University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Author: Josef Wegner

Excavating the Residence of an Ancient Egyptian Mayor

Research Notes

By: Josef Wegner

For 1000 miles, from the Mediterranean Sea south into Nubia, the Nile Valley is dense with the great buildings of three millennia of Pharaonic civilization. Egypt is famous for its ancient stone monu­ments: imposing tombs and temples dedicated to gods and kings. In contrast, early Egyptian towns and cities have been much less visible. Constructed predominantly of mud-brick […]

A Hundred Years at South Abydos

Reconstructing the Temple of Pharaoh Senwosret III

By: Josef Wegner

Discovery and Rediscovery of a Royal Mortuary Temple Late in 1899 a young British archaeologist, David Randall-Maclver, was exploring the desert at Abydos in southern Egypt and he noticed a block of dressed limestone protruding from the sand. Randall-Maclver had come to Egypt to study skeletal remains with the famous excavator W.M. Flinders Petrie. Randall-Maclver […]

The Archaeology of South Abydos

Egypt's Late Middle Kingdom in Microcosm

By: Josef Wegner

Some 3,850 years ago a remarkable experiment in architectural and social engineering took place on the edge of the desert in southern Egypt. The sacred site of Abydos—the burial place of Egypt’s first pharaohs and a religious center for the god Osiris—saw the construction of a royal mortuary complex named Enduring-Are-the-Places-of-Khakaure-True-of-Voice-in-Abydos (in Egyptian: Wah-Sut-Khakaure-maa-kheru-em-Abdju). Dedicated […]

Beneath the Mountain-of-Anubis

Ancient Egypt's First Hidden Royal Tomb

By: Josef Wegner

Ancient peoples throughout the world had sophisticated understandings of their landscape. Specific elements, such as mountains, were often identified as having divine meaning. These were used to conceptualize the links between humans and the forces that governed creation and their destiny. Recent work at South Abydos has revealed that the subterranean tomb of Senwosret III […]

One Pharaoh, Two Tombs

By: Josef Wegner

Most Egyptian pharaohs possessed only a single tomb, leaving little doubt as to where they were buried. But Senwosret III belongs to a small group of pharaohs who built multiple tombs. How were is different tombs used and where was he actually buried? Like all of his predecessors in the 12th Dynasty, Senwosret III built […]

Echoes of Power

The Mayor's House of Ancient Wah-Sut

By: Josef Wegner

Throughout history, the economic, religious, and social life of settlements has centered on special buildings such as temples, churches, post offices, and town halls. For the community of Wah-Sut (ca. 1850 and 1700 BCE), the Mayor’s House (Egyptian Per Haty-a) was the focus of social and economic interaction. We first discovered the mayoral residence in […]

The Magical Birth Brick

By: Josef Wegner

In 2001 we discovered a unique object for Egyptian archaeology in the mayoral residence at South Abydos—a polychrome magical birth brick painted with childbirth-related imagery. Egyptologists have long known that it was customary to position special bricks (meskhenet) to support a woman squatting during the delivery of her baby. But while the notion of the […]

The Areryt

By: Josef Wegner

The same clay seal impressions that identified Building A as the mayoral residence also indicated the existence of another structure nearby—the administrative gatehouse (areryt). Ancient texts indicate that areryt facilities were points of control to administer the flow of goods in and out of major institutional buildings like temples, palaces, and, in this case, a […]

Abydos And The Cult Of Osiris

By: Josef Wegner

Ancient Abydos (Abdju) played a lengthy and important role in the development of Egyptian civilization. Located 500 km south of Cairo, it sits on the desert’s edge, 15 km west of the Nile. During the Predynastic period (before ca. 3000 BCE) Abydos served as the cemetery site for a series of regional rulers whose capital, […]


By: Josef Wegner

Extensively excavated since 1994, the mortuary temple of Senwosret III housed a limestone cult building at its core. Its central ceremonial gateway was decorated with flagpoles and approached by a causeway coming up from the floodplain below. The interior of the building was composed of three distinct blocks. The East Block was a storage area […]

Ancient Reuse

The Discovery of a Royal Sarcophagus Chamber

By: Josef Wegner and Kevin M. Cahail

During June 2013, excavations were underway near the base of the Mountain-of-Anubis. The search was on for private cemeteries belonging to the Middle Kingdom community of Wah-sut. Excavations since 1994 have revealed a large and complex settlement site. But where are the tombs of the thousands of people who must have lived and died at […]

Abydos and the Penn Museum

By: Josef Wegner

Abydos in southern Egypt is one of the great sites of ancient Egyptian civilization. At the dawn of Egyptian history, ca. 3000–2800 BCE, Abydos was the burial place of Egypt’s first pharaohs. Subsequently the site became the primary cult center for veneration of Osiris, god of the netherworld. The archaeology of Abydos spans over five […]

Discovering Pharaohs Sobekhotep & Senebkay

An Update from the 2013–2014 Field Season

By: Josef Wegner

Archaeology can change quickly in the face of new data produced through excavation. In this issue of Expedition we have presented some of the recent research of the Penn Museum’s excavations at South Abydos. Yet, already we have new results to add. The winter season (December 2013–January 2014) was extremely productive and has provided some […]

The Palatial Residence of Wah-Sut

Modeling the Mayor’s House at South Abydos

By: Josef Wegner

It was the summer of 1994. Our first season of excavation was underway on the temple of Senwosret III. Walking across the landscape of South Abydos, I had many questions. What else besides a pharaoh’s tomb and mortuary temple once existed at South Abydos? Not far to the south of the temple, my attention was […]

Revealing a Hidden Tomb

A Look at Excavations inside the Tomb of Senwosret III

By: Josef Wegner

Beneath the sands of South Abydos is an astonishing monument: a gigantic tomb, one of the largest in Egypt, and a striking testimonial to the ancient Egyptians’ belief in the divine afterlife of their pharaohs. This is the tomb of pharaoh Senwosret III who reigned ca. 1878–1841 BCE, 5th king of the powerful 12th Dynasty. […]