The cults of King Ahmose at Abydos

Stephen Phillip Harvey, University of Pennsylvania


A monumental cult complex erected by pharaoh Ahmose I (ca. 1550-1525 B.C.) at South Abydos, Egypt was initially identified by Mace and Currelly between 1899 and 1902, and was found to consist of the last known royal pyramid complex constructed in Egypt, as well as a variety of other contemporary structures. Ahmose also received veneration at North Abydos in a shrine constructed by his son, Amenhotep I. Textual evidence reveals a history of more than 250 years of worship of the deified Ahmose at Abydos, culminating in a popular oracle cult. A contextual study of the cult structures of Ahmose at Abydos was undertaken by the author, involving selective re-excavation of previously documented portions of the South Abydos pyramid complex, as well as extensive survey and excavation in hitherto unexplored parts of the site. Results of fieldwork include the recovery of significant information regarding the construction history of the pyramid temple; the location of a cult structure built by or for Queen Ahmose-Nefertary (here tentatively identified as the enclosure for a subsidiary pyramid); and over 3,000 fragments of limestone which formed the architectural decoration of the pyramid temple. Analysis and reconstruction of the relief program revealed two major themes. Fragments of battle scenes depicting an Asiatic enemy were discovered and interpreted as depictions of Ahmose's conquest of the Hyksos occupiers. Additional ritual scenes (especially of the provisioning of the royal offering table) appear to have been decorated under Amenhotep I. Analysis of the decorative program of the pyramid was undertaken in order to elucidate the ancient symbolism of the pyramid temple. Thorough analysis of the architectural traces from the pyramid temple and subsidiary shrine of Ahmose-Nefertary revealed a complex building history, which correlates with the textual evidence for 250 years of cultic activity at the site. The unique architectural conception of Ahmose monumental complex at South Abydos is described and analyzed in relation to Memphite, Theban, and Abydene traditions of religious architecture, thereby demonstrating the pivotal role of the Ahmose complex in the development of later royal funerary monuments.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Ancient civilizations|Middle Eastern history

Recommended Citation

Harvey, Stephen Phillip, "The cults of King Ahmose at Abydos" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829912.