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Seshat (also given as Sefkhet-Abwy and Seshet) is the Egyptian goddess of the written word. Her name literally means “female scribe” and she is regularly depicted as a woman wearing a leopard skin draped over her robe with a headdress of a seven-pointed star arched by a crescent in the form of a bow. This iconography has been interpreted as symbolizing supreme authority in that it is common in Egyptian legend and mythology for one to wear the skin of a defeated enemy to take on the foe’s powers, stars were closely associated with the realm of the gods and their actions, and the number seven symbolized perfection and completeness. The leopard skin would represent her power over, and protection from, danger as leopards were a common predator. The crescent above her headdress, resembling a bow, could represent dexterity and precision, if one interprets it along the lines of archery, or simply divinity if one takes the symbol as representing light, along the lines of later depictions of saints with halos.

A relief from the back of the throne of a seated statue of Ramesses II depicting the Egyptian goddess of writing Seshat. 13th century BCE, Luxor Temple, Egypt.

Among her responsibilities were record keeping, accounting, measurements, census-taking, patroness of libraries and librarians, keeper of the House of Life (temple library, scriptorium, writer’s workshop), Celestial Librarian, Mistress of builders (patroness of construction), and friend of the dead in the afterlife. She is often depicted as the consort (either wife or daughter) of Thoth, god of wisdom, writing, and various branches of knowledge. She first appears in the 2nd Dynasty (c. 2890- c. 2670 BCE) of the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE) as a goddess of writing and measurements assisting the king in the ritual known as “stretching of the cord” which preceeded the construction of a building, most often a temple.

The ancient Egyptians believed that what was done on earth was mirrored in the celestial realm of the gods. The daily life of an individual was only part of an eternal journey which would continue on past death. Seshat featured prominently in the concept of the eternal life granted to scribes through their works. When an author created a story, inscription, or book on earth, an ethereal copy was transferred to Seshat who placed it in the library of the gods; mortal writings were therefore also immortal. Seshat was also sometimes depicted helping Nephthys revive the deceased in the afterlife in prepration for their judgment by Osiris in the Hall of Truth. In this capacity, the goddess would have helped the new arrival recognize the spells of The Egyptian Book of the Dead, enabling the soul to move on toward the hope of paradise.

Unlike the major gods of Egypt, Seshat never had her own temples, cult, or formal worship. Owing to the great value Egyptians placed on writing, however, and her part in the construction of temples and the afterlife, she was venerated widely through commonplace acts and daily rituals from the Early Dynastic Period to the last dynasty to rule Egypt, the Ptolemaic Dynasty of 323-30 BCE. Seshat is not as well known today as many of the other deities of ancient Egypt but, in her time, she was among the most important and widely recognized of the Egyptian pantheon.

Responsibilities & Duties

According to one myth, the god Thoth was self-created at the beginning of time and, in his form as an ibis, lay the primordial egg which hatched creation. There are other versions of Thoth’s birth as well but they all make mention of his vast knowledge and the great gift of writing he offered to humanity. Thoth was worshipped as early as the Pre-Dynastic Period (c. 6000- c. 3150 BCE) at a time when Egyptian writing consisted of pictographs, images representing specific objects, prior to their development into hieroglyphics, symbols representing sounds and concepts. At this time, Thoth seems to have been considered a god of wisdom and knowledge – as he remained – and once a writing system was developed it was attributed to him.

A limestone relief slab depicting Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of writing. ca. 1919-1875 BCE. (Brooklyn Museum, USA).


Perhaps because Thoth already had so many responsibilities, the Egyptians transferred the supervision of writing to the goddess Seshat. Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson notes how Seshat appears in reliefs and inscriptions in the Early Dynastic Period as a goddess of measurements and writing, clearly indicating she was already an important deity at that time:

Representations show the king involved in a foundation ritual known as “stretching the cord” which probably took place before work began on the construction of a temple or of any addition. These depictions usually show the king performing the rite with the help of Seshat, the goddess of writing and measurement, a mythical aspect which reinforced the king’s central and unique role in the temple construction (Symbol & Magic, 174).

Seshat’s responsibilities were many. As record-keeper she documented everyday events but, beginning in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2613-c. 2181 BCE), she also recorded the spoils of war in the form of animals and captives. She also kept track of tribute owed and tribute paid to the king and, beginning in the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE), was closely associated with the pharaoh recording the years of his reign and his jubilee festivals. Egyptologist Rosalie David notes how she “wrote the king’s name on the Persea tree, each leaf representing a year in his allotted lifespan” (Religion and Magic, 411). Throughout all these periods, and later, her most important role was always as the goddess of precise measurements and all forms of the written word. The Egyptians placed great value on attention to detail and this was as true, if not more so, in writing as any other aspect of their lives.

Importance of Writing in Egypt

The written word was considered a sacred art. The Greek designation hieroglyphics for the Egyptian writing system means “sacred carvings” and is a translation from the Egyptian phrase medu-netjer, “the god’s words”. Thoth had given the gift of writing to humanity and it was a mortal’s responsibility to honor that gift by practicing the craft as precisely as possible. Rosalie David comments on the Egyptian ideal of writing:

The main purpose of writing was not decorative and it was not originally intended for literary or commercial use. Its most important function was to provide a means by which certain concepts or events could be brought into existence. The Egyptians believed that if something were comitted to writing it could be repeatedly “made to happen” by means of magic (Handbook,199).

The spells of The Egyptian Book of the Dead are the best examples of this concept. The Book of the Dead is a guide through the afterlife written for the deceased. The spells the soul speaks help one to navigate through assorted dangers to arrive at the perfect paradise of the Field of Reeds. One needed to know how to avoid demons, how to transform one’s self into various animals, and how to address the entities one would meet in the next world and so the spells had to be precise in order to work.

A detail from the Book of the Dead of Aaneru from Thebes, Third Intermediate Period, XXI Dynasty, 1070-946 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

The Book of the Dead evolved from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom but, even before this time, one can see the Egyptian precision in writing at work in the Offering Lists and Autobiographies of tombs in the latter part of the Early Dynastic Period. Writing, as David notes, could bring concepts or events into existence – from a king’s decree to a mythological tale to a law, a ritual, or an answered prayer – but it also held and made permanent that which had passed out of existence. Writing made the transitory world of change into one everlasting and eternal. The dead were not gone as long as their stories could be read in stone; nothing was ever really lost. The sacred carvings of the Egyptians were so important to them that they dedicated whole sections of temples or temple complexes to a literary institution known as The House of Life.

House of Life

The House of Life was a combination library, scriptorium, institute of higher learning, writer’s workshop, print shop/copy center, publisher, and distributor. The Egyptians referred to the institution as Per-Ankh (literally “House of Life”) and it is first mentioned in inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom. These were located in temples or temple complexes and would have been presided over by Seshat and Thoth no matter which god the temple was dedicated to. Since the gods were thought to literally reside in their temples, this arrangement would be comparable to having a permanent house-guest in one’s home who takes care of responsibilities one may value but simply has not time for. Wilkinson notes how “by virtue of her role in the foundation ceremony [Seshat] was a part of every temple building” (Complete Gods, 167). She was also an integral part of the temple through her supervision of the House of Life. Historian and Egyptologist Margaret Bunson describes their function:

Research was conducted in the House of Life because medical, astronomical, and mathematical texts perhaps were maintained there and copied by scribes. The institution served as a workshop where sacred books were composed and written by the ranking scholars of the times. It is possible that many of the texts were not kept in the Per-Ankh but discussed there and debated. The members of the institution’s staff, all scribes, were considered the learned men of their age. Many were ranking priests in the various temples or noted physicians and served the various kings in many administrative capacities (204-205).

The scribes were most commonly associated with the sun god Ra in earlier times and with Osiris in later periods no matter which god resided in a particular temple. Bunson claims that probably only very important cities could support a Per-Ankh but other scholars, Rosalie David among them, cite evidence that “every sizable town had one” (Handbook, 203). Bunson’s theory is substantiated by the known structures identified as a Per-Ankh at Amarna, Edfu, and Abydos, all important cities in ancient Egypt, but this does not mean there were not others elsewhere; only that these have not been positively identified as yet.

The Papyrus Lansing is an anthology of texts praising the profession of the scribe, dating to the New Kingdom of Egypt.

Seshat’s role at the House of Life would have been the same as anywhere else: she would have received a copy of the texts written there for the library of the gods where it would be kept eternally. Rosalie David writes:

It would seem that the House of Life had both a practical use and a deeply religious significance. Its very title may reflect the power of life that was believed to exist in the divinely inspired writings composed, copied, and often stored there…In one ancient text the books in the House of Life are claimed not only to have the ability to renew life but actually to be able to provide the food and sustenance needed for the continuation of life (Handbook, 203-204).

It is a certainty that the majority of the priests and scribes of the Per-Ankh were men but some scholars have pointed to evidence for female scribes. Since Seshat was herself a divine female scribe it would make sense that women practiced the art of writing as well as men.

Female Scribes

Women in ancient Egypt enjoyed a level of equality unmatched in the ancient world. It is well substantiated that women could be, and were, scribes in that we have names of female physicians and images of women in important religious posts such as God’s Wife of Amun; both of these occupations required literacy. Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley writes:

Although the only Egyptian woman to be depicted actually putting pen to paper was Seshat, the goddess of writing, several ladies were illustrated in close association with the traditional scribe’s writing kit of palette and brushes. It is certainly beyond doubt that at least some of the daughters of the king were educated and the position of private tutor to a royal princess could be one of the highest honour.

It is known, for example, that the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) hired a tutor for her daughter Neferu-Ra and that Queen Nefertiti (c. 1370- c. 1336 BCE) was literate as was her mother-in-law, Queen Tiye (1398-1338 BCE). Still, when it comes to the majority of women in Egypt, images and inscriptions leave some doubt as to how many could actually read and write. Egyptologist Gay Robins explains:

In a few New Kingdom scenes, women are depicted with scribal kits under their chairs and it has been suggested that the women were commemorating their ability to read and write. Unfortunately, in all cases but one, the woman is sitting with her husband or son in such a way that it would cramp the available space to put the kit under the man’s chair, and so it may have been moved back to a place under the woman’s. This happens in a similar scene when the man’s dog is put under the woman’s chair. So one cannot be sure that the scribal kit belonged to the woman. If there was a large group of literate women in ancient Egypt, they do not seem to have developed any surviving literary genres unique to themselves (113).

While this may be true, one cannot discount the possibility that female scribes were responsible for works of literature, either in creating or copying them. Egyptian society was quite conservative and written works generally adhered to a set structure and theme throughout the various periods of history. Even in the New Kingdom, where literature was more cosmopolitan, literature still adhered to a basic form which elevated Egyptian cultural values. Arguing that there were few female scribes based on there being no “women’s literature” in ancient Egypt seems in error as the literature of the culture could hardly be considered “masculine” in any respect save for the kings’ monumental inscriptions.

In the famous story of Osiris and his murder by Set it is not Osiris who is the hero of the tale but his sister-wife Isis. Although the best-known creation myth features the god Atum standing on the ben-ben at the beginning of time, an equally popular one in Egypt has the goddess Neith creating the world. Bastet, goddess of the hearth, home, women’s health and secrets, was popular among both men and women and the goddess Hathor was regularly invoked by both at festivals, parties, and family gatherings. The deity who presided over the brewing of beer, the most popular drink in Egypt, was not male but the goddess Tenenet and the primary protector and defender of Isis when she was a single mother safe-guarding Horus was the goddess Serket. Seshat is only one of a number of female deities venerated in ancient Egypt reflecting the high degree of respect given to women and their abilities in a number of different areas of daily life.

Seshat the Foundation

As noted, although Seshat never had a temple of her own, she was the foundation of the temples constructed in her role as Mistress of Builders and her participation in the ritual ceremony of “stretching the cord” which measured the dimensions of the structure to be raised. The floor plan of the temple was laid out through the “stretching the cord” ceremony after an appropriate area of land had been decided upon. Wilkinson comments on the process of situating a temple and Seshat’s ritual role in this:

The rite involved the careful orientation of the temple by astronomical observation and measurement. Apparently this was usually accomplished by sighting the stars of a northern circumpolar constellation through a notched wooden instrument called a merkhet and thus acquiring a true north-south orientation which was commonly used for the temple’s short axis. According to the texts, the king was assisted in this ritual by Seshat (or Sefkhet-Abwy), the scribal goddess of writing and measurement (Temples, 38).

In addition to setting the foundation of the temple, Seshat also was responsible for the written works that temple produced and housed in its House of Life and, further, for gathering these works into her eternal library in the realm of the gods. Although Thoth was responsible for the initial gift of writing, his consort Seshat lovingly gathered the works that gift produced, presided over them in the libraries on earth, and kept them eternally safe on her shelves in the heavens. As writing was both a creative and preserving art, one which brought concepts to life and caused them to endure, which bestowed eternal life on both the writer and the subject, Seshat would be considered by the ancient Egyptians as the goddess responsible for the preservation of Egyptian culture and its enduring fascination among the people of the present day.



Hathor (/ˈhæθɔːr/ or /ˈhæθər/;[2] Egyptian: ḥwt-ḥr; in Greek: Ἅθωρ, meaning “mansion of Horus”) is an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of ancient Egypt. Hathor was worshipped by royalty and common people alike. In tomb paintings, she is often depicted as “Mistress of the West”, welcoming the dead into the next life. In other roles, she was a goddess of music, dance, foreign lands, and fertility. She was believed to assist women in childbirth. She was also believed to be the patron goddess of miners.

Hathor is an ancient Egyptian goddess associated, later, with Isis and, earlier, with Sekhmet but eventually was considered the primeval goddess from whom all others were derived. She is usually depicted as a woman with the head of a cow, ears of a cow, or simply in cow form. In her form as Hesat she is shown as a pure white cow carrying a tray of food on her head as her udders flow with milk. She is closely associated with the primeval divine cow Mehet-Weret, a sky goddess whose name means “Great Flood” and who was thought to bring the inundation of the Nile River which fertilized the land.

Head of the ‘cow goddess’ Hathor, 1417-1379 BCE. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Through this association, Hathor came to be regarded as the mother of the sun god Ra and held a prominent place in his barge as it sailed across the night sky, into the underworld, and rose again at dawn. Her name means “Domain of Horus” or “Temple of Horus” which alludes to two concepts. The first allusion is to the part of the sky where the king (or dead king) could be rejuvenated and continue rule (or live again) while the second is to the myth that Horus, as sun god, entered her mouth each night to rest and returned with the dawn. In both cases, her name has to do with rebirth, rejuvenation, inspiration, and light. Her relationship with the sky identified her with Venus, the evening and morning star.

The sistrum is her instrument which she used to drive evil from the land and inspire goodness. She is the patron goddess of joy, celebration, and love and was associated with Aphrodite by the Greeks and with Venus by the Romans. She was always, from the earliest times, associated with women and women’s health in body and in mind. In time, women came to identify with Hathor in the afterlife the same way that, previously, all people identified with the god Osiris. She was an immensely popular and influential goddess. Scholar Geraldine Pinch comments on this, writing:

Hathor was the golden goddess who helped women to give birth, the dead to be reborn, and the cosmos to be renewed. This complex deity could function as the mother, consort, and daughter of the creator god. Many lesser goddesses came to be regarded as “names” of Hathor in her contrasting benevolent and destructive aspects. She was most commonly shown as a beautiful woman wearing a red solar disk between a pair of cow’s horns (137).

The red solar disk, as well as a number of Hathor’s personal attributes, would come to be associated with the later goddess Isis. In time, Isis absorbed more and more of the characteristics of Hathor until she supplanted her as the most popular and widely worshipped in Egypt.

Mythical Origins

Although in time she came to be considered the ultimate personification of kindness and love, she was initially literally a blood-thirsty deity unleashed on mankind to punish humans for their sins. An ancient tale similar to that of the biblical flood tells of the great god Ra becoming enraged at human ingratitude and evil and releasing Sekhmet upon humanity to destroy them. Sekhmet descends on the world in a fury of destruction, killing everyone she finds and toppling their cities, crushing their homes and tearing up fields and gardens. At first, Ra is pleased because humanity had forgotten him and the gifts of the gods and had turned to only thinking of themselves and following after their own pleasure. He watches Sekhmet’s swath of destruction with satisfaction until the other gods intervene and ask him to show mercy. They point out that Sekhmet is going too far in teaching this “lesson” to humanity and how, soon, there will be no human beings left on earth to benefit from it.

This bust comes from a triad statue that showed King Amenhotep III flanked by the god Osiris and the goddess Hathor.

Ra regrets his decision and devises a plan to stop Sekhmet’s bloodlust. He orders Tenenet, the Egyptian goddess of beer, to brew a particularly strong batch and then has the beer dyed red and delivered to Dendera. Sekhmet, by this time, is crazed with the thirst for more blood and, when she comes upon the blood-red beer, she quickly seizes it and begins drinking.

She becomes drunk, falls asleep, and wakes up as Hathor the benevolent. Humanity was spared destruction and their former tormentor became their greatest benefactress. Following her transformation, Hathor bestowed only beautiful and uplifting gifts on the children of the earth and assumed such high status that all the later goddesses of Egypt can be considered forms of Hathor. She was the primordial Mother Goddess, ruler of the sky, the sun, the moon, agriculture, fertility, the east, the west, moisture, and childbirth. Further, she was associated with joy, music, love, motherhood, dance, drunkenness and, above all, gratitude.

Worship of Hathor

Unlike other deities of ancient Egypt, whose clergy needed to be of the same sex as the deity they served, those who served Hathor could be men or women. Hathor’s cult center was at Dendera, Egypt, but she was widely regarded and worshipped throughout Egypt to the extent that she was also honored as a goddess of the afterlife in the Field of Reeds (the Egyptian land of the dead). Originally, when one died in ancient Egypt, whether male or female, one assumed the likeness of Osiris (lord and judge of the dead) and was blessed by his qualities of moral integrity. So popular was Hathor, however, that, in time, the female dead who were deemed worthy to cross into the Field of Reeds assumed Hathor’s likeness and qualities while the male dead continued to be associated with Osiris. Geraldine Pinch writes:

The Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead have spells to help the deceased live forever as a follower of Hathor. In a Late Period story, Hathor rules the underworld, emerging to punish those who behave unjustly on earth. By the Greco-Roman period, dead women in the afterlife identified themselves with Hathor instead of Osiris. It was only after Isis took over many of her attributes that Hathor lost her place as the most important of Egyptian goddesses (139).

Hathor’s popularity is attested to by the number of minor goddesses who shared her attributes and were considered aspects of the Mother Goddess. The most important of these were the Seven Hathors who were present at the birth of a human being and decreed their fate. Hathor was, in early times, worshipped in the form of a cow or as a cow with stars above her. Later she was pictured as a woman with the head of a cow and, later still, as a woman complete with a human face but sometimes with the ears or horns of a cow. The Seven Hathors shared these attributes but also had a red ribbon which they used to bind evil forces and dark demons. The Seven Hathors were venerated highly in life for their ability to assist in matters of love and protection from harm and, after death, for their protective abilities against the forces of darkness.

Golden chain links in the shape of Hathor heads. From the treasure of the Nubian queen Amanishakheto, pyramid N6, Meroe, modern-day northern Sudan. Meroitic period, around 1 CE. (State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany).

As a goddess who transcended life and death, Hathor was widely worshipped and came to be identified with a deity inscriptions call The Distant Goddess. This is a goddess who abandons her father Ra and assumes the form of a wild feline to elude any attempts to find her or catch her. She vanishes into the distant desert and hides in the arid plains. This goddess was identified with Mehit, a protective goddess, with Sekhmet, Bastet, Mut, and others but quite often with Hathor. A god is sent forth by Ra to find his daughter and bring her home and, when this happens, she brings with her the inundation of the Nile River which overflowed its banks and brought life to the people. Before she released the life-giving waters, however, she had to be placated and shown appreciation. Geraldine Pinch writes:

When the Distant Goddess returned, she brought the inundation with her, but she had to be pacified with music, dancing, feasting, and drunkenness. This was the mythical justification for the wild, ecstatic elements in Hathor’s cult. It was proper for the whole of creation to rejoice when Hathor appeared again in all her radiant beauty and joined forces with her father (138).

Pinch notes that this union of Hathor and her creator-father “could be thought of in sexual terms or, more abstractly, as a merging of the creator with his own active power” (138). An example of this is the role Hathor plays in one of the versions of the story of The Contendings of Horus and Set which continues the tale of the Osiris Myth.

The five Gifts of Hathor

A part of the initiation into her cult appears to have been a ritual known as The Five Gifts of Hathor in which a communicant would be asked to name the five things they were most grateful for while looking at the fingers of their left hand. As the poor of Egypt did not own their own land, but labored for others in the fields, their left hand was always visible to them as they reached out to harvest grain which would then be cut by the blade in their right hand. By naming the five things one was grateful for, and identifying them with the fingers of the left hand, one was constantly reminded of the good things in one’s life and this kept one from the `gateway sin’ of ingratitude from which, it was thought, all other sins followed. For the more affluent of Egypt, considering the Five Gifts would have been a way to keep from envying those more prosperous than oneself and a means by which one was reminded to be humble in the face of the gods. This humility would show itself by one’s service to others. Historian Margaret Bunson comments on this:

In the Daily Royal Rites, as shown on temple reliefs, Hathor nursed the king or his priestly representative from her breasts, thus giving him the grace of office and the supernatural powers to protect Egypt (107).

She served the king and his court as nurse and, by doing so, fed all the people of Egypt as the prosperity of the land was intimately tied to the health, well-being, and stability of the king. If a goddess of Hathor’s stature could freely serve others, it was thought, so could anyone else. Hathor continued this service to humanity after death as Geraldine Pinch notes:

As the goddess of the West, Hathor welcomes the setting sun into her outstretched arms. For both gods and peole, Hathor eased the transition from death to new life. The time and manner of a person’s death was decreed by a sevenfold form of Hathor. As Lady of the Necropolis, she opened the gates of the underworld. As a tree goddess, she revived the newly dead with shade, air, water, and food. The spirits of the dead could imbibe eternal life from the milk of the seven Hathor cows (138-139).

Hathor’s humble service is depicted through inscriptions and texts throughout Egypt’s history from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) through the last dynasty to rule Egypt, the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE). In her earthly form as a dairy cow, Hathor was known as Hesat, the wet-nurse to the gods, and is always associated with motherhood, motherly instincts, and the care of others. Milk was known as `The beer of Hesat’ and The Milky Way as seen in the night sky also came to be associated with her as it was considered a heavenly Nile River, the giver and sustainer of all life. As mistress of song and dance, of celebration and gratitude, bringer of life and comforter in death, Hathor embodied the heavenly Nile in all ways as she brought the best gifts of the gods to the people of earth.

Source and Images: wikipedia,


Seti I

Seti I – Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I as in Greek) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC to 1279 BC[4] and 1290 BC to 1279 BC[5] being the most commonly used by scholars today.

The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (also termed “Sutekh” or “Seth”). As with most pharaohs, Seti had several names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen “mn-m3‘t-r‘ “, usually vocalized as Menmaatre, in Egyptian, which means “Established is the Justice of Re.”[1] His better known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as “sty mry-n-ptḥ” or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah”. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty, and gave him a reign length of 55 years, though no evidence has ever been found for so long a reign.

The spectacular tomb of Seti I reveals the importance of his reign. As the son of Ramses I, Seti was only the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. However, many Egyptologists consider him the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

A Military Man

As the son of Ramses I and Queen Sitre, Seti Merenptah followed in his father’s footsteps as a military man. Egyptians considered him a powerful man, and he earned multiple titles, including troop commander, vizier and head archer. He led many campaigns during the reign of his father and during his own reign.

Upon the death of his father, Seti took the name Menmaatre Seti as his official pharaoh name, which meant “Established is the Justice of Re.” He married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. They had four children together. Their third child, Ramses II, would succeed Ramses on the throne in approximately 1279 BC.

Blurring of Dates

The exact dates of Seti’s reign are uncertain. Egyptian pharaohs frequently changed the dates of previous reigns to remove unpopular pharaohs from history. Because of this practice, many theories exist as to when rulers actually ascended to the throne and how long they remained in power.

Most researchers believe Seti reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC. Estimates of this vary from 5 to 20 years. The longest estimate is that he ruled for 55 years, although there is little evidence to this claim. Because of the revisions to history, birth and death dates are unknown.

Restoration of Egypt

Seti’s strong military experience played a major role during his reign. He personally led many military campaigns into Syria and Lybia. He continued expanding Egypt to the east and worked to restore the empire to the past glory of the 18th dynasty. His troops were the first Egyptian forces to meet the Hittites in battle, keeping them from invading Egypt.

Egyptians knew Seti as the “Repeater of Births,” meaning he began an era of order and restoration. Approximately 30 years had elapsed between the reigns of Tutankhamen and Seti I. The pharaohs during this time period focused on the restoration of not only the empire, but also the reliefs vandalized during the reign of King Akhenaten. Egyptologists recognize Seti I as the best known of all the restorer pharaohs due to his marking of repairs with his name.

Many of Seti’s restorations and additions are considered continuations of work left incomplete by previous rulers. He continued the work started by his father on the great Hypostyle hall at Karnak. He also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, but left it to be finished by his son.

Seti’s Tomb

Archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I in October of 1817. Located in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb features an amazing display of display of tomb paintings covering the walls, columns and ceilings. The paintings and bas reliefs provide researchers with valuable information full of meaning and symbolism.

The quality of the reliefs throughout the parts of the building probably surpasses anything found at any other New Kingdom site.

Belzoni considered the tomb the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Hidden passageways revealed secret rooms, while long corridors served to confuse tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were missing. It would take archaeologists 70 years to find the final resting place of Seti I.

In 1881, Seti’s mummy was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahri. Damage to his alabaster sarcophagus indicated that his tomb had been robbed and his body disturbed during antiquity. His mummy was damaged, but he had been carefully repaired and re-wrapped.

Examinations of his mummy revealed Seti died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some researchers believe he died of an illness involving his heart. The hearts of most pharaohs remained in place during mummification. Seti’s mummified heart was located on the wrong side of the body, leading to the theory that perhaps it had been relocated in an effort to cleanse it of disease.

Sources: wikipedia, Reliefs image source: Flicker (kairoinfo4u).



Anubis is one of the most prominent and mystical gods of ancient Egypt. He was known since the earliest periods in the history of the civilization that was based near the Nile River.

Anubis (/əˈnuːbɪs/ or /əˈnjuːbɪs/;[2] Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις, Egyptian: jnpw, Coptic: ⲁⲛⲟⲩⲡ Anoup) is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists identified the sacred animal of Anubis as an Egyptian canid, that at the time was called the golden jackal, but recent genetic testing has caused the Egyptian animal to be reclassified as the African golden wolf.

A scene from a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus depicting Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife.

Anubis is the Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless. He is one of the oldest gods of Egypt, who most likely developed from the earlier (and much older) jackal god Wepwawet with whom he is often confused. Anubis’ image is seen on royal tombs from the First Dynasty of Egypt (c. 3150-2890 BCE) but it is certain he had already developed a cult following prior to this period in order to be invoked on the tomb’s walls for protection. He is thought to have developed in response to wild dogs and jackals digging up newly buried corpses at some point in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) as the Egyptians believed a powerful canine god was the best protection against wild canines.

Depiction and Associations

He is depicted as a black canine, a jackal-dog hybrid with pointed ears, or as a muscular man with the head of a jackal. The color black was chosen for its symbolism, not because Egyptian dogs or jackals were black. Black symbolized the decay of the body as well as the fertile soil of the Nile River Valley which represented regeneration and life. The powerful black canine, then, was the protector of the dead who made sure they received their due rights in burial and stood by them in the afterlife to assist their resurrection. He was known as “First of the Westerners” prior to the rise of Osiris in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) which meant he was king of the dead (as “westerners” was the Egyptian term for departed souls in the afterlife which lay westward, in the direction of sunset). In this role, he was associated with eternal justice and maintained this association later, even after he was replaced by Osiris who was then given the honorary title ‘First of the Westerners’.

In earlier times, Anubis was considered the son of Ra and Hesat (associated with Hathor), but after his assimilation into the Osiris myth he was held to be the son of Osiris and his sister-in-law Nephthys. He is the earliest god depicted on tomb walls and invoked for protection of the dead and is usually shown tending to the corpse of the king, presiding over mummification and funerals, or standing with Osiris, Thoth, or other gods at the Weighing of the Heart of the Soul in the Hall of Truth in the afterlife. A popular image of Anubis is the standing or kneeling man with the jackal’s head holding the golden scales on which the heart of the soul was weighed against the white feather of truth. His daughter is Qebhet (also known as Kabechet) who brings cool water to the souls of the dead in the Hall of Truth and comforts the newly deceased. Anubis’ association with Nephthys (known as “Friend to the Dead”) and Qebhet emphasizes his long-standing role as protector of the dead and a guide for the souls in the afterlife.

Weighing of the heart scene, with en:Ammit sitting, from the book of the dead of Hunefer.

Name & Role in Religion

The name “Anubis” is the Greek form of the Egyptian Anpu (or Inpu) which meant “to decay” signifying his early association with death. He had many epithets besides “First of the Westerners” and was also known as “Lord of the Sacred Land” (referencing the area of the desert where necropoleis were located), “He Who is Upon his Sacred Mountain” (referencing the cliffs around a given necropolis where wild dogs and jackals would congregate), “Ruler of the Nine Bows” (a reference to the phrase used for traditional enemies of Egypt who were represented as nine captives bowing before the king), “The Dog who Swallows Millions” (simply referring to his role as a god of death), “Master of Secrets” (since he knew what waited beyond death), “He Who is in the Place of Embalming” (indicating his role in the mummification process), and “Foremost of the Divine Booth” referencing his presence in the embalming booth and burial chamber.

As his various epithets make clear, Anubis was central to every aspect of an individual’s death experience in the role of protector and even stood with the soul after death as a just judge and guide. Scholar Geraldine Pinch comments on this, writing, “Anubis helped to judge the dead and he and his army of messengers were charged with punishing those who violated tombs or offended the gods” (104). He was especially concerned with controlling the impulses of those who sought to sow disorder or aligned themselves with chaos. Pinch writes:

“A story recorded in the first millenium BCE tells how the wicked god Set disguised himself as a leopard to approach the body of Osiris. He was seized by Anubis and branded all over with a hot iron. This, according to Egyptian myth, is how the leopard got its spots. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his bloody skin as a warning to evildoers. By this era, Anubis was said to command an army of demon messengers who inflicted suffering and death.”

Wooden figures of the Egyptian gods Anubis (jackal), Thoth (ibis), and Horus (falcon). Holes in their bases suggest they were carried on poles as standards for use during funeral processions. Ptolemaic Period, 3rd-2nd century BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

In the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) and Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) Anubis was the sole Lord of the Dead and righteous judge of the soul, but as the Osiris myth became more popular, the latter god took on more and more of Anubis’ attributes. Anubis remained a very popular god, however, and so was assimilated into the Osiris myth by discarding his earlier parentage and history and making him the son of Osiris and Nephthys born of their affair. According to this story, Nephthys (Set’s wife) was attracted by the beauty of Osiris (Set’s brother) and transformed herself to appear to him as Isis (Osiris’ wife). Osiris slept with Nephthys and she became pregnant with Anubis but abandoned him shortly after his birth in fear that the affair would be discovered by Set. Isis found out about the affair and went searching for the infant and, when she found him, adopted him as her own. Set also found out about the affair, and this is given as part of the reason for his murder of Osiris.

After his assimilation into the Osiris myth, Anubis was regularly seen as Osiris’ protector and “right-hand man” who guarded the god’s body after death, oversaw the mummification, and assisted Osiris in the judgment of the souls of the dead. Anubis was regularly called upon (as attested to from amulets, tomb paintings, and in written works) for protection and vengeance; especially as a powerful ally in enforcing curses placed on others or defending one’s self from such curses.

Although Anubis is very well represented in artwork throughout Egypt’s history he does not play a major role in many myths. His early role as Lord of the Dead, prior to assimilation into the Osiris myth, was static as he only performed a single solemn function which did not lend itself to elaboration. As the protector of the dead, who invented mummification and so the preservation of the body, he seems to have been considered too busy to have involved himself in the kinds of stories told about the other Egyptian gods. Stories about Anubis are all along the lines of the one Geraldine Pinch relates above.

Worship of God

The priests of Anubis were male and often wore masks of the god made of wood in performing rituals. The god’s cult center was in Upper Egypt at Cynopolis (“the city of the dog”), but there were shrines to him throughout the land and he was universally venerated in every part of the country.Scholar Richard H. Wilkinson writes:

“The chapel of Anubis in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri may have given continuity to an earlier shrine of the god in that area and provides an excellent example of the continuing importance of the god long after his assimilation into the cult of Osiris. Because he was said to have prepared the mummy of Osiris, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers and in the Memphite necropolis an area associated with the embalmers seems to have become something of a focal point for the cult of Anubis in the Late Period and Ptolemaic times and has been termed ‘the Anubeion’ by modern Egyptologists. Masks of the god are known, and priests representing Anumbis at the preparation of the mummy and the burial rites may have worn these jackal-headed masks in order to impersonate the god; they were certainly utilized for processional use as this is depicted representationally and is mentioned in late texts. The many two- and three-dimensional representations of Anubis which have survived from funerary contexts indicate the god’s great importance in this aspect of Egyptian religion and amulets of the god were also common. “

Although he does not play a major role in many myths, his popularity was immense, and as with many Egyptian deities, he survived on into other periods through association with the gods of other lands. The Greeks associated him with their god Hermes who guided the dead to the afterlife and, according to Egyptologist Salima Ikram,

[Anubis] became associated with Charon in the Graeco-Roman period and St. Christopher in the early Christian period…It is probable that Anubis is represented as a super-canid, combining the most salient attributes of serveral types of canids, rather than being just a jackal or a dog.

This “super-canid” offered people the assurance that their body would be respected at death, that their soul would be protected in the afterlife, and that they would receive fair judgment for their life’s work. These are the same assurances sought by people in the present day, and it is easy to understand why Anubis was such a popular and enduring god. His image is still among the most recognizable of all the Egyptian gods, and replicas of his statuary and tomb paintings remain popular, especially among dog owners, in the modern day.

Sources:, Wikipedia.



Merenptah 1213 – 1203 BC. In his last years, Rameses II had allowed the whole of the west side of the Delta to fall into the hands of foreigners, and on the east side the native Egyptians were being rapidly ousted by foreign settlers. His extravagant building projects had damaged the economy of the country and the people were impoverished. Now, through neglect, Egypt was in danger of losing the whole Delta, first to foreign immigrants and then by armed invasion.

This is the situation Rameses’ son, Merenptah, inherited. He spent the first few years of his reign making preparations for the struggle which he knew to be inevitable. For the first time in over 400 years, since the Hyksos shepherd kings had seized the delta at the end of the middle kingdom, Egypt was in danger of being overrun.

The Libyan chief, Meryawy, had decided to attack and conquer the Delta he was convinced of an easy victory believing the Egyptians to have grown soft. So confident was he that he brought his wife and children and all his possessions with him.

The night before the decisive battle Merenptah had a prophetic dream, “His Majesty saw in a dream as if a statue of the god Ptah stood before his Majesty. He said, while holding out a sword to him, ‘Take it and banish fear from thee.”

Merenptah had stationed archers in strategic positions, and they poured their arrows into the invading armies. “The bow -men of his Majesty spent six hours of destruction among them, then they were delivered to the sword.”

Then when the enemy showed signs of breaking, Merenptah let loose his charioteers among them. He had promised his people that he would bring the enemy “like netted fish on their bellies”, and he fulfilled his promise. His Triumph-Song shows that he regarded the defeat of the Libyans not so much as a great victory but rather as a deliverance.

“To Egypt has come great joy. The people speak of the victories which King Merenptah has won against the Tahenu: How beloved is he, our victorious Ruler! How magnified is he among the gods! How fortunate is he, the commanding Lord!

Sit down happily and talk, or walk far out on the roads, for now there is no fear in the hearts of the people.

The fortresses are abandoned, the wells are reopened; the messengers loiter under the battlements, cool from the sun; the soldiers lie asleep, even the border-scouts go in the fields as they list.

The herds of the field need no herdsmen when crossing the fullness of the stream. No more is there the raising of a shout in the night, ‘Stop! Someone is coming! Someone is coming speaking a foreign language!’ Everyone comes and goes with singing, and no longer is heard the sighing lament of men.

The towns are settled anew, and the husband man eats of the harvest that he himself sowed.

God has turned again towards Egypt, for King Merenptah was born, destined to be her protector.”

The defeat of the Libyans saved Egypt from utter ruin but her economic and political decline continued at a steady pace. The only other record of this time is of a grain shipment to the Hittites to relieve a famine so it seems the treaty between the two peoples continued to hold firm.

The rest of the dynasty is torn by political struggles for the throne. These pharaohs were all weaklings and their disputes only served to plunge the country into civil disorder.

“The land of Egypt was overthrown. Every man was his own guide, they had no superiors. The land was in chiefships and princedoms, each killed the other among noble and mean.”


Merneptah had to carry out several military campaigns during his reign. In year 5 he fought against the Libyans, who— with the assistance of the Sea Peoples— were threatening Egypt from the West. Merneptah led a victorious six-hour battle against a combined Libyan and Sea People force at the city of Perire, probably located on the western edge of the Delta. His account of this campaign against the Sea Peoples and Libu is described in prose on a wall beside the sixth pylon at Karnak, which states:

[Beginning of the victory that his majesty achieved in the land of Libya] -I, Ekwesh, Teresh, Lukka, Sherden, Shekelesh, Northerners coming from all lands.
Later in the inscription, Merneptah receives news of the attack:

… the third season, saying: ‘The wretched, fallen chief of Libya, Meryre, son of Ded, has fallen upon the country of Tehenu with his bowmen–Sherden, Shekelesh, Ekwesh, Lukka, Teresh, Taking the best of every warrior and every man of war of his country. He has brought his wife and his children–leaders of the camp, and he has reached the western boundary in the fields of Perire.’

In the Athribis Stele, in the garden of Cairo Museum, it states “His majesty was enraged at their report, like a lion”, assembled his court and gave a rousing speech. Later he dreamed he saw Ptah handing him a sword and saying “Take thou (it) and banish thou the fearful heart from thee.” When the bowmen went forth, says the inscription, “Amun was with them as a shield.” After six hours the surviving Nine Bows threw down their weapons, abandoned their baggage and dependents, and ran for their lives. Merneptah states that he defeated the invasion, killing 6,000 soldiers and taking 9,000 prisoners. To be sure of the numbers, among other things, he took the penises of all uncircumcised enemy dead and the hands of all the circumcised, from which history learns that the Ekwesh were circumcised, a fact causing some to doubt they were Greek.

There is also an account of the same events in the form of a poem from the Merneptah Stele, widely known as the Israel Stele, which makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his 5th year in Canaan: “Israel has been wiped out…its seed is no more.” This is the first recognised ancient Egyptian record of the existence of Israel–“not as a country or city, but as a tribe” or people.

Limestone block showing a pair of unfinished cartouches of Merenptah (Merneptah) I. 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London


Merneptah was already an elderly man in his late 60s, if not early 70s, when he assumed the throne. Merneptah moved the administrative center of Egypt from Piramesse (Pi-Ramesses), his father’s capital, back to Memphis, where he constructed a royal palace next to the temple of Ptah. This palace was excavated in 1915 by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led by Clarence Stanley Fisher.

Merneptah’s successor, Seti II, was a son of Queen Isetnofret. However, Seti II’s accession to the throne was not unchallenged: a rival king named Amenmesse, who was either another son of Merneptah by Takhat or, much less likely, of Ramesses II, seized control of Upper Egypt and Kush during the middle of Seti II’s reign. Seti was able to reassert his authority over Thebes in his fifth year, only after he overcame Amenmesse. It is possible that before seizing Upper Egypt, Amenmesse had been known as Messuwy and had been viceroy of Kush.

Merneptah makes an offering to Ptah on a column

Merneptah’s Tomb and Mummy

Stone sarcophagus of Merneptah in KV8.

Merneptah suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died an old man after a reign which lasted for nearly a decade. Merneptah was originally buried within tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was not found there. In 1898 it was located along with eighteen other mummies in the mummy cache found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) by Victor Loret. Merneptah’s mummy was taken to Cairo and eventually unwrapped by Dr. G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Dr. Smith notes that:

The body is that of an old man and is 1 meter 714 millimeters in height. Merneptah was almost completely bald, only a narrow fringe of white hair (now cut so close as to be seen only with difficulty) remaining on the temples and occiput. A few short (about 2 mill) black hairs were found on the upper lip and scattered, closely clipped hairs on the cheeks and chin. The general aspect of the face recalls that of Ramesses II, but the form of the cranium and the measurements of the face much more nearly agree with those of his [grand]father, Seti the Great.


Ahmose I

Ahmose I (Egyptian: Jˁḥ ms(j.w), sometimes written Amosis I, “Amenes” and “Aahmes” and meaning Born of Iah[5]) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, King Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old his father was killed,[6] and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes, after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother,[7] and upon coronation became known as Neb-Pehty-Re (The Lord of Strength is Re). The name Ahmose is a combination of the divine name ‘Ah’ (see Iah) and the combining form ‘-mose’.

Egypt’s 18th Dynasty that established the New Kingdom is, to most people interested in Egypt, a dynasty of stars. It is the dynasty of Tutankhamun who was a fairly minor king, but perhaps the best known of any of the pharaohs. It was also the dynasty of the well known Akhenaten, and of Queen Hatshepsut.

The founder of this Dynasty is less well known to the general public, but unquestionably of major importance to Egyptian history. He was Ahmose I, during who’s reign Egypt was finally and completely liberated from the Hyksos. Various scholars attribute different dates to his reign, but he probably became ruler of Egypt around 1550 BC at the age of 10, and ruled for a period of around 25 years before his death (examination of his well preserved mummy suggest he was about 35 when he died).

Ahmose I (Amosis to the Greeks) was given the birth name Ah-mose (The Moon is Born). His thrown name was Neb-pehty-re (The Lord of Strength is Re). He was probably a boy when he assumed the thrown, having lost his father Seqenenre Taa II and his brother Kahmose within three years of each other. His mother was Queen Ashotep, a powerful woman who was perhaps his co-regent during his early years.

Egyptologists believe that during his very early reign, little was probably accomplished and perhaps the Hyksos may have even gained some ground, recapturing Heliopolis. However, by the end of his first decade in power, we know from an Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, a naval officer from El-Kab, that he laid siege on Avaris (The tomb of Ahmose Pennekheb, another soldier also records the campaigns). This was a long battle interrupted by the need to put down insurrections in already liberated territories, but appears to have been successful sometime between his 12th and 15th year as ruler. Afterwards, he attacked the southwest Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen in a six year siege that would finally put an end to Hyksos control of Egypt.

Stele of Ahmose I – Egyptian_Museum

Next, he turned his attention to Nubia (Kush) and, while Kamose (his predecessor) may have gained some ground prior to his death, Ahmose I pushed the boundaries south to the Second Cataract. Here, he established a new civil administration at Buhen probably initially headed by a Viceroy named Djehuty.

Apparently, while Ahmose I was in Nubia, former Hyksos allies again attempted a few uprising in the north lead by an arch enemy of Kamose named Teti-en. In this instance, Ahmose I’s mother, Ahhotpe, was probably responsible for putting down the rebellion and for this she was awarded the gold flies, an award for valor that was found on her mummy in her intact tomb at Thebes.

After Ahmose I’s campaigns in Nubia, he once again returned to Palestine during his 22nd year in power and may have fought his way as for as the Euphrates, according to information on a stela of Tuthmosis I.

Ahmose I married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became Egypt’s first great God’s Wife of Amun, and had a number of children including:

  • Merytamun – eldest daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Tair – daughter of Kasmut
  • Satamun – 2nd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Sapair – eldest son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Saamen – 2nd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Aahotep – 3rd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (Queen)
  • Amenhotep I – 3rd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (King)
  • Satkames – 4th daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died aged 30)
  • Henttameh- daughter of Thenthapi
  • Ahmose – daughter

We also know from Ahmose, son of Ibana that he supported his reign and rewarded local princes who had supported the Theban cause during the Second Intermediate Period by gifts of land (as recorded in Ahmose, son of Ibana’s tomb at el-Kab). We also know that he initiated some temple building projects, notably at Abydos. However, though we know he reopened the Tura limestone quarries, little survives of his construction apart form a few additions to the temples of Amun and Montu at Karnak. However, a recent Dutch-Egyptian team of archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of Ahmose’s palace in the Al-Dabaa area in the Sharqiya Governorate of Egypt, a location that was probably the ancient Hyksos capital.

He was buried in the Dra Abu el-Naga area, but his tomb has yet to be found. His actual mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache. He did have a cenotaph at South Abydos, consisting of a cliff temple and a pyramid and temple on the edge of the Nile valley. The pyramid which measures about 70 meters square is the last known royal example built in Egypt. Some battle scene decorations within the pyramid may have depicted his wars with the Hyksos. In these scenes are some of the earliest representation of horses in Egypt.



Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu (sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Smenkare or Smenkhkara) was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. His names translate as ‘Living are the Forms of Re’ and ‘Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms’. His reign was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He is to be distinguished from his immediate predecessor, the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (usually identified as Nefertiti). Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his royal name or cartouche.

King Smenkhare

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings, beginning with Horemheb, sought to erase the entire Amarna Period from history.

Smenkhkare was known as far back as 1845 from the tomb of Meryre II. There he and Meritaten, bearing the title Great Royal Wife, are shown rewarding the tomb’s owner. The names of the king have since been cut out but had been recorded by Lepsius circa 1850.

Later, a different set of names emerged using the same throne name: “Ankhkheperure mery Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] Neferneferuaten mery Wa en Re [Akhenaten]”. This led to a great deal of confusion since throne names tended to be unique. For the better part of a century, the repetition of throne names was taken to mean that Smenkhare changed his name to Neferneferuaten at some point, probably upon the start of his sole reign. Indeed, Petrie makes exactly that distinction in his excavation notes of 1894.

Smenkhkare King

Akhenaten’s nominal successor was Smenkhkare, probably a younger brother of the king, but it appears that they may have died within months of each other. Smenkhkare’s two-year reign was in reality a coregency during the last years of Akhenaten’s life. A graffito in the tomb of Pairi at Thebes (TT 139) records a third regnal year, and there are indications that Smenkhkare was preparing the ground for a return to the old orthodoxy and had left Akhetaten. He was married to Merytaten, the senior heiress of the royal blood line, but she seems to have predeceased him. Her sister Ankhesenpaaten thus became the senior survivor of the six daughters – having herself borne a small daughter by Akhenaten, named after her – and was married to the young Tutankhaten, the heir apparent (who was later to change his name to Tutankhamun).

Mysteries of Smenkhkare

The scenes in the tombs of Meryre II and Huya (located in the Amarna Northern tombs necropolis) depicting the “reception of foreign tribute” are the last clear view of the Amarna period. The events depicted in the tomb of Meryre II are dated to the second month of Akhenaten’s regnal year 12. (In the tomb of Huya they are dated to year 12 of the Aten.)

They show the last appearance of the royal family as a whole (that is: Akhenaten and his chief-queen Nefertiti, together with their six daughters), which scholars have dated to their satisfaction. These scenes are the first dated occurrence of the latter name-forms of the Aten. After this date, the events at Amarna and their chronology become far less clear. It is only with the accession of Tutankhamun, and the restoration early in this king’s reign, that events appear to become clear again.

A scene from the tomb of Meryre II, depicts pharaoh Smenkhkare and his Great Royal Wife Meritaten handing out tribute from the “window of appearances”. The inscription was recorded upon discovery, but has since been lost.

This image is commonly taken to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, though it may be Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaaten. Image: wikipedia

It is in this late Amarna period that Akhenaten’s co-regent and probable immediate successor comes to the fore. Akhenaten is generally assumed to have died in the late autumn of his 17th regnal year (after the bottling of wine in that year). Nefertiti disappears from view somewhat earlier (around regnal year 14); the reasons for this are unclear and under scholarly debate (see below). Around the same time a new co-regent is first attested.

Another Historical Context

Many of the questions surrounding Akhenaten’s co-regent and successor revolve around the names attested for this individual (or individuals). Two closely similar, yet distinct sets of names, appear in the records available for the late Amarna period. These are:

  • Ankhkheprure+epithet Neferneferuaten+epithet (sometimes transliterated as Nefernefruaten)
  • Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu

Both these sets are written in two cartouches. The epithets in the former name-set are “desired of Neferkheprure/Waenre” (i.e. Akhenaten). The first set of names also sometimes appears in feminine form as “Ankhetkheprure Neferneferuaten” and sometimes the epithet for the nomen is then replaced by “beneficial to her husband”. The former set of names appears to be earlier, and the association of these names with Akhenaten seems more substantial than is the case for the latter set. Both names are associated with Meritaten as great royal wife.

Both sets of names are only poorly attested. To date, no objects other than a wine jar label and six royal seals bearing the names of Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu are known. Only one named-depiction of Smenkhkare along with Meritaten (in the tomb of Meryre II) is known. Some objects with the names of Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten were reused in the burial of Tutankhamun (see below), and the female variant of these names appears on faience-ring bezels.

Because of the presence of the feminine Ankhetkheperure Neferneferuaten, scholars have generally dropped the old view that there was only one, male individual involved. The theory used to suggest he first acted as Akhenaten’s co-regent under the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten and, after the death of Akhenaten, succeeded him under the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare.

Several theories have been proposed to accommodate a woman:

  • To some scholars, the shared prenomen, function, and queen indicate that there is only one person associated with these different names. They seek to identify this individual as a female member of the royal family
  • Others, based on the feminine variation of the Neferneferuaten name on the one hand, and the identification of the body in KV55 as that of Smenkhkare (see below), see evidence for two distinct individuals, one female and the other male

It must be noted there is disagreement as to which names belong to each individual.

The mystery of Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings

A great deal of controversy surrounds the question of Smenkhkare’s mummy and burial. In January 1907, Edward Ayrton (working for Theodore Davis) discovered the badly water-damaged contents of an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 55). Arguments have raged ever since over the identity of the occupant of the rishi-type coffin, because the cartouches on it had all been hacked out. Initially Davis believed he had found the tomb of Queen Tiy – the damaged body being identified as female – and published it as such.

Subsequently, the body changed sex and was identified as Akhenaten, the previously thought female characteristics of the skeleton being paralleled with those of Akhenaten’s portrayals, especially the pelvic area. More detailed forensic examination, however, now suggests that the body belonged to Smenkhkare, and serological examination (blood grouping) of tissue, as well as close skull measurement comparisons, indicate that the occupant was a brother, or possibly half-brother, of Tutankhamun – the entrance to whose tomb (KV 62) is a mere 15 yards (13.7 m) away across the Valley floor.

At one time, it appears that there were three bodies in the tomb. One of them was that of Queen Tiy, and parts of her great gold overlaid wooden sarcophagus shrine were found there. Her body was probably taken from here round into the West Valley to join her husband, Amenhotep III, in KV 22 (p. 119). Four alabaster canopic jars with finely carved female heads wearing the characteristic court wig of the period were found in the tomb; they show evidence of having been adapted by the addition of a royal uiaeus to the brow which was subsequently broken off. Unfortunately they are uninscribed, but were presumably en suite with the coffin. It has been suggested that the canopic lids are portraits of Kiya, a hitherto obscure junior queen of Akhenaten.

The cartouches on the coffin had all been deliberately hacked out, literally to deny the occupant access to the next world because loss of name was a terrible thing. The texts still in place, however, had feminine endings to the appropriate words, indicating that the coffin had been made for a royal female. This was thought possibly to have been Merytaten, Smenkhkare’s wife, or now, Kiya. The cartouches, it was suggested, had been hacked out because the perpetrators believed that the occupant was the hated Akhenaten (his could have been the third body in the tomb at the time).

It seems that they hoped to remove the bodies of Queen Tiy and Smenkhkare from the contamination of association with the heretic king Akhenaten, but made a mistake and removed Akhenaten’s body instead. On that basis, somewhere in a small undiscovered tomb or cache in or near the Valley of the Kings, Akhenaten’s body may still lie undisturbed. It will be accompanied by whatever of Smenkhkare’s funerary equipment was removed from Tomb 55, and that should include ushabti figures for Smenkhkare because, although examples are known for the rest of the royal family, not even a fragment of one survives bearing his name.



Djoser (read as Djeser and Zoser, also known as Netjerikhet, Tosorthos, and Sesorthos, c. 2670 BCE) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom and the founder of this epoch. He is well known under his Hellenized names Tosorthros (from Manetho) and Sesorthos (from Eusebius). He was the son of king Khasekhemwy and queen Nimaathap, but if he also was the direct throne successor is still unclear. Most Ramesside Kinglists name a king Nebka before him, but since there are still difficulties in connecting that name with contemporary horus names, some Egyptologists question the received throne sequence.

Djoser statue, 3rd Dynasty Egyptian Museum (image: wikipedia)

Djoser was the first king of the Third Dynasty of Egypt, reigning for over twenty years. Some sources indicate a king named Sanakht as the first ruler of the Third Dynasty but this claim is challenged as Sanakht’s name is only known from two reliefs, the Abydos king list, and the Turin papyrus, not from archaeological evidence. Early archaeologists identified Sanakht’s tomb as mastaba K2 at Beit Khallaf based on the two reliefs mentioned above, which were found there; but this identification has been challenged and largely discredited. Manetho’s chronology, routinely used to date the reigns of the kings of Egypt, is also unclear on who he was or when he ruled. Djoser’s reign, following Khasekhemwy, is far more certain than the vague suggestions of a king named Sanakht and so he is now accepted as the first king of the Third Dynasty. Djoser is best known for his Step Pyramid, the first pyramid built in Egypt, although he initiated many other building projects; so many, in fact, that scholars have suggested a reign of almost thirty years to account for the number of tombs, temples, and monuments he commissioned.

Djoser’s Reign

Very little is known of Djoser’s youth or family life. His name Netjerikhet means “divine of body” and ‘Djoser’ is derived from the Djed symbol of stability. He succeeded his father, Khasekhemwy, the last king of the Second Dynasty, and his mother was the queen Nimaathap. His wife was Hetephernebti who was probably his half-sister. Although it was common for the pharaoh to have a queen and lesser wives, Djoser took no other women besides Hetephernebti.

Once he assumed the throne, he almost instantly began commissioning his building projects. Historian Margaret Bunson writes that Djoser “ruled during an age witnessing advances in civilization on the Nile such as the construction of architectural monuments, agricultural developments, trade, and the rise of the cities” (66). Although cities had begun to grow during the First Dynasty, under Djoser’s reign they became more numerous and the architecture more ornate. Djoser’s pyramid complex alone is the best example of the great advance in architectural design at the beginning of the Third Dynasty. Ornamentation was taken to a much higher level and symbols used to remind people of the blessings of the gods and the harmony of the land. The Djed symbol which, besides representing stability, is associated with the god Osiris, was used in the pillars in Temple T of Djoser’s Saqqara complex and appears on his other monuments as well.

The stability of the country under Djoser was due in part to his success in securing his borders and then extending them. Expansion of the realm into the region of Sinai was accomplished through military expeditions. He defeated the Libyans in battle and annexed part of their lands. The position of the king was linked to military ability and victories were a sign of the gods’ favor. The armies of Djoser, therefore, brought honor to his name and to the country but he became legendary, without these campaigns and long before his Step Pyramid was built, for another reason: the re-building of the Temple of Khnum which ended a famine.

Famine Stela

The Famine Stele is an inscription from the Ptolemaic Dynasty (332-30 BCE), long after Djoser’s rule, which tells the story of how the king saved his country. A famine broke out in Egypt which lasted for seven years. No one knew how to resolve the problem and none of Djoser’s consultants seemed to be of any use. Djoser had a dream in which the god Khnum, the god of the source of the Nile River, came to him and complained that his temple on the island of Elephantine (near modern-day Aswan) was in disrepair and people had lost their respect for the god who gave them life through the river.

The Famine Stele is an inscription from the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (332-30 BCE), which tells the story of how King Djoser saved his country. (image:

Djoser consulted with his vizier Imhotep and with one of his governors, Medir, and they suggested he sail to the island of Elephantine to pay his respects to Khnum and see about the temple. Djoser did so and, finding the temple in the poor condition his dream had foretold, erected a new one in its place. Once the new temple was completed, the famine ended and Djoser was hailed as the hero of his people.

The temple built by Djoser, and the surrounding courtyard and outer buildings, may still be seen in the modern day, although the temple went through renovations during later dynasties. These modern-day ruins date from Djoser’s reign and so the Famine Stele has been accepted by some as history and interpreted by others as legend. As the stone dates from almost 2,000 years after Djoser’s reign, the actual significance of the inscription lies in how Djoser was remembered by his people; whether the event actually happened as described is immaterial. An unpopular pharaoh would not have generated such a legend, no matter what miraculous feats he was involved in, and the Famine Stele attests to the honor and high esteem Djoser was regarded with.

The Pyramid of Djoser

The step pyramid of Djoser, located at Saqqara, was the first of its kind. It consisted of six mastabas; a tomb structure built on top of one another with the lower one always being the smallest. Using this construction technique created a stepped structure-type pyramid that would be used by future pharaohs. This type of construction method would continue to be used under the Pharaoh Sekhemkhet and Pharaoh Khaba. The design was created by Imhotep, chancellor to Pharaoh Djoser and high priest of Ra at Heliopolis. As the designer of the step pyramid, Imhotep became known as the world’s first great architect.

Djoser Step Pyramid

There are multiple canopic jars that mention Queen Nimaethap as “Mother of the King’s children” and “Mother of the King of the Two Lands.” These writings have identified Nimaethap as Djoser’s mother, and Khasekhemwy as his father. Djoser’s queen was Hetephernebti, who was an important queen during the period and is believed to have also been a daughter of Khasekhemwy. If this were true, this would stand to reason that Hetephernebti would also be a step-sister to the pharaoh as well as his wife. Together, Djoser and Hetephernebti had only one daughter, Inetkaes.


Since Djoser died without a son, another family member most likely became pharaoh. Sekhemkhet would only reign for about seven years before dying; however, the family connection is unknown. This particular pharaoh’s name was unknown until an unfinished step pyramid was discovered in 1951 AD. This unfinished step pyramid is also believed to have been designed by Imhotep, but was probably not finished due to Sekhemkhet’s death during its construction. Only the first mastaba was finished, and is buried beneath sand dunes. Because of this structure being underneath a sandbank, Sekhemkhet’s temple continues to be known as the Buried Pyramid.



Ankhesenamun (ˁnḫ-s-n-imn, “Her Life Is of Amun” or “Living through Amun”; c. 1348 – after 1322 BC) was a queen of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Born as Ankhesenpaaten, she was the third of six known daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti, and became the Great Royal Wife of her half-brother Tutankhamun.[1] The change in her name reflects the changes in Ancient Egyptian religion during her lifetime after her father’s death. Her youth is well documented in the ancient reliefs and paintings of the reign of her parents. Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun shared the same father but Tutankhamun’s mother has recently been established by genetic evidence as one of Akhenaten’s sisters, a daughter (so far unidentified) of Amenhotep III.

She was most likely born in year 4 of Akhenaten’s reign and by year 12 of her father’s reign she was joined by her three younger sisters. He possibly made his wife his co-regent and had his family portrayed in a realistic style in all official artwork.

Ankhesenamun was definitely married to one king; she was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It is also possible that she was briefly married to Tutankhamun’s successor, Ay, believed by some to be her maternal grandfather.[2] It has also been posited that she may have been the Great Royal Wife of her father, Akhenaten, after the possible death of her mother, and co-regent of Akhenaten’s immediate successor, Smenkhkare.

Recent DNA tests released in February 2010 have also speculated that one of two late 18th dynasty queens buried in KV21 could be her mummy. Both mummies are thought, because of DNA, to be members of the ruling house.

There is little known about Ankhesenamun. She was initially known by her birth name of Ankhesenpaaten (meaning “She lives through the Aten” or “Living through the Aten”) in her earlier years of life. Written, throughout history, are variations of her name as this was altered during her marriage to Tutankhamun. She was approximately thirteen years old when she married Tutankhamun who was most likely her half-brother. Tutankhamun was probably around eight years old at the time that this marriage occurred. This historical timeline is known as the Amarna Period.

The alteration of names for both Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun occurred as they changed their form of worship from one God to another. Their reign initially included the worship of the God Aten (known as “The Sun-Disc) and this eventually changed to the worship of the God Amun (known as the “The Hidden One”). Sometimes Ankhesenamun is written as Ankhesenamon, Ankhesenamum, and other variations on the name.

What is known about Ankhesenamun is that she was born the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. History tells us that there were at least six known daughters born to this famous couple; Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Nefernefruaten ta-Sherit, Nefernefrure, and Setepenre. The first three daughters appear to have had a more prominent position in the family hierarchy as they are depicted more frequently in pictures than the last three daughters.

It appears that Akhenaten, Ankhesenamun’s father, may have attempted to father children with the first three eldest daughters. It is suggested that Ankhesenamun’s second eldest sister may have died giving child birth. This is deducted from a scene found in the royal tomb which portrays a vivid display of this occurrence (a woman dying due to child birth). It is most likely that Akhenaten also fathered children from his other two daughter’s Meritaten and Ankhesenamun. Those children carried the names of their respective mothers with the addition of “ta-sherit” (junior) after their names. Including “ta-sherit” to the name of children who had the same name as their respective mothers, appeared to be the standard practice of that time.

As Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s queen disappears from history, Akhenaten marries the eldest daughter Meritaten. She now becomes the Chief Queen after her mother Nefertiti. Also during Akhenaten’s reign, he names Smenkhkare as co-regent (a person who would reign in conjunction with him). It was sometimes the practice of Kings or Pharaohs to name co-regents during their reign. Co-regents tended to be son’s or proposed heirs to the throne. During this time, Akhenaten decides to wed Meritaten (his daughter and current wife) to Smenkhkare for his wife. Akhenaten then takes Ankhesenamun, the third daughter, as his next new wife. Ankhesenamun now becomes the Chief wife of Akhenaten for a short period.

It appears that shortly after, both Meritaten and Akhenaten die and then Smenkhkare marries Ankhesenamun. History shows that they are married for approximately one to three years and then Smenkhkare also dies. Tutankhamun is named the next pharaoh and Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun are then married. Although both are still children, Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun go on to rule Egypt over the next ten years. During the ten years, Ankhesenamun gives birth to two children (both girls). Both girls are born premature and die. One of the children is now known to have had a condition called Spengel’s deformity in conjunction with spina bifida and scoliosis. The two mummy encasements were found during the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

During their reign, history shows that Tutankhamun had an official adviser named Ay who most likely was the grandfather of Ankhesenamun. In addition, it seems that Ay most likely took advantage of the fact that both Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun were very young and he most probably had a heavy hand in molding and shaping Tutankhamun’s thinking in the early years. This likely occurred as changes and decisions during those early years of Tutankhamun’s rule carried the weight of a more-versed and more-mature ruler and could not have been done by a child of eight years old.

As Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun began to mature, Tutankhamun suddenly died for no apparent reason. Tutankhamun was about 18 years of age when he passed away and once again Ankhesenamun was left without a husband. The standard mourning period was 70 days and it appears that several major things occurred during this timeframe; 1) Tutankhamun’s burial site seems to have been put together in a haphazardly way, 2) Ankhesenamun is not mentioned or depicted at the burial site or are there any personal items of Ankhesenamun buried with Tutankhamun as this was the standard practice of including “wifely items” with the dead pharaohs, and 3) History now shows us that Ankhesenamun may have tried to contact the Hittite King Suppiluliumas for help. King Suppiluliumas was a well-known enemy of Egypt at that time.

Upon further review of Tutankhamun’s burial site, it seems that the walls were not fully painted as would have been fitting for a pharaoh of that time. Why? It also appears that many of the items found in the tomb were borrowed and did not belong strictly to Tutankhamun. Again the question is why? Speculation is that Ay, who was most probably in control of the burial procedures, was in a hurry to get everything completed and sealed as he may have been the person responsible for Tutankhamun’s death. Why does speculation lean toward that theory? Most likely because he had much control over the rule of Egypt during Tutankhamun’s rule until the boy king began to mature. He probably wanted him out of the way. In addition, history shows that he married Ankhesenamun shortly after Tutankhamun died and thereby became Egypt’s new pharaoh. Upon review of Tutankhamun’s skull, there is some evidence that Tutankhamun may have died a more brutal death than once thought and Ay is at the top of the list as a possible murderer.

In addition, the standard practice of that time would have been to mention and provide many items of the “Chief wife” of a pharaoh in a burial site. Unfortunately, there is little mention of Ankhesenamun at the burial site. The fact that any personal items belonging to Ankhesenamun at Tutankhamun’s tomb are missing make things even more suspicious. Why would this occur? Could it be that Ay may have been planning to take Ankhesenamun (most probably his granddaughter) as his wife and thereby become the new Pharaoh? It would not have been fitting to have his new wife depicted in Tutankhamun’s tomb. By marrying Ankhesenamun he would then have a direct link to the throne and be more readily accepted as Egypt’s new ruling pharaoh.

Amun The third suspicious piece to this puzzle is a letter sent to a Hittite King named Suppiluliumas from an Eqyptian queen. There is speculation that the letter could have been sent from another queen because the names referenced in the letter do not specifically mention Ankhesenamun or Tutankhamun but rather use the names Dahamunzu and her dead husband Niphururiya. However, upon further review of the Hittite phonetic translations of Egyptian language at that time, it would have been translated to point towards Ankhesenamun as the queen asking for help and Tutankhamun as the king having died. The letter states, “My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband!…I am afraid!” Why would Ankhesenamun be afraid? Could it be that she knew that Ay had contributed to her husband’s death? Could it be that she had seen Ay depicted in Tutankhamun’s tomb wearing the royal crown’s of Egypt with his name clearly written in hieroglyphs as the presiding priest over Tutankhamun’s picture?


Upon receiving the request for help from the Eqyptian queen, King Suppiluliumas sent Hattusa-zita, a chamberlain, to verify that this was a true request and not a plan of treachery. Hattusa-zita returned verifying that this was not a scheme but rather a true plea for help. King Suppiluliumas then sent his youngest son Zanannza to marry the Egyptian queen (more than likely Ankhesenamun). Upon entering Egypt the whole group was murdered.

Ankhesenamun was left with no other alternative than to marry Ay who was at least 40 years her senior. A blue-glass finger ring has since been found containing both Ankhesenamun and Ay’s engraved names. This is further evidence that this marriage took place after Tutankhamun’s death. Shortly thereafter, Ankhesenamun disappears from history and even in Ay’s tomb there is no evidence that she was the chief wife.

Rather, it is Tiy who appears in Ay’s tomb. But as history writes itself, Ankhesenamun had married 4 pharaohs in her short lifetime; Akhenaten (her father), Smenkhkare (more than likely her half-brother), Tutankhamun (more than likely her half brother), and Ay (probably her grandfather).

Source: King Tut (, Wikipedia (



Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead, brother-husband to Isis, and one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. The name `Osiris’ is the Latinized form of the Egyptian Usir which is interpreted as ‘powerful’ or ‘mighty’. He is the first-born of the gods Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) shortly after the creation of the world, was murdered by his younger brother Set, and brought back to life by his sister-wife Isis. This myth, and the gods involved became central to Egyptian culture and religious life. Osiris was originally a fertility god, possibly from Syria (though this claim is contested) who became so popular he absorbed the function of earlier gods such as Andjeti and Khentiamenti, two gods of fertility and agriculture worshipped at Abydos. He is associated with the djed symbol and is often depicted with black or green skin symbolizing the fertile mud of the Nile and regeneration. He is also frequently shown as a mummy or in a partially mummified form in his role as Judge of the Dead.

Images of Osiris as a living god depict him as a handsome man in royal dress wearing the crown of Upper Egypt as a plumed headdress known as the atef and carrying the crook and flail, symbols of kingship. He is associated with the mythical Bennu bird ( an inspiration for the Greek Phoenix) who rises to life from the ashes. Osiris was known by many names but chiefly as Wennefer, “The Beautiful One” and, in his role as Judge of the Dead, Khentiamenti, “The Foremost of the Westerners”. The west was associated with death and ‘westerners’ became synonymous with those who had passed on to the afterlife.

He was also known as The Lord of Love, King of the Living, and Eternal Lord. After Isis, Osiris was the most popular and enduring of all the Egyptian gods. His worship spanned thousands of years from shortly before the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before the coming of Rome. It is also possible that Osiris was worshipped in some form in the Predynastic Period of Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and probably that he originated at that time.

Although he is usually seen as a just, generous, and giving god of life and abundance there are also depictions of him as “a terrifying figure who dispatches demon-messengers to drag the living into the gloomy realm of the dead” (Pinch, 178) though these are the minority. Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

Small statue of Osiris

Worship of Osiris

The myth embodied some of the most important values of Egyptian culture: harmony, order, eternal life, and gratitude. Set’s resentment of Osiris, even before the affair with Nepthys, grew from a lack of gratitude and an envy for someone else’s good fortune. In Egypt, ingratitude was a kind of “gateway sin” which opened the individual up to all others. The story dramatically illustrated how even a god could fall prey to ingratitude and the consequences which could follow. Just as importantly, the myth told the story of the victory of order over chaos and the establishment of harmony in the land; a central value of Egyptian culture and religion.

A sandstone relief stele depicting in the top panel Minhotep and his son Nakhtmin making offerings to Hathor, Anubis, and Osiris. The middle panel shows Minhotep and his wife Nefertari. The bottom panel shows Nakhtmin and his wife Sekhmet. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, c. 1300 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

Osiris’ rebirth was associated with the Nile River, which was considered a symbol of his life-giving power. Osiris’ festivals were held to celebrate the beauty of the god and his transcendent power but also his death and rebirth. The festival of the Fall of the Nile commemorated his death while the Djed Pillar Festival celebrated Osiris’ resurrection.

The city of Abydos was his cult center and the necropolis there became the most sought-after burial ground as people wanted to be buried as close to the god as they could get. Those who lived too far away or did not have the resources for such a burial had a stele erected there with their name on it. Osiris was most widely worshipped as Judge of the Dead but the ‘dead’ continued to exist in another realm and death was not the end of one’s existence. The festivals, therefore, celebrated life – both on earth and afterwards – and part of these celebrations was the planting of an Osiris Garden which was a garden bed molded in the shape of the god and fertilized by the mud and water of the Nile. The grains which would later grow symbolized Osiris rising from the dead and also the promise of eternal life for the one who tended the garden. Osiris Gardens were placed in tombs where they are known as an Osiris’ Bed.

Priests of Osiris tended the temple and statue of the god at Abydos, Busiris, and Heliopolis and, as was customary with Egyptian worship, the priests alone were allowed into the inner sanctum. The people of Egypt were invited to visit the temple complex to make offerings and ask for prayers, seek medical advice and counsel, receive aid from the priests by way of material goods or financial gifts, and leave sacrifices to the god in asking for a favor or by way of thanking the god for a request granted.

Osiris, the King, & the People

Osiris was considered the first king of Egypt who established the cultural values all later kings were sworn to uphold. When Set murdered the king, the country plunged into chaos and order was only restored with the victory of Horus over Set. The kings of Egypt identified with Horus during life (they each had a personal name and a ‘Horus Name’ they took at the beginning of their reign) and with Osiris in death. As Isis was the mother of Horus, she was considered the mother of every king, the king was her son, and Osiris was both their father and their higher aspect and hope of salvation after death.

A 2nd century CE Roman marble statue of the Egyptian god Osiris. (Palazzo Altemps, Rome)

It is for this reason that Osiris is so often depicted as a mummified pharaoh; because pharaohs were mummified to resemble Osiris. The image of the great mummified god preceded the practice of preparing the royal body to look like Osiris. All the Egyptian symbols and images which made up the Pyramid Texts on the walls of tombs were meant to remind the soul of the deceased what to do next once they arrived in the afterlife. Their appearance as Osiris himself would not only remind them of the god but also would drive away dark spirits by fooling them into thinking one was the great god himself. The king’s appearance as modeled after Osiris’ extended throughout his reign; the famous flail and shepherd’s staff, synonymous with Egyptian pharaohs, were first Osiris’ symbols as the flail represented the fertility of his land while the crook symbolized the authority of his rule.

Harmony and order had been established by the son of Osiris, Horus, and the king was Horus’ living representative who provided for the needs of the people. Osiris was credited with establishing both the kingship and the natural order and law of life and so, through one’s participation in one’s community and observance of rituals, one was following Osiris’ guidelines. The people, as well as royalty, expected the protection of Osiris in life and his impartial judgment after death. Osiris was the all-merciful, the forgiving, and the just judge of the dead who oversaw one’s life on earth and in the afterlife.

The Mysteries of Osiris

Osiris’ identification with eternal life, with life from death, gave rise to his mystery cult which would travel beyond the boundaries of Egypt as the Cult of Isis. Although no one knows what rituals were involved in the mystery cult of Isis, they may have developed from Osiris’ earlier mysteries celebrated at Abydos beginning in the Twelfth Dynasty (1991-1802 BCE). These were very popular festivals which drew people from all over Egypt to participate in the ritual. Bunson notes that “the mysteries recounted the life, death, mummification, resurrection, and ascension of Osiris” (198). Dramas were staged with the major roles given to prominent members of the community and the local priests who enacted the story of the Osiris myth.

The story known as The Contention Between Horus and Set was then acted out in mock battles between The Followers of Horus and The Followers of Set where it seems anyone could participate. Once the battle had been won by the followers of Horus, the people celebrated the restoration of order and the golden statue of Osiris was brought forth from the inner sanctum of the temple and carried among the people who lavished gifts upon the image. The statue was carried through the city in a circuit and finally placed in an outdoor shrine where he could be admired by his people and also participate fully in the festivities. The emergence of the god from the darkness of his temple to participate in the joys of the living symbolized Osiris’ return to life from death.

Although this festival was primarily held at Abydos, it was also celebrated at other cult centers dedicated to Osiris throughout Egypt such as Bubastis (which was another very important cult center), Busiris, Memphis, and Thebes. Osiris, of course, was the central figure of these celebrations but, in time, the focus shifted to his wife, Isis, who had actually saved him from death and returned him to life. Osiris was intimately tied to the Nile River and the Nile River Valley of Egypt but Isis eventually became detached from any given locality and was considered the Queen of Heaven and the creator of the universe. All other Egyptian gods were finally seen as aspects of the mighty Isis and in this form, her cult traveled to Greece, to Phoenicia, to Rome and throughout the Roman Empire.

The Cult of Isis was so popular in the Roman world that it outlasted every other pagan belief system once Christianity took hold of the popular imagination. The most profound aspects of Christianity, in fact, can be traced back to the worship of Osiris and the Cult of Isis which grew from his story. In ancient Egypt, as in the modern day, people needed to believe that there was a purpose to their lives, that death was not the end, and that some kind of supernatural being cared for them and would protect them. The worship of the great god Osiris provided for that need just as people’s religious beliefs do today.

Source: Ancient History (, feature image: wikipedia.