"A Sanctaury For Sokar" first appeared in Appendix IV of Secret Chamber by Robert Bauval
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As has been shown in previous books the area known to the Ancient Egyptians as Rostau (or Rosetau) is the place we now know as Giza and the deity associated with the environs of Rostau (by the Old Kingdom) was Osiris. One important fact that we know about the worship of Osiris was that in Archaic times (first and second dynasties), and indeed up until about the fourth dynasty, Osiris seems to have been nothing more than an agricultural deity, possibly a corn god, as can be seen from his later association with the colour green, standing for growth and fertility. It wasn't until Osiris usurped the role of the god, Sokar, that he became associated with the realm of the dead. However, for now we will concentrate on Osiris, moving on to Sokar shortly. At the early mortuary complex of Abydos, in lower middle Egypt, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom pilgrims would journey to leave offerings and Ushabti figures at the site of the so-called hill of Heqreshu, close to the tomb of the first dynasty king Djer, for they believed this place to be the tomb of Osiris. Petrie commented on this:
As has been stated previously, in the archaeological season 1906/7, Sir William Flinders Petrie was digging in the desert between Giza and Zawiyet el-Aryan, about two kilometres south of the plateau, when he discovered a hoard of Ushabti figures. The exact spot is hard to pinpoint as Petrie only states that he found the figures in the plain beyond a rocky ridge that rose half a mile south of the Great Pyramid, the Ushabti figures were found in pits about ten feet deep that were filled with sand and rubbish. To all intents and purposes, these figures were what are known as extrasepulchral Ushabtis, in other words, they were left by pilgrims who were unrelated to any original tomb or burial, many of these extrasepulchral were also found by Mariette in the Serapeum at Saqqara, many of them bull headed. More of these figures were excavated in 1919 by an antiquities inspector called Tewfik Boulos, on a small hill about six kilometres south of the Petrie find. Some of the Ushabtis found by Petrie belonged to an individual called Khamwase, a son of Ramesses II, at the spot Petrie found no tomb as such, but he did find some limestone building blocks that he couldn't explain.
Why were the extrasepulchral Ushabtis left at Giza? Is there a correlation between these figures and the extrasepulchral finds at Abydos?
To answer these questions we must take a closer look at the deity that predates even Osiris and whom Osiris actually assimilates in the late Old Kingdom, that deity is Sokar.
The falcon headed deity, Sokar, has gained popular notoriety because of his place in the fourth and fifth hours (or houses) of the duat. Many researchers and authors have assumed that this figure is just another side of Osiris and have therefore ignored him altogether. Sokar however, merits closer attention. In my opinion, Sokar could possibly be the oldest deity known in Egypt, far older than Osiris and responsible for many of the later god figures of dynastic times. Sadly, textural and archaeological evidence for the cult of Sokar is sparse but from what we have, we can piece together a picture of how the deity was revered and worshipped not only in archaic and dynastic Egypt, but quite probably pre-dynastic times also. By the time of the new kingdom, the cult of Sokar, who it seems was a god of the Memphite necropolis, had appropriated many of the ritual, mythological, and ideological elements of the cult of Osiris. But who was Sokar?
There is no doubt that Sokar was originally a god of the Memphite necropolis, indeed his name is echoed in the place today called Saqqara and his sanctuary was at Rostau, which as we shall demonstrate, was at south Giza and at which certain parts of his festival were held. The primary objects of his cult were a mound and his sacred boat called, the Henu-barque, it is the Henu-barque that carries the dead king to heaven. During the Old Kingdom, Sokar is seen as a patron of craftsmen, specifically of metal workers and in the book of the Am-Duat, Sokar inhabits a strange land of the dead, a land that even Ra has no access to. This fact alone attests to his importance. Sokar can be seen in the representations of the fourth and fifth hours of the Duat, standing upon his mound within what seems to be a hill topped by a black conical symbol of some sort, possibly a stone. In this place the barque of the sun god, Ra, assumes the form of a snake in order to crawl along the sand and so traverse the realm of Sokar safely, whilst the souls of the dead cry out from the darkness around him. This echoes the Henu-barque of Sokar, which also is pulled along the ground and is placed atop a sled. The realm of Sokar is guarded by the two Aker lions and by a plethora of snakes and strange deities. The realm of Sokar certainly qualifies as a 'secret chamber', so secret in fact, that as we have noted, the sun god himself is denied access. It is interesting to note here that an unnamed official of Pepi I was known as 'master of secrets of the chamber of Sokar'.
Having ascertained that the character of Osiris in the context of the late Old Kingdom texts (i.e. as a god of the dead), was based upon and assimilated with the earlier god Sokar, where does this leave us? Firstly, we must re-evaluate the idea that we stated previously of a tomb of Osiris at Giza mirroring the tomb of Osiris at Abydos. Surely, our references must now be to the tomb, (or Shetayet as it is known from the texts) of Sokar and the knock on effect of this is that the Abydos pilgrimage site becomes the secondary site and the Giza site, the primary. In other words, the archetype. Sokar is also assimilated with the Memphite god Ptah by the time of the Old Kingdom and it would seem that his assimilation had been going on for some time. Further evidence of his assimilation with Osiris can be seen in certain similarities between some of the ceremonies enacted in Sokar's festival and some episodes in the Khoiak festival of Osiris at Abydos. As we have seen the character of Sokar is intimately associated with his Henu-barque, possibly echoed by the various boat burials found within the pyramid fields. In the festival of Sokar, besides the circumambulation of the walls of Memphis, there was at some point in the ten day festival, ceremonies at a Sokar-Osiris tomb, known as the Shetayet, in the Memphite necropolis, specifically at Rostau. The French Egyptologist, C.M. Zivie, believes that Rostau is located in the region of Gebel Gibli, about half a mile south of the Great Pyramid and the site of the so-called southern hill at Giza, this prominent hill is the only point on the plateau that all nine pyramids can be seen from, it is interesting to note therefore concerning this area, that Petrie found:
This would place a possible structure just to the west of the southern hill, in direct line with a most intriguing feature of the plateau, the Wall of the Crow. Could it be that Howard Vyse was right in thinking that the wall was indeed a causeway, leading from an as yet, undiscovered structure? If not a causeway, then maybe an enclosure wall for the Shetayet of Sokar and the Henu-barque sanctuary. Egyptologist Mark Lehner has stated that the Wall of the Crow is quite possibly the oldest structure on the plateau and a close inspection of this feature reveals it to be of cyclopean construction, with huge blocks used in the body of the wall and three truly enormous limestone blocks used to form the roof of the tunnel that runs through it from north to south (or visa versa). It is also interesting to note that the name Rostau was applied to an ancient village, later known as Busiris, which stood approximately on the site of the modern village of Nazlet-Batran. It was in the desert to the west of this village that Petrie found the extrasepulchral Ushabtis mentioned above. It is tempting to speculate that these pieces of granite could have belonged to the Henu-barque sanctuary of Sokar, if this were the case, then the tomb of Sokar (Osiris) could not be far away, as we have previously stated, this tomb was known in the festival of Sokar as, the Shetayet. The eminent British Egyptologist, I.E.S. Edwards states that the Shetayet must have been a separate edifice, though undoubtedly close to the sanctuary of the Henu-barque.
So, lets review the situation, we have ascertained that an original tomb of Osiris would be seen as a very sacred and mysterious place, with pilgrims venerating and leaving offerings at the site, that it is very probable that such a tomb did exist at Giza and that this tomb was originally known as the Shetayet of Sokar and was therefore the original and archetypal tomb in Egypt, predating the tomb at Abydos. We have also pointed out that Rostau was located at Giza and specifically in an area known as Gebel Gibli, that the remains of a substantial and costly building has been found in this area and that pilgrims from at least the time of Ramesses II left Ushabti figures here as offerings. Could it be that the way we see the Giza plateau today is only three quarters complete? Was an ancient structure in place in the area of the main wadi and the southern hill?
Did the Wall of the Crow form part of this structure?
Standing between the fore paws of the brooding Sphinx of Giza, the Dream Stele of Thutmose IV is largely disregarded by most visitors to this amazing place. Approximately seven feet tall and about three feet wide, originally a granite door lintel from the mortuary temple of Khafre, the stone was used to commemorate a special event in the life of a young prince.
The young prince Thutmose had been out hunting in his favourite location, a place we know as Giza. Whilst out with his companions, he decided to rest awhile in the scorching sun, beneath the Sphinx, which was at this time buried up to its neck in sand. As soon as the young prince had fallen asleep the Sphinx, in the form of Hor-em-akhet, spoke to him in his dream. He proclaimed that if Thutmose cleared the sand from his body, he would make the prince a king.
He was true to his word.
The most telling part of the tale comes half way through. It describes the area where Thutmose is resting as the 'Setepet', or the sanctuary of Hor-em-akhet, which he details as being 'beside Sokar in Rostau'. Sokar, as we have seen is an early Egyptian god of the dead and an integral figure to our whole quest for the 'secret chamber', Rostau, again as we have pointed out, being the ancient name of the Giza Plateau. Thus, the Stele intimates that the Setepet, or the sanctuary of the Sphinx, was 'beside' Sokar, but where? The next few lines of the stele hold the answer.
The text describes the goddess Neith as 'mistress of the southern wall'. Again, we are being given geographical references to what can only be the Wall of the Crow. It continues: 'Sekhmet, presiding over the mountain, the splendid place of the beginning of time'. Could it be that the 'mountain' was in fact our southern rocky hill? Was this 'the splendid place of the beginning of time'? And what was meant by 'beginning of time'? It is also interesting that it is the goddess Sekhmet that 'presides over the mountain', as in the various eighteenth dynasty tomb depictions of the fourth and fifth hours of the duat, it is a female figure that seems to encompass the hill of Sokar. Again we can see clues that are pointing to a specific geographical location, this location is southern Giza, around the rocky knoll above the two modern cemeteries (one Muslim, one Coptic), just to the south of the Sphinx.
As well as the straight archaeological and historical research that points to a hidden location on the plateau, I have, along with my co-authors David Ritchie and Jacqueline Pegg put forward two further arguments that are just as compelling, if not more so. These revolve around the use of sacred geometry and astronomy. The astronomical argument is too long and complex to enter into in this short space, but I will let my co-author, David Ritchie, introduce you to the geometrical argument we hope to bring forth some time in the future.
1 See Bauval & Gilbert, 1994, The Orion Mystery , London,
William Heinemann Ltd.