It is an integral part of Seti I's funeral complex and is built to resemble an 18th Dynasty Valley of the Kings tomb. It was discovered by archaeologists Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray who were excavating the site in 1902–3. The Osirion was originally built at a considerably lower level than the foundations of the temple of Seti, who ruled from 1294–1279 BC. While there is disagreement as to its true age, Peter Brand says it "can be dated confidently to Seti's reign", despite the fact that it is situated at a lower depth than the structures nearby, that it features a very different architectural approach, and that it is frequently flooded with water which would have made carving it impossible had the water level been the same at the time of construction.
During winter of 1901-02, excavations in Abydos, near the temple of Sety, resulted in the uncovering of a temenos wall. Abydos was traditionally known for being the city of Osiris. Large unnatural heaps of marl and crude bricks next to a temenos wall sparked excavators’ interest. Edouard Naville also continued excavations because he wanted to reach Osiris' subterranean sanctuary. The sanctuary was expected to be a shrine or room that contained the Ka of Osiris.
It is a megalithic temple built of megalithic granite and limestone blocks. It was commonly known as "The House of Millions of Years" and dedicated to Osiris, the god of the dead and of the afterlife. The Osireion is located to the rear of the Seti Temple, other known as the "Great Temple of Abydos," but is actually older than Seti I's temple. People used to incorrectly think that it was a lower level of the Seti I Temple. Its style, quarrying method, and masonry are much more similar to the Valley Temple at Giza than the Seti Temple. Additionally, the Seti Temple was actually built around and aligned with the Osireion, which is over 50 feet below that temple.
The actual structure of the Osireion is a moat with a central mezzanine. This design may have meant to symbolize an island surrounded by water. Graham Hancock has measured 22,000 layers of Nile silt covering the site, which dates the structure back to 9000 BC, but other scholars say an older date is possible. The moat has a rectangular red sandstone wall around it that is roughly 20 feet thick. The walls bear no ornamentation or inscriptions.
Above this city [Ptolemaïs] lies Abydus, where is the Memnonium, a royal building, which is a remarkable structure built of solid stone, and of the same workmanship as that which I ascribed to the Labyrinth, though not multiplex; and also a fountain which lies at a great depth, so that one descends to it down vaulted galleries made of monoliths of surprising size and workmanship.
- Bard, Katheryn (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 0-415-18589-0.
- Rice, Michael (1999). Who's Who in Ancient Egypt. Routledge.
- Brand, Peter J. The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis Brill September 2000, ISBN 978-90-04-11770-9 p. 175
- Strabo. Geography, 17.1.42
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- The Osirion The original notes by archeologist Sir William Flinders-Petrie on the discovery of the Osirion site, published in 1903.
- Frankfort, H., De Buck, A. & Gunn, B. The Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos, 2 vol. Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Society, Egypt Exploration Society. London, 1933.
- Murray, Margaret A. The Osirion at Abydos, British School of Egyptian Archeology n°1, London, 1904.
- Petrie, Flinders. The Osirion at Abydos
- Naville, Edouard. “Abydos.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 1, no. 1, 1914, pp. 2–8. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3853664.
- Schorn, M. Don. Elder Gods of Antiquity: First Journal of the Ancient Ones. N.p.: Ozark Mountain, 2008. Print.
- Murray, Margaret Alice., J. G. Milne, and W. E. Crum. The Osireion at Abydos. London: Histories & Mysteries of Man, 1989. Print.
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