Understanding the News: Foundation Stone of Ramesses II found at Abydos

The construction of ancient Egyptian temples was steeped in ritual. After selecting a suitable sacred space, a series of rites was performed, beginning with orienting the temple and "Stretching the Cord" or pedj-shes - a ritual associated with the goddess Seshat whose areas of responsibility were architecture, astronomy and mathematics and ending with sacrifices and Offerings.

These activities were intended to be performed by the king as the intermediary between the gods and the mortal realm.

During the middle of the rituals, foundation deposits were made in the corners of the temple.

Foundation deposits of miniature items/offerings were also interred at the start of laying out the foundation guides.

It's rare to find a foundation deposit intact, as they lie underneath the superstructure of the building. These ritual objects included miniature vessels, model tools and even jewellery. These objects rarely have any inscriptions beyond the name of the officiating king.

Model Stone Rocker of Hatshepsut in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evidence about the nature of temple foundation rituals also appears on temple walls such as those belonging to Thutmose III at Medinet Habu and shows the king performing his duties, often in the presence of a deity such as Seshat or Amun. Whether the king performed these tasks in person, or did so symbolically - as he does in every temple in Egypt via his imagery - is not yet known.

The discovery of this beautifully carved foundation stone at Abydos adds to our understanding of the cultic landscape of the site. The foundation stone shows 2 decorated cartouches of Ramesses II embellished by a sun disc and double plumes. Underneath each cartouche is the hieroglyph for 'gold' or the city of Nubt in southern Egypt.

The cartouche on the left, records the king's birth name: Ramesses - beloved of Amun
The cartouche on the right records the king's throne name: Usermaatre

The foundation stone was found while excavators were investigating a hall in the temple precinct. This helps us to understand the chronology of building at the complex more clearly as the main temple at Abydos was dedicated by Ramesses father Seti I, and was later finished and embellished by Ramesses II. Basically this stone tells Egyptologists who built what at the site.

Due to successive use of sites over a long period of time and the necessity to destroy infrastructure to access the information (something which is not done), being able to access the foundation stone is an important piece of the puzzle that adds to our understanding of a complicated and beautiful temple precinct.

References/Further reading:

 Wilkinson, R. (2000). The complete temples of ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson, pp.38-39.

Cover image: The Luxor Times http://luxortimes.com/2019/03/abydos-temple-foundation-stone-discovered/
Model Stone Rocker: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/547563

Abydos Temple Foundation Stone Discovered - Luxor Times

An archaeological team of the University of New York working at Ramses II Temple in Abydos has discovered a royal hall annexed to the Pharaoh's temple. While carrying out the excavation, the team also came across the foundation stone of the temple, said Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr Moustafa Waziri.


  1. It's interesting how widespread the practice of foundation deposits was and still is, from prehistory to today, pretty much all over the world. It later even led to the deliberate practice of placing time capsules, intended to be opened at some future date.


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