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Abydos, or Abjdu, lies in the eight nome of Upper Egypt, about 300 miles south of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile and about 9.5 miles from the river. It spreads over 5 square miles and contains archaeological remains from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was significant in historical times as the main cult center of Osiris, the lord of the netherworld.

Abydos was the burial place for the first kings of a unified Egypt. But it contains remains from earlier, in the Predynastic period.

The Predynasty/Early Dynastic cemetery is located in the low desert. It consists of three parts: predynastic Cemetery U in the north, Cemetery B in the middle with royal tombs from Dynasty 0 and the early 1st Dynasty, and in the south the tomb complexes of six kings and one queen from the 1st dynasty and two kings from the 2nd dynasty. Most of the 1st dynasty tombs show traces of immense fires. Many had also been plundered many times.

North Abydos contains an ancient settlement and also the remains of a large stone temple from the 30th Dynasty, along with a portal structure of Ramesses II, and a fairly recently discovered temple built by Tuthmosis III. Most of the early town lies beneath modern groundwater and the remains of later settlements. Another temple, that of Khentyamentiu which was later identified with Osiris as his temple, dates from the later third millennium BCE.

A residential and industrial section have also been found to the southeast of those excavations, dating to the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. A number of mudbrick houses, consisting of between 7 and 10 small rooms, courtyards and a narrow street have been found. A workshop, the earliest and most complete faience workshop in Egypt, was also uncovered, complete with kilns.

The tombs of the first kings of unified Egypt were deep brick-lined structures topped with mounds of sand, later called mastabas, the Arabic word for bench, since their square or rectangular shapes resembled benches. Later in the 1st Dynasty, one structure was placed underground, supported by a retaining wall, and the second mastaba was placed above ground directly over the first, to protect the lower one.

The Northern cemetery was the principal burial ground for non-royal individuals at Abydos during the Middle Kingdom, and continued to be so used through the Greeco-Roman period.


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