

Sources: Description des Fouilles" Vol1. 1869г. pages.27-28

This hidden chamber is also mentioned in the work "The Temple of the Kings Sethos I at Abydos. Part 3. page.6" (The Temple of King Sethos I at Abydos, Volume I-IV: The Second Hypostyle Hall. Copied by Amice M. Calverley, with the assistance of Myrtle F. Broome, and edited by Alan H. Gardiner. Originally published in 1958.) There are also notes in this work, telling about the damages of the west wing of the Temple, as its walls are passing over the canal, dug during the construction of Osireion. (Here the "Chamber K" is marked as "13")

Now the access to the "Chamber K" is possible only through the roof of the Temple. The ceiling of the second floor of the chamber is absent. The floor is partially missing. Two rectangular columns are seriously destroyed. No any traces of drawings, bas-reliefs and traces of their presence on the walls and the columns of the "Chamber K" can be seen on the second nor on the first floor. Whether the "Chamber K" was planned blank from the beginning of the Temple construction or it was isolated later for some unknown reasons - is unknown.


On the photos below, along with the reliefs, decorating the walls of the Temple, we tried to catch that very "drawdown" of the building, which was mentioned in the aforementioned work of 1958.


Judging from the photographic material (especially the first photo, showing the arch and the wall completely aligned) - the walls and the floor of the Temple in some places are considerably deflected from zero level of the horizon. Such differences are observed in many locations of the Temple interior.

"The walls of an Egyptian temple are not perpendicular, they are not straight, they are not parallel, their corners are not rectangular ; time, tourists, and natives have damaged them considerably, walls have bulged, foundations have sunk, surfaces have chipped."

("The Temple of the Kings at Abydos", 1902, page. 2)

Below are the pictures of the Temple of the Kings, how it looked like during the archaeological works of Thomas A. St. George Caulfeild and Flinders Petrie.

"We also found that the temple foundations were very shallow, and were resting on ordinary sand. The rock that so deranged the original design of the temple (according to Messrs. Mariette and Maspero) was not to be found."


("The Temple of the Kings at Abydos", 1902, page. 8)

So why is the Temple of the Kings, built by Pharaoh Seti I, has such a strange "L" shape? Why its walls in many places are cracked because of "drawdown"? It is impossible to give an exact answer to these questions without GPR researches of the ground under the Temple. We just may only make a theoretical assumption about the possible continuation of the megalithic Osireion underground structure, which may go under the foundation of the Temple of Seti I. Taking into account the fact that during the excavation of "Chamber K", Auguste Mariette mentioned are great number of broken water jars there, we can assume the existence of the underground water source, which ever flooded the basement structures beneath the Temple of the Kings.

As for the irregular shape of the Temple, built by Seti I, it is possible to assume that the architector was compelled to change his original building plan in order to avoid a "clash" with the older underground construction (Osireion), discovered during the construction of the Temple of the Kings...

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