The mortuary complex of Senwosret III: A study of Middle Kingdom state activity and the cult of Osiris at Abydos

Josef William Wegner, University of Pennsylvania


During the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2050-1650 B.C.) the site of Abydos in southern Egypt underwent a period of considerable expansion and development. Involvement at the site extended from the kingship and central state to private individuals. This development of Abydos was associated with the importance of that site as the cult center of the god Osiris. This dissertation investigates the nature and organization of Middle Kingdom royal and state activity at Abydos.^ The main focus of the work is a detailed study of a mortuary complex which was built at Abydos by the 12th Dynasty king Senwosret III. Archaeological excavations conducted in 1994 provide the basis for an analysis of the function of that complex, and a means for associating it with the wider patterns of Middle Kingdom royal and state-level investment in the Osiris cult at Abydos. The Senwosret III complex is the only remaining, well-preserved element of Middle Kingdom Abydos where the interrelated issues of royal religious and ideological interest in the Osiris cult can be combined with analysis of state-initiated institutional investment in Abydos.^ An analysis of the archaeological and textual evidence for the organization of state activity at Abydos indicates that the Senwosret III mortuary complex is closely associated with a generally high level of royal interest in Abydos during the Middle Kingdom. Evidence for both earlier and later royal cult buildings indicates that the Senwosret complex represents an expansion upon more standard royal cult structures which associated the cult of kings with that of Osiris. The Senwosret III mortuary complex may represent a cult establishment which was produced through a particularly high level of interest in the cult of Osiris during the reign of Senwosret III.^ Introductory chapters investigate the pre-Middle Kingdom basis for the Middle Kingdom expansion of the Osiris cult. The close association of the god Osiris with the image of early kingship and his link with the burial place of the kings of the Early Dynastic Period at Abydos is considered in detail. During the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period, the increasing importance of Osiris and the funerary religion centered on that god appears to have made Abydos a cult center of primary religious importance. With the increased economic prosperity and centralized government of the Middle Kingdom that cult was fully formalized and developed. ^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Archaeology|History, Middle Eastern|History, Ancient

Recommended Citation

Wegner, Josef William, "The mortuary complex of Senwosret III: A study of Middle Kingdom state activity and the cult of Osiris at Abydos" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9713026.