Abydos, 100 km north of Luxor, was regarded as a particularly sacred place. This was due to a belief that the god Osiris was buried there. This conviction was probably linked to the fact that the first kings of Egypt from c. 3000 to 2650 BC were actually buried at Abydos. Around the tombs of the kings their retinue were interred in small side burials. Whether they died natural deaths or were forced through violence to follow their kings remains unknown.
Valley enclosure in Abydos with small side burials. Photo: Matthew Adams
As far back as 1899-1904 Petrie had excavated the royal tombs in the desert at Abydos, tombs which dated from Egypt’s early history, c. 3000-2650 BC. Preceding him, the Frenchman, Emile Amélineau, had, in Petrie’s opinion, almost obliterated the site. There were, however, still important finds to make. When Petrie returned to Abydos in 1921-22, it was to examine some large mudbrick enclosures down in the Nile Valley. They were a kind of cult precinct associated with the royal tombs. Around them lay the small side burials of the king’s retinue, arranged in the same way as around the royal tombs themselves.