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Andi Reynolds Archaeology Final Research Project

After a very long time of reading article upon article on archeology discoveries, I finally found one that peaked my interest called “Tomb Resembling Mythical Tomb of Egyptian God Osiris Found” (MacIsaac|2015| The more I read the more I wanted to know and I ended up looking at several websites with articles about this discovery and finding it completely fascinating. I’ve always found ancient Egypt interesting, but never really knew about the stories and beliefs they had. They all seemed so elegant and sophisticated; maybe that’s why I was so drawn. In this final research project I will write 4 main topics: (1) I will write a brief summary on the Egyptian myth of Osiris, (2) I intend to clarify how this archaeological site was found, (3) I will describe the excavation with the information recorded, and (4) I will compare the information I’ve learned in class and how I would excavate to Dr. Zahi Hawass’s excavation in the Osiris’ shaft. My goal for this project is to further my knowledge of Ancient Egypt through an archaeology aspect.

Osiris Overview

As an illustration on Osiris (Figure 1), he is known as the ‘King of the Dead’ and is one of the oldest Egyptian myths. Osiris’ biography began as a king; he gave people a code of laws to live by, teaching them agriculture among other things (| Isis and Osiris). He was known as a kind and gentle king and people gladly worshiped the ground he walked on. His jealous brother Set plotted against him and wanted to be king. Set nailed him inside a box, pored lava on the box, then threw the box in the Nile River. Osiris wife, Isis went out to find his body in the Land of Byblos and took it back to Egypt. Set then found the box and ripped Osiris’ body into fourteen pieces and scattered them all over Egypt. Isis once again

Figure 1
Figure 1

was from then on

went out to find his body; this is thought to be the reason Osiris has many tombs. Anubis, lord of the dead, sewed the pieces back together, washed the entrails of Osiris, embalmed him, wrapped him in linen, and cast the Ritual of Life. When Osiris' mouth was opened his spirit reentered him. But nothing that has died, not even a god, can be in the land of the living. Osiris

Figure 2 (

Figure 1 was from then on went out to find his body; this is thought to

over the judgment of souls (Figure 2), and would decide whether you go to the Blessed Land or condemned to Amit (Gods of Egypt| Osiris | In pictures he is usually seen as a man with green skin and a beard associated with the pharaoh, wearing a crown with two large ostrich feathers, and legs partially wrapped like a mummy. In his hands he holds a flail and a symbolic crook. Osiris has green skin to symbolize death and the power of resurrection, also alluding to

vegetation when he was king (| Osiris).

Site Discovery


and it is

To begin with, in the 1880’s an archaeologist named Virey found the site without finding Osiris’ Tomb. The two chambers may have escaped Virey’s attention and no one knew

the significance of the site (Griffiths|2015| The

Osiris Shaft is located under the causeway of Khafre (Figure 3), about 30 feet deep (Figure 4). In ancient times people used it for

swimming, and even to the present day many people, including archaeologists,

have been in the shaft without knowing. In 1933 a man named Selim Hassan wrote about his excavations in Giza and talks about finding the opening to the shaft. He states that the eastern side had yet another shaft, about 10.00 m. deep, but it was flooded. He tried to pump out the water, but says

Figure 3 (| Osiris’ tomb)

the spring must have

broken through the rock, for continual daily pumping over a period of four years he was unable to reduce the water level

Figure 4 (| Hawass:


have been in the shaft without knowing. In 1933 a man named Selim Hassan wrote about

(Hassan 1944: 193 |Giza pyramids).


have been in the shaft without knowing. In 1933 a man named Selim Hassan wrote about

Henceforth, Dr. Zahi Hawass Director of the Giza Pyramids and Saqqara went to the shaft in 1999 with a team to see if the water had gone down and to explore the shaft. To determine the date of the shaft they decided to send divers down into the water of the shaft before draining it, to collect any extant artifacts. Many artifacts were found leading Hawass to believe the shaft led to Osiris. The team decided to run pipes down the shaft to pump the water from the lowest level up to the plateau, this took months. Hawass was then able to search all of the shafts and chambers that had been below Khafre the whole time. In the side chambers he was able to find many pottery sherds, ceramic beads, and small servant figurines. Analysis of the pottery and bones dated this level to 500 BC or the 26 th dynasty. The lab analysis they used was carbon dating. Badly decomposed skeletal remains were found in the

sarcophagi in Chambers C and G (Figure 5). Based on the style of the artifacts, along with the sarcophagi’s shape they were dated to Dynasty 26. Two schist amulets in the form of Osiris were also found in the tomb. Scarabs and amulets in the shape of djed pillars date the tomb to the Late Period. In Level 3 was red pottery with traces of white paint, which can be dated by the style to Dynasty 6, from the end of the

Old Kingdom (Osiris shaft: Giza pyramids|Hawass|1999: 390). This pottery represents

Figure 5 (| Osiris’ shaft)

the oldest possible datable material in the entire

complex. Zahi Hawass was on a FOX Television Special called "Opening the Lost Tombs: Live From Egypt" and in that television special he stated, “We have found a burial chamber with four pillars. In the middle is a large granite sarcophagus which I

expect to be the grave of Osiris

the god” (Figure 6). Support for Hawass’ theory

.. can be found in New Kingdom texts, which suggest that underground shafts and chambers were linked with the realm of the god Osiris (Hornung|1990: 115-134). Furthermore, the tomb was described by having a statue of Osiris standing in a chapel with a vaulted ceiling and in front it descends about 30 feet into another room. In this room is another shaft that leads down another 20 feet to the deepest part of the tomb. A burial chamber lies below the statue, linking the dead with Osiris. Archaeologists of the Ministries of Antiquities led an excavation in 2015 and said that the symbolism of Osiris is throughout the building, including a staircase leading to the underworld, the statue on its island and an empty corridor symbolizing a river (Griffiths|2015| They dated this by other tombs that matched with the time period, along with carbon dating. They say it is to date to the 25th dynasty 760–656 B.C. or 26th dynasty 672–525 B.C.


sarcophagi in Chambers C and G (Figure 5) . Based on the style of the artifacts,

Figure 6 (Giza Pyramids: Hawass, Osiris' sarcophagi)

Figure 7 (Ministries of Antiquities, Osiris' tomb) Excavation comparison To start off, I have to say

Figure 7 (Ministries of Antiquities, Osiris' tomb)

Excavation comparison

To start off, I have to say I think Dr.

Hawass and his team did a great job excavating this site, especially under the conditions they had to work under. And in comparison to what I’ve learned in class

and Hawass’ excavation, there are a couple things I would do differently. However, in all honestly they are more like nit picking.

First, Hawass and his team sent divers down to collect artifacts without telling them where or what they thought the divers should look for (Osiris shaft: Giza pyramids|Hawass|1999:381). For example, if I was the director of the excavation I would have done a plethora of research on the culture and would know what was found in previous tombs. I would ask the divers to go down and tell me what the layout looked like beforehand, then I could give them a sense of direction of where to look or what to look for. There could have quite possibly been artifacts that were never found or ruined when they had to pump the water out of the shaft. In addition, the divers were also not instructed to measure where the artifacts were

found (Osiris shaft: Giza pyramids|Hawass|1999:381). I know that measuring where the

artifacts were located would be a hard task to do under water, but from what I’ve learned in class, measuring and recording where the artifact was found is an important part of excavating.

Second, Hawass stated; “It is my contention that this shaft complex is a dummy tomb for the god Osiris”. He then continues on by saying that the shaft could have been built by an Osiris cult and the Egyptians of this era were

‘descending into the realm of Osiris’ (Osiris shaft: Giza pyramids|Hawass|1999:390). So,

if Hawass thought the tomb was a ‘dummy’ why would he say on FOX Television (as shown in paragraph 4) that he thought the shaft contained Osiris’ grave? Along with, if this wasn’t Osiris’ skeletal remains then who was in the sarcophagi in the chambers C and G? If I was excavating this shaft I wouldn’t have told a worldwide network one statement, then put to record something different. Even though Osiris was said to be ‘He who is permanently benign and youthful’, he was also said to have died around the 6 th dynasty (| Osiris). With that being said, I still don’t understand how Hawass claimed it was Osiris grave on FOX Television when he even stated sarcophagi was dated to the 26 th dynasty (Osiris shaft: Giza pyramids| Hawass|1999:390). In short, there were a couple things I found confusing in this excavation and would have done differently if I were directing.

In conclusion, I enjoyed researching this excavation and learning facts about Ancient Egypt I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Reading Dr. Zahi Hawass’ excavation has made me want to go and explore Egypt for myself. I’ve appreciated all the human history and techniques I was able to learn in this archaeology class. I hope that one day I am able to travel and see some of this history for myself.