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Life and Death at the Dawn of Egyptian Civilization - Human Sacrifice

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Author Topic: Life and Death at the Dawn of Egyptian Civilization - Human Sacrifice  (Read 3786 times)
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« on: June 11, 2007, 06:11:34 pm »


                                                                 A B Y D O S


By John Galvin,
National Geographic Magazine
King Aha, "The Fighter," was not killed while unifying the Nile's two warring kingdoms, nor while building the capital of Memphis. No, one legend has it that the first ruler of a united Egypt was killed in a hunting accident after a reign of 62 years, unceremoniously trampled to death by a rampaging hippopotamus. News of his demise brought a separate, special terror to his staff. For many, the honor of serving the king in life would lead to the more dubious distinction of serving the king in death.
On the day of Aha's burial a solemn procession made its way through the sacred precincts of Abydos, royal necropolis of Egypt's first kings. Led by priests in flowing white gowns, the funeral retinue included the royal family, vizier, treasurer, administrators, trade and tax officers, and Aha's successor, Djer. Just beyond the town's gates the procession stopped at a monumental structure with imposing brick walls surrounding an open plaza. Inside the walls the priests waded through a cloud of incense to a small chapel, where they performed cryptic rites to seal Aha's immortality.
Outside, situated around the enclosure's walls, were six open graves. In a final act of devotion, or coercion, six people were poisoned and buried along with wine and food to take into the afterlife. One was a child of just four or five, perhaps the king's beloved son or daughter, who was expensively furnished with ivory bracelets and tiny lapis beads.
The procession then walked westward into the setting sun, crossing sand dunes and moving up a dry riverbed to a remote cemetery at the base of a high desert plateau. Here Aha's three-chambered tomb was stockpiled with provisions for a lavish life in eternity. There were large cuts of ox meat, freshly killed waterbirds, loaves of bread, cheese, dried figs, jars of beer, and dozens of wine vessels, each bearing Aha's official seal. Beside his tomb more than 30 graves were laid out in three neat rows. As the ceremony climaxed, several lions were slain and placed in a separate burial pit. As Aha's body was lowered into a brick-lined burial chamber, a select group of loyal courtiers and servants also took poison and joined their king in the next world.
Is this how a pharaoh's funeral in 2900 b.c. actually unfolded? It's a plausible scenario, experts say. Archaeologists have been sifting through the dry sands of Abydos for more than a century. Now they have found compelling evidence that ancient Egyptians indeed engaged in human sacrifice, shedding new—and not always welcome—light on one of the ancient world's great civilizations.
"Yellah! Yellah! Yellah!" barks Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, the Egyptian crew boss, spurring his workers to move it, move it, move it. "You are big fat water buffalo! You are dung!" The mostly teenage boys hauling buckets of sand giggle nervously but pick up the pace while keeping an eye on their still ranting foreman. "You chatter worse than a bunch of women!" Standing tall in a loose, flowing galabia and white head wrap, Ibrahim looks somehow wizardly, maybe capable of vaporizing slackers with a cast from the long, intimidating stick-wand he keeps clutched behind his back. Ibrahim's 125-person crew is working with a team of archaeologists to uncover part of the immense royal burial center at Abydos, located 260 miles (420 kilometers) up the Nile from Cairo. As a line of workers use hoe-like tureyas to scrape away the sand, the so-named bucket boys haul away clanking pails of dirt and pour it like water into the laps of sifters. Excavators are on the ground with trowels in hand, surveyors are plotting the coordinates of artifacts, a photographer is documenting each new find, and illustrators are pencil-drawing an ancient coffin and an infant skeleton.
Kneeling on one knee in the center of this swarm is Matthew Adams, associate director of a multiyear project sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Yale University, and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. Adams is brushing sand away to reveal a smooth, ancient mud floor. "If this is from the time of Aha," he says in a raspy voice dried out from months in the desert, "then it's the oldest funerary enclosure ever found in Egypt. We're talking about the beginning of Egyptian history. Not one trowel has been laid here before now."

Abydos is the source of many of Egypt's most ancient artifacts. In 1988 Günter Dreyer, a German archaeologist, unearthed small bone and ivory tags intricately inscribed with one of the world's earliest forms of writing—crude hieroglyphs developed at about the same time as Mesopotamian cuneiform. In 1991 Adams's mentor and the project's director, David O'Connor, uncovered an eerie fleet of wooden boats buried in enormous brick-lined graves.
Now O'Connor and Adams are digging down into the beginning of Egypt's 1st dynasty, a pivotal period when kings laid down the roots of religion, government, and architecture that would last for the next 3,000 years. Unlike the colossal pyramids of later pharaohs, the more modest burial complexes of the Abydos kings consisted of two separate structures—a tomb and a ceremonial enclosure. The large, walled enclosures where mortuary rituals were performed were situated on the edge of town, while the underground tombs were located more than a mile away on the threshold of the desolate Western Desert, a place known to ancient Egyptians as the land of the dead.
All of the 1st-dynasty tombs and most of the enclosures excavated so far are accompanied by subsidiary graves—hundreds in some cases—containing the remains of elite officials and courtiers. Egyptologists have long speculated that these graves might hold victims of sacrifice but also acknowledged that they could simply be graves reserved for the king's staff, ready to use as each person died naturally.
The question of whether ancient Egyptians practiced human sacrifice has intrigued archaeologists since the late 1800s. Frenchman Émile Amélineau and his English rival Sir Flinders Petrie excavated all the 1st-dynasty desert tombs by 1902. Each had been heavily looted in antiquity, and no royal remains were found except a single bejeweled arm. Still, there was much yet to discover. In Aha's tomb were the remains of dozens of wine vessels, tools, some jewelry, and signs of food. Beside the tomb Petrie discovered 35 subsidiary graves, which he called the Great Cemetery of the Domestics. While he didn't dwell on it in his published papers, he hinted at human sacrifice. Later, in the 1980s, German archaeologists uncovered the remains of at least seven young lions.
The only funerary enclosure standing during Petrie's time was the massive 4,600-year-old Shunet el-Zebib, built by the 2nd-dynasty king Khasekhemwy. The towering shuneh (storehouse), with its three-story walls enclosing nearly two acres of space, still dominates the landscape. Two of Petrie's associates discovered another 2nd-dynasty enclosure, built by King Peribsen, and Petrie returned in the 1920s and found hundreds of subsidiary graves. The graves surrounded three 1st-dynasty enclosures, but curi-ously, Petrie located only one of them. These discoveries led archaeologists to speculate that they had found only half the puzzle of Abydos, and that for each tomb they had uncovered out in the desert, there should be a corresponding enclosure still hidden on the city's edge.
In 1967 David O'Connor came to Abydos to search for, among other things, the funerary enclosures that had eluded Petrie. Almost 20 years later, while digging in the shadow of the shuneh, he made a totally unexpected discovery.
"I opened an excavation pit, and poking into one corner of it was this intrusion," O'Connor recalls. "I knew it was something from the earliest dynasty, I just didn't know what." To O'Connor's amazement, the "intrusion" turned out to be one of 14 ancient boats, each buried in its own brick-lined tomb adjacent to the enclosure of a still unknown king. The boats, which measured up to 75 feet (23 meters) long, were expertly crafted and had been fully functional when buried. They proved to be the world's oldest surviving boats built of planks (as opposed to those made of reeds or hollowed-out logs).
"The boats are like the servants who were buried at Abydos," says O'Connor. "The king intended to use t hem in the afterlife in the same manner that he used them before his death." In life the boats enabled the king to travel rapidly up and down the Nile in a powerful display of wealth and military might. As the Egyptian kings also expected to be kings in the afterlife, the boats would be useful tools.
News of the boats'discovery rippled through the Egyptology world and also energized O'Connor's hunt for the lost enclosures of the first kings. To help focus the search, O'Connor and Adams sought out Tomasz Herbich, a Polish archaeologist who specializes in finding buried ruins with a device called a fluxgate gradiometer, a type of magnetometer. It measures slight variations in the Earth's magnetic field caused by certain types of iron oxides beneath the surface. "These oxides are present in Nile mud," explains Herbich. "And what's the main material used by ancient Egyptian builders? Sun-dried bricks made of Nile mud!"
For nearly a week in 2001 Herbich's assistant walked more than ten miles (16 kilometers) a day over a numbing grid, taking over 80,000 measurements. The survey turned up several small funerary chapels but no enclosures. Then, during Herbich's last hour in the field, his magnetic divining rod finally found royal mud. He downloaded the data onto his laptop, and as the digital map came into focus, he called out, "We have an enclosure!"
Adams and a small crew went to work uncovering part of the enclosure, but the field season was ending, and they had to rebury it and return home. In 2002 O'Connor again asked Adams to go to Abydos, this time to undertake a massive excavation of the new discovery.
After a month of tediously peeling back layers of sand, Adams uncovered jars and wine stoppers bearing Aha's name, confirming that his lost funerary enclosure was at last found.
Once the crew reached the enclosure's floor, they discovered six surrounding graves. Three contained the bodies of adult women, one held the remains of a man, and one held a young child with 25 ivory bracelets embellished with tiny lapis beads. The sixth grave remains unexcavated. In each case the archaeological evidence pointed to a sacrificial death.
"The graves were dug and lined with bricks, then roofed with wood and capped with mud-brick masonry," says Adams. "Above that masonry cap, a plaster floor extends out from the enclosure and covers all the graves." The floor extension is seamless—an important clue, for it would have been impossible to entomb people under the floor except all at the same time.
It's unlikely that 41 people—the six at Aha's enclosure plus 35 at his tomb—would have died of natural causes at the same time. Another possibility is that they died randomly over time and were then stockpiled and reburied en masse. But for O'Connor and Adams, the evidence strongly suggests they were sacrificed.
How were they killed? Petrie believed that he saw signs of post-burial movement in the tomb graves, suggesting that people were alive or semiconscious when buried. Brenda Baker, a physical anthropologist from Arizona State University, examined all the skeletons from Aha's enclosure and found no signs of trauma. "The method of their demise is still a mystery," says Adams. "My guess is that they were drugged."
Or strangled, suggests Nancy Lovell, a physical anthropologist at the University of Alberta. Lovell studied skulls from Aha's tomb and found telltale stains inside the victims' teeth. "When someone is strangled," she explains, "increased blood pressure can cause blood cells inside the teeth to rupture and stain the dentin, the part of the tooth just under the enamel."
It now seems clear that human sacrifice was practiced in early Egypt—as was true in other parts of the ancient world. Sir Leonard Woolley's excavation during the 1920s and '30s at Ur in modern-day Iraq revealed hundreds of sacrificial graves dating back to 2500 b.c. and related to the burial of Mesopotamian kings and queens. Evidence for sacrifice has also been seen in Nubian, Mesoamerican, and several other ancient cultures.
In Egypt enthusiasm for the grim practice seems to have waned quickly. Aha's subsidiary graves are the earliest to be found, and his successor, Djer, embraced the practice with fervor—more than 300 graves flank his tomb, and another 269 surround his mortuary enclosure. But Qaa, the last ruler of the 1st dynasty, had fewer than 30 sacrificial graves beside his tomb, although his enclosure remains lost. And by the 2nd dynasty the practice simply stopped.

O'Connor thinks it ended because the royal staff rebelled. "People tend to say that the Egyptians were becoming more civilized and that's why it stopped, but I think that reflects our own prejudices. These graves included relatively high-ranking people, and the reason it stopped might be more political than ethical." Perhaps it was an honor to serve the king in the afterlife, but it was an honor that could wait.
By the 3rd dynasty Egypt's pharaohs began building their tombs more than 250 miles  (400 kilometers) downstream at Saqqara. There, a new tradition arose: The separate tomb and enclosure were combined into a single complex that included a colossal pyramid tomb bounded by the walls of a ceremonial enclosure. The royal necropolis at Abydos lay abandoned for the next 700 years.
Then during the Middle Kingdom the cult of Osiris became a major force in Egyptian religion. Legend held that Osiris, lord of the afterlife, was also Egypt's first king, and so pharaohs dispatched priests to Abydos on a kind of archaeological expedition to locate Osiris's tomb. They excavated several of the 1st-dynasty tombs and ultimately decided that Djer's belonged to Osiris. In so doing they turned Abydos into the mecca of ancient Egypt. Over the next 2,000 years several pharaohs, including Senusret III and Ramses II, built great monuments and temples at Abydos to honor Osiris. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, farmers and pharaohs alike, made the pilgrimage to take part in an annual celebration of Osiris's resurrection. The festival culminated in an elaborate parade that wound from the town past a series of small chapels built to honor the god-king, then up a dry riverbed to the ancient desert cemetery.
Arriving at Osiris's tomb, the pilgrims had no inkling that hundreds of their ancestors—royal staff members sacrificed more than a thousand years earlier—lay buried beneath their feet. Seeking Osiris's blessing for their own passage to the afterlife, the worshippers brought millions of small clay offering pots filled with fruit and smoldering incense. You can still see the potsherds today, piled high like so many hopes that in the wake of death comes eternal life.
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2007, 06:17:25 pm »



Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

In the beginning every Egyptian ruler prepared a two-part funerary complex: an enclosure close to the Nile's floodplain for the celebration of rituals and a tomb deeper in the Western Desert—the land of the dead. Recent excavations at Abydos have revealed this 5,000-year-old mud-brick enclosure of Aha, the first king of the 1st dynasty. Six people, probably poisoned in connection with the royal funeral, were buried just outside the enclosure wall. "The king has the power of life and death over his subjects," says Matthew Adams, associate director of the dig. "He has the power to take with him those whom he chooses—or needs—to be at his disposal in the next world."
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2007, 06:26:12 pm »


Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

Archaeologist Günter Dreyer surveys what five years of excavation have revealed: the 4,700-year-old tomb of Khasekhemwy, last ruler of the 2nd dynasty. In the distance a wadi, or canyon, in the desert plateau was probably regarded as an entrance to the realm of the dead. "Tombs were just through-stations on the way there," says Dreyer. In the corner of Khasekhemwy's tomb pit a ramp rises in the direction of the wadi, offering the deceased king a perpetual path to the hereafter.

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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2007, 06:30:45 pm »



Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

Discovered in the tomb of a predynastic king, bone and ivory tags bear administrative records more than 5,000 years old—some of the earliest writing yet known. As interpreted by Günter Dreyer, the number of strokes on each tablet in the upper row records the size of a piece of fabric, with one stroke equal to one square cubit (about two and a quarter square feet). At left a bird and a mountain symbolize the sunlight that emerges in the east every morning. And at right two symbols show the origin of delivered goods—a tree stands for "agricultural estate"; a dog identifies the estate's founder.
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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2007, 06:34:49 pm »



Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

Mounds of sherds—the remains of cups, bowls, and other pieces of pottery left by ancient pilgrims—have inspired a modern nickname for the site of Egypt's earliest royal tombs: Umm el-Qaab, or "mother of offering pots." Abydos became an important pilgrimage center after Middle Kingdom priests proclaimed the tomb of Djer, a 1st-dynasty king, as the burial place of Osiris, god of the dead. An annual festival honoring the death and resurrection of Osiris brought crowds from around the country to this sacred place.
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2007, 06:38:41 pm »



Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

Looted in antiquity for its stone, a temple likely dedicated to the worship of Osiris retains fragments of blocks adorned with the names of 30th-dynasty pharaohs Nectanebo I and II. From atop the ruins archaeologist Michelle Marlar, from New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, looks over the first excavation of the site. "If this does prove to be the Osiris temple," she says, "then it's the latest phase of what is believed to have been a long line of temples stretching back to the Early Dynastic period."
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2007, 06:55:10 pm »

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt
by Caroline Seawright
Human sacrifice is not generally connected with ancient Egypt. There is little evidence of human sacrifice during most of the dynastic period of ancient Egypt... but there is some evidence that it may have been practiced in the Nile Valley during the 1st Dynasty and possibly also Predynastic Egypt.

The earliest known example of human sacrifice may perhaps be found in Predynastic burials in the south of Egypt, dated to the Naqada II Period. One of the discovered bodies showed marks of the throat from having been cut before having been decapitated.

-- Human Sacrifice, Jacques Kinnaer

The two definitions of human sacrifice that could be applied to the very early development of ancient Egypt are:

The ritual killing of human beings as part of the offerings presented to the gods on a regular basis, or on special occasions.
Retainer sacrifice, or the killing of domestic servants to bury them along with their master.
-- Human Sacrifice, Jacques Kinnaer

Offerings to the Gods

One form of human sacrifices to the gods may have been in the form of slaying criminals and prisoners of war. Some early dynastic depictions of sacrifices have been found, showing a man holding a bowl, possibly using it to catch the blood of a victim who is seated in front of him. The man and the victim are normally before either gods or men of power, making it seem as if these scenes are of human sacrifices. Despite the pictures, there is not enough information as to why it was done, what happened with the blood in the bowl, or for whom it was done. Other than the human sacrifice theory, there is another theory as to what is happening in the scenes:

Two slabs were discovered dating to the beginning of the 1st Dynasty, one in Abydos concerning King Aha and the other in Saqqara, concerning King Djer. Each slab depicts a seated person directing a pointed instrument to the throat or chest of another person who is kneeling backwards with his arms tied behind his back. Petrie, Emery and Zaki Saaed believed that this denotes human sacrifice whereas Vikentiesf and Hussain believe it to be a tracheostomy being performed. The latter view is more appropriate as the lancet is used as a determinative "to breath" rather than the habitual signs of the nose or the sail. In Aha's slab the sign Ankh is present; the way the scalpel is handled is more appropriately directed to the trachea than the neck vessels as obviously the best way for slaughtering was known even at prehistoric times!

-- Medicine and Surgery in Ancient Egypt, Ahmes L. Pahor

Later in Egypt's history, Amenhotep II of the 18th dynasty claimed to have executed seven Syrian princes at the temple of Amen in Karnak, then displayed six of the bodies on the temple walls. Although he did not claim that it was a sacrifice to the gods, it shows that there is enough evidence that prisoners were killed at temples, making the depiction of Predynastic killings in front of deities likely to have actually happened.

The Cannibal Hymn

Not strictly an offering to the gods, the Cannibal Hymn of Unas and Teti talk of cannibalism to gain power from the gods in ancient Egypt. The Pyramid Texts have a section that seems to hint that in Predynastic times, the ruler could gain the magical powers of the gods through human sacrifice.

Utterances 273 - 274 of the Pyramid Texts, known as the Cannibal Hymn, describe the pharaoh as a god who cannibalises the gods - 'A god who lives on his fathers and feeds on his mothers ... who lives on the being of every god, who eats their entrails ... Pharaoh is he who eats men and lives on gods.'

It is a blood-thirsty text of the power of the pharaoh, talking of death and killing and devouring of body parts. This seems to combine ritual cannibalism with sacrifices to the gods, but there is no direct evidence that cannibalism was normally practiced in ancient Egypt.

There is, though, a suggestion that cannibalism may have occurred during times of great famine and drought. During the First Intermediate Period, there was a great famine, dust storms, plague, and political strife that affected the country for decades. Ankhtifi (Ankhtify), Nomarch (governor) of the 3rd Nome of Upper Egypt during this time, left on his tomb this message: "...the sky was clouded and the earth [...] of hunger on this sandbank of Apep... All of Upper Egypt was dying of hunger and people were eating their children, but I did not allow anyone to die of hunger in this nome."

Despite his boasting, Ankhtifi may not have be lying about people being reduced to eating their children to survive. Abdel-Latif Al-Baghdadi, a physician/scholar from Baghdad who was in Egypt between 1194 to 1200 AD, tells of people who habitually ate human flesh; parents even ate their own children. Graves were ransacked for food, assassinations and robbery reigned unchecked and noblewomen implored to be bought as slaves. These horrific scenes had been caused by a low Nile flood, two years running.

Human Heads in the Book of the Amduat

In the depiction of Seventh Hour from 'The Book of the Amduat' (Imydwat), are four rectangular shaped frames with a bed or a mound of sand inside, surmounted with two human heads, one at each end. E. A. Wallis Budge calls them the 'Four Tombs of Osiris', saying that the heads were supposed to come forth when they heard the voice of Re as he traveled through that particular area of the underworld.

It was, no doubt, a custom in Predynastic times to slay slaves at the graves of kings and nobles in order that the souls of the slaughtered might protect them and keep away evil spirits. The human heads on the tombs of Osiris probably represent a tradition that, when Osiris was buried, human sacrifices were offered at his tomb for this or for some similar purpose.

-- The Gods of the Egyptians, E. A. Wallis Budge

This may or may not relate to any human sacrifice. E. Hornung has a different description than Budge: "... we once again observe the [four] burial place of the sun's [Ra's] corpse..." There are no references in the text to the killing of humans for the protection of Ra as he travelld.

E. A. Wallis Budge's translation of the Amduat can be found as 'The Book of Am-Tuat'.

 King Aha - 33 subsidiary burials at tomb B10, 15, 19
Djer. - 318 subsidiary burials at Tomb O
Djet - 174 subsidiary burials at Tomb Z
Merytnit - 41 subsidiary burials at Tomb Y
Den - 136 subsidiary burials at Tomb T
Anedjib - 64 subsidiary burials at Tomb X
Semerkhet - 68 subsidiary burials at Tomb U
Qa'a - 26 subsidiary burials at Tomb Q
The sacrificed retainers, servants, slaves or even nobles or family members all had their own burial pits as part of the Abtu (Abydos) tomb complex of each ruler of the 1st Dynasty. These people were thought to carry on their respective positions in the afterlife, for example the slaves and servants were killed so that they could continue to carry out their work for their master.
In the case of King Aha, his tomb was looted in antiquity, but the bones scattered around the burial pits were all of young men and women aged 20-25 years old. This would indicate that they probably did not die from natural causes, but were selected for burial with Aha. The burial pits once held copper tools, stone vessels and ivory carvings, and some even had the name of the occupant inscribed on limestone stela. These stelae referred to servants, dwarfs, women, dogs and even a group of young lions.

Djer., on the other hand, probably showed the peak of human sacrifice for burial with the king. He 318 burial pits surrounding his tomb, as well as a number of other burial pits at his funerary enclosure, about two kilometres away, which may have been a mortuary temple. Djer's tomb at Abydos was believed by Egyptians of the latter Middle Kingdom to be the tomb of Osiris himself, and this belief lasted even into the Roman period.

In the tomb of Queen Merytnit, most of the skeletons were found facing the same direction, but no signs of violence were found on the skeletons. This would suggest that they were not buried alive, since the bodies were all placed in the tombs in a specific direction for religious purposes, and that they had died previously to being buried. W B Emery, who unearthed tombs at Abtu, had a theory that suggested the people were killed by poison prior to being buried with the queen.

Human sacrifice was not only performed at Abtu, but in Saqqara as well. Originally it was believed that the rulers of the 1st Dynasty had two tombs - one at Saqqara and one at Abtu, but research has led to the conclusion that the Saqqara tombs were for nobles of the 1st Dynasty. Tomb S3500, the tomb of a noble during the reign of Qa'a, has the last of the sacrifices found in Saqqara:

Three of the four subsidiary tombs were found intact and the westernmost ones (n. 1 and 2) still had the dead bodies (a middle aged man and an old woman; head to the south facing west) wrapped in linen within the coffin; each one had a foreign flask and a wood cylinder seal (one uninscribed and another one with faint painted inscribed).

-- Saqqara: Early Dynastic Monuments (Dynasties 1-3), Francesco Raffaele

This practice was abandoned after the last retainer sacrifices by Qa'a, although it was replaced by representations of sacrificed retainers in the form of ushabti figures. There figures were meant to magically turn into servants, to carry out the work of the deceased in the afterlife. A small hint that the Egyptian people in later times reviled human sacrifice can be seen in the story of Khufu and the Magicians -

Khufu then ordered a prisoner brought, thinking to lop off his head and see Djed-djedi's magic. Protesting, the magician said that he could not do so to humans. Instead, they found a goose Djed-djedi could work his magic upon.

-- Tales of Magic in Ancient Egypt, C. Seawright

Some rulers of 0 Dynasty, and rulers of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties were buried at Abtu. The local deity of the necropolis was Khentamentiu  (Khontamentiu, Khentamenti, Khontamenti, Khenty Amentiu, Khenti Amentiu), Foremost of Westerners, god of the dead who helped the deceased go to the Land of the West, pilot of the solar barque during it's nocturnal travels. The earliest temple found at Abtu was for Khentamentiu. He was later associated with Osiris, as Osiris-Khentamentiu, and with the jackal god Anubis.

The Tekenu

 Early Egyptologists believed the  tekenu (teknu) was a representation of the human sacrifices that the 1st Dynasty rulers were buried with. It seems to be a figure of a man, in a fetal or sitting position, shrouded in a bag, hides or a sack that was placed on it's own sledge during funeral processions. Current theories suggest that it contains the spare body parts that were left over during the mummification process, occasionally having a mask of the deceased where a face would be on the figure, and sometimes not looking like a man at all.

In the tomb of Rekhmire, the words relating to the tekenu say: "Causing to come to the god Re as a resting tekenu to calm the lake of Khepri". This may be relating to a time when people were killed and thrown into a lake to appease Apep or Set. There is no evidence for this actually happening, or of the tekenu being thrown into any lake.

Egyptologist Greg Reeder shows a depiction in the tomb of Montuhirkhepeshef (Mentuherkhepshef) (18th dynasty) at Thebes actually shows a man lying on the sledge, being dragged along just as the tekenu was in the funeral procession. In the tomb of Rekhmire (18th Dynasty) the tekenu is finally placed in the tomb, on a chair or couch, with the head poking out of a bag. Then the man sits up on the couch in the 'Opening of the Mouth' scene, shown to be wearing shroud-like wrapping, yet obviously human and alive:

It is the Sem priest who is awakened from his trance at the beginning of that ceremony at the tomb of the deceased. The Sem states that he was "asleep" but had visited the deceased in the otherworld. The Sem then is a shaman undergoing a trance like dream state in the guise of the tekenu. As the tekenu he is transported to the tomb wrapped in a shroud to help facilitate his "death" so that he can be transported to the other world. Thus having visited the spirit world, the Sem was imbued with powers which enabled him to perform the succeeding "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony for the deceased. The tekenu was no more for he had been transformed into the Sem.

-- The Enigmatic Tekenu, Greg Reeder

This is the speech of the Sem-priest, from the tomb of Rekhmire:

Seclusion in the Gold Mansion: resting by the sem-priest
Speech of the sem-priest seated facing it
Words spoken: 'He has struck me'
The imy-is to stand behind it
Words spoken 'He has outlined me'
The imy-is - speech four times
Words spoken by the imy-is 'My father my father' 4 times
Waking the sleep of the sem-priest; the find of the imy-khent priests

-- Opening the Mouth, University College London

 Unknown Man 'E'

Unknown Man 'E', found with the royal mummies in the Dier el-Bahri cache, is buried with such an horror-filled look on his face and in such a strange manner, that many believe that he was sacrificed and buried with the pharaohs. The Unknown Man 'E' is a man in his early 20s, his face seeming to silently scream. His coffin was white and undecorated, yet it was made from cedar wood, an expensive commodity in ancient Egypt.

He was unwrapped by Dr. Fouquet and M. Mathey in 1886, and discovered to have some unusual features for an Egyptian burial. He had been wrapped in white sheepskin, which Herodotus had said was ritually unclean to the ancient Egyptians. Dylan Bickerstaffe, who wrote an analysis on Unknown Man 'E' in KMT Magazine, pointed out that no other Dynastic burial had been found where sheepskin was used to shroud the body. Under the sheepskin was a layer of bandages, then a layer of natron-soaked bandages. When he was unwrapped, his body fat, which has been absorbed by the natron, emitted a putrid stench. The bandages were of high quality, yet they had been wrapped and knotted around his wrists, upper arms and lower legs so tightly that it imprinted his body. Under the bandages, his skin was coated with a very thick layer of natron, crushed resin, and lime - quicklime. His body still had his internal organs in place, as was the rest of his body. Even his gold earrings were still in place.

One of the popular theories is that because of the oddities in the burial, is that Unknown Man 'E' had been buried alive as punishment during the 18th or 19th Dynasty. Another theory is that he had been prepared and 'mummified' by non-Egyptians who were not familiar with the Egyptian mummification process:

The use of calcium oxide seems to point toward an ancient Greek influence. In Greek, the word "sarcophagus" means "flesh eater" and was used to designate the large stone receptacles filled with quicklime in which corpses were placed. Much more harsh in its desiccating properties than natural Egyptian natron, this chemical would have been avoided by Egyptian embalmers who wanted to preserve rather than destroy the tissues of the body. The Greeks who used this method of treating corpses mistakenly believed that Egyptian sarcophagi were employed for the same purpose ... Bickerstaffe points out that the Hyksos were buried with sheep, and that the Tale of Sinhue describes "Asiatics" as being buried wrapped in sheepskins. This again indicates that Unknown Man E was probably "embalmed" in a foreign country where sheepskins were cured and employed in a funereal context.

-- The Strange Case of Unknown Man E, W. Miller

The state of the quicklime on the body indicates that while it was applied, there was no struggle. The thickness also suggests that the quicklime was applied after the body had been dehydrated by other methods. This would suggest that Unknown Man 'E' was already dead, rather than sacrificed.
Unknown Man 'E' may have been an Egyptian noble or prince who held a high position in an Asiatic country, and who died there. The people there may have done their best, but been unable to make a mummy as the Egyptians did, and then sent their efforts back to Egypt. Yet in Egypt he was untouched, despite being placed by the priests who moved royal mummies to a hidden cache along side pharaohs.

Human Sacrifice

There is evidence of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt during the 1st Dynasty, for the rulers and rich of the time. This possibly came from Predynastic times, but no strong evidence has been found to prove this. The labels of King Aha and Djer. are pictures of men that may be being ritually killed, yet the people buried with the rulers do not seem to have been killed in that fashion - they were most likely poisoned before being buried with the rulers and nobles. There is also a possibility that predynastic people may have cannibalized others to gain their power, but without evidence this can not be proved - it may have just been a dramatic way of showing the strength and power of the king! Other than the killing of prisoners of war, no other evidence for human sacrifice, neither as offerings to the gods nor in the form of retainer sacrifice, has been found. Since the Egyptians gave up the practice during the Old Kingdom, they seemed to have come to object to the practice through the rest of their history.




« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 07:03:12 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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