National Geographic : 2005 Apr
although his enclo sure remains lost. And by the 2nd dy nasty the practice simply stopped. O'Connor thinks it ended because the royal staff re belled. "People tend to say that the Egyp tians were becom ing more civilized and that's why it stopped, but I think that reflects our own prej udices. 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 down stream 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 cere monial enclosure. The royal necropolis at Aby dos 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 pha raohs 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 monu ments and temples at Abydos to honor Osiris. Hundreds of KENNETHGARRETTEGYPTIANMUSEUM,CAIRO thousands of Egyp tians, farmers and pharaohs alike, made the pil grimage 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 thou sand 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 pot sherds today, piled high like so many hopes that in the wake of death comes eternal life. 0 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARM? Learn about the rough and-ready days of early archaeology at Abydos, including the strange story of a jewel-bedecked arm discovered in a royal tomb, at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/0504.