Saturday, 4 April 2009

Mummfication Museum lecture - Khasekhemwy by Mathew Adams

Khasekhemwy Cultic enclosure at Abydos – Mathew Adams

This was the last of a long series of similar structures. King Aha was discovered 2 years ago. They all rectangular, enclosing a ritual space, surrounded by sacrificial courtiers Aha had 6 graves Djer 269 graves around his enclosure and another 300 round his tomb. The so called Western Mastaba which possibly belonged to Deb had 14 boat graves 75m long. Another had seal impressions of dynasty 0 /1 so earlier than Djen or Aha and it could be Narmer. It was surrounded by 10 donkey burials.

Dynasty 1 were buried at Abydos
Early Dynasty 2 at Sakkara
Late Dynasty 2 at Abydos
Khasekhemwy was the last king to be buried at Abydos

All the enclosures were deliberately demolished 10-20 years after the monument was built. The floors were covered with 50cm of clean sand and there is evidence that libations were poured on this sand. The monuments have not fallen down through natural erosion. It seems that only one grand monument was allowed to dominate the landscape. After Khasekhemwy Abydos was abandoned by kings but the area was still treated with enormous respect, although there are 700 graves the site was left alone. During the Middle Kingdom the Osiris cult was established and the tomb of Djer was identified as the tomb of Osiris. The myth or passion play was enacted here. At this point tombs do start encroaching on the site but not in the interior of enclosure.

It was not until 100BC there was the first activity in the interior and it was used as a necropolis for sacred animals. During the late Roman times it was a monastery and cells were cut into the walls.

There was a small chapel in the south and possible wooden shrines in the north. The façade was painted bright white at the bottom and possible had red paint higher from the drips (similar to Peribsen). They found the original floor and plaster mixing basins. Other enclosures were nicely finished but this one was like a construction site. In the northern gateway there was a huge deposit of offering pottery.

The enclosure has suffered over the years especially the construction and subsequent collapse of the monastic cells. So it needed conservation, in some places 5 meter thick walls were thinned to 1 meter at the base with huge overhangs in danger of collapse. Damage was also caused by foxes, the oriental hornet and other wildlife. They have made bricks stamped with PYIP of mud and sand, no straw as this attracts insect damage. They documented the cells, covered them with sand and then filled with these new bricks; the sides of the cells were also protected by sand as the cells filled up so their reconstruction is technically reversible.

All four gateways collapsed in ancient times and they have used cast concrete to look like palm trees, similar to Djoser’s complex. The original was 5m think and 11m high and the enclosure at Hierakonpolis was 1/3 size and not part of funerary complex.

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