The Osireion: The Oldest Temple In Egypt

Osireion at Abydos, Megalithic Egypt

The Osireion is an ancient Egyptian temple located in Abydos, behind the temple of Seti I, and might be the oldest megalithic temple of all Egypt (not according to modern Egyptology, of course).

It was discovered by archaeologists Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray who were excavating the site in 1902/1903.

The Osireion was originally built at a considerably lower level than the foundations of the temple of Seti, which ruled from 1294–1279 BCE.

While there is disagreement as to its true age, Peter Brand says it “can be dated confidently to Seti’s reign”. However, this theory has no real background evidence, and only relies on the fact that it was built near the temple of Seti. 

Strabo, who visited the Osireion in the first century BCE, was baffled when he saw the structure:

“Above this city lies Abydos, 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.”

It was originally covered with a roof of lintels weighing up to 200 tons which had to be carefully placed on top of the columns from above.

The craftsmanship is stunning and the monoliths are heavier and more precise than any other structure in Egypt. Seti’s temple itself is far from the magnitude and engineering levels reached at the Osireion, even though mainstream archaeology maintains they were built in the same period.

Several observations can be accounted to suggests an earlier date of construction that could make the Osireion the oldest temple and megalithic structure of all Egypt, along with the Sphinx, the Valley Temple, and the three main pyramids.

At the present, it is a common hypothesis that Seti I build his monument on top of the Osireon to give homage to this structure and to preserve it, as it was considered to be the tomb of Osiris himself.

Not only the Osireion is at a lower level than the rest of the complex, but the Osireion also bears no inscriptions.

This is incredibly strange since the funerary monuments of the Dynastic Egyptians were densely adorned with inscriptions and mythological accounts, and of course the temple of Seti I makes no exception.

Therefore, why did the same builders leave such an important structure like the tomb of Osiris completely bare?

Osireion at Abydos, Megalithic Egypt

The Osireion was built with perfect symmetry and precision that is unparalleled in ancient Egypt except for the three main pyramids and the Valley Temple.

The megaliths that form the walls are placed together without mortar so tightly that a sheet of paper can’t fit between two of them; they also present the particular “knobs” found at several other megalithic sites spanning from South America to Japan.

Osireion at Abydos, Megalithic Egypt

Among the hypotheses that suggest an earlier date of construction for the Osireion, some geologists also identified on the huge blocks unmistakable signs of the erosive action of rain, to which they could have been exposed so abundantly only in a period between 12,000 and 10,000 BCE, a period that would make the Osireion contemporary or even older than Göbekli Tepe, Turkey, unanimously considered so far the oldest archaeological site in the world.

In the Annual Report from the Smithsonian Institute, 1914, pp. 579-585, we can read the notes of E.Naville, who studied the structure:

Excavations at Abydoss: Naville, Edouard. (Extract)

“There is no longer any doubt, then, that we have discovered what Strabo calls the well or the fountain of Abydos. He spoke of it as being near the temple, at a great depth, and remarkable for some corridors whose ceilings were formed of enormous monolithic blocks. That is exactly what we have found.

These cells were 17 in number, 6 on each of the long sides. There was one in the middle of the wall at the back; in passing through it one came in the rear to the large hall which was the tomb of Osiris. A careful study of the sculptures confirmed the opinion that this was a funeral hall where the remains of the god were expected to be found. but this hall did not form part of the original edifice. It must have been constructed underground when Seti I built the temple of the god. The tomb of Osiris was very near the great reservoir. Nothing revealed its presence; the entrance to it was exactly like that to all the other cells, the back of it being walled up after they had dug through it…

…We have as yet no certain indications of the date of the construction; but the style, the size of the materials, the complete absence of all ornamentation, all indicate very great antiquity. Up to the present time what is called the temple of the Sphinx at Gizeh has always been considered one of the most ancient edifices of Egypt. It is contemporaneous with the pyramid of Chefren.

The reservoir of Abydos being of a similar composition, but of much larger materials, is of a still more archaic character, and I would not be surprised if this were the most ancient structure in Egypt”.

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