Ancient Egyptian builders illuminate the path of Osiris

(ORDO NEWS) — Spanish archaeologists found on the banks of the Nile a tomb from the Middle Kingdom period, oriented to the winter and summer solstices.

Scientists from the Universities of Jaén and Malaga (Spain) examined one of about a hundred tombs in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa, located on the west bank of the Nile, opposite the city of Aswan.

This necropolis was the resting place of the nobles and priests of the Ancient and Middle Egyptian kingdoms – the rulers of the city of Elephantine.

It is still not known exactly when the ancients built a city on an island in the middle of the Nile (after the first rapids).

The earliest finds date back to the 3rd millennium BC, but archaeologists note that they have not yet unearthed all the layers related to Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian builders illuminate the path of Osiris 2
Tomb No. 33

During the dynastic period of ancient Egypt and until the Roman conquest, Elephantine was the capital of the southernmost Egyptian province on the border with Nubia.

The heyday of the city falls on the reign of the pharaohs of the VI-XII dynasties (2305-1760 BC). The necropolis of Qubbet el-Hava is located opposite Elephantine, on the eastern slope of the hill.

In the journal Mediterranean Archeology and Archaeometry , archaeologists presented the results of the study of tomb No. 33 of the archaeological site of Qubbet el-Hawa.

Two people are buried in this tomb. Most likely, these were two half-brothers who ruled in Elephantine one after another: Hekaib III and Hekaib-ankha. They lived around 1830 BC, during the XII dynasty.

The tomb differs from all others in that it is clearly oriented not to the cardinal points (as was customary in the Old Kingdom), but to the winter and summer solstices.

The longitudinal axis of the tomb is made in such a way that celestial events are inscribed in the religious ideas of the Egyptians and show the path of rebirth.

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The map shows where the tomb is located and how the central axis

The orientation of the main intersolar axis (115.24º) connected the longest night and the longest day, covering the entire path of the sun.

The authors of the work note that both Elephantine and the necropolis are located on the northernmost border of the Northern Hemisphere zone, in which for several days around the summer solstice the sun at noon is almost at its zenith (88º): it looks into the deepest well, and objects do not cast shadows.

At latitudes north of Elephantine, the sun never reached the zenith at noon and objects always cast shadows.

During the winter solstice, on the contrary, the sun rises slowly and never reaches the zenith – the maximum rise point is 43º.

At the same time, it moves horizontally at a distance of 120º and 240º. The doors of the tomb, as well as openings for its illumination, are located in such a way that all daytime there was diffused light and long shadows in it.

Solstices had a special sacred meaning in ancient Egypt (however, not only there). On the first day, when the sunlight ceased to wane, Osiris, slain by Seth, rose from the dead.

Therefore, he is not only the ruler of the afterlife and the judge of the souls of the dead, but also the god of rebirth. He executes his judgment all the time, but the path of rebirth begins precisely on the day of the winter solstice.

The summer solstice is associated with the beginning of the Nile floods – water, the triumph of life, the completion of the cycle of renewal. Archaeologists believe that the ancient builder of the tomb encoded in it precisely the cycle of the rebirth of the soul.

But he did not forget about the spectacular presentation of his structure. For several days around the summer solstice, the light falls in such a way that the statue of the buried (it is not clear which of the two) is in the solar circle.

In winter, the same statue casts the longest possible shadow (the authors consider this to be a reminder of the shadows of the underworld). Gradually, the shadow is shortened – the statue (and the soul of the deceased) is fed by the energy of the sun.

We have too few sources by which one could confidently judge which sacred meanings the builder of the tomb reflected.

But the following is clear: today it is the oldest of the Egyptian tombs, built with a focus on the position of the Sun and the length of the solar day – and its builders knew how to correctly take into account the direction of the sun’s rays.


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