Osiris Catacombs

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Originally built by Ptolemy IV – 221 BCE to 205 BCE

Other works initiated by Ptolemy IV:

Osiris Catacombs


The “Osiris catacombs” were located to the northeast of the core Amun-Ra temple, in an area dedicated to the god Osiris. It would have originally been at least partly subterranean. The rectangular baked mud brick structure consisted of a short north/south hallway on its eastern side that provided access to three galleries running off to the west. The galleries were lined with a series of small niches, each originally closed off with clay plaques (remains of which were found within the building during excavations). The brick walls were plastered over and painted, and a few thousand fragments with the name of Ptolemy IV, images of the resurrection of Osiris and the running of the Apis bull provide information on the themes of its decoration.
Measurements: The catacombs measured 25m by 14.5m. Each niche was approximately 30cm high and 90cm deep.

Phases of Construction

Ptolemy IV

The building was dedicated to the god of the underworld, Osiris. The building functioned as a “hypogeum,” an underground burial place. Many of these are known from ancient Egypt, although typically these spaces contained burials for sacred animals. The Karnak example instead served for the burial of small statuettes of Osiris.

Construction materials: fired mud brick

About the reconstruction model of Ptolemy IV

The model was based on the plans and axial drawings of Coulon (1995: pl. III, IV, VII, VIII).

The building was given a plain mud brick pattern, colored slightly redder than the other bricks on the model, as ancient baked mud brick has a reddish hue. Because the area of the catacombs is off limits to visitors to Karnak, the size of the brick patterning included on the model had to be based on the reconstruction drawings of the building, and not on photographs.


Larché, François. (2003),Karnak, 1994-1997. Cahiers de Karnak. vol. XI , 7-64.

Coulon, Laurent, François Leclére, and Sylvie Marchand. (1995),‘Catacombs’ Osiriennes de Ptolémée IV à Karnak. Cahiers de Karnak. vol. X , 205-257.

Leclére, François. (1996),A cemetery of Osirid figurines at Karnak. Egyptian archaeology. vol. 9 , 9-12.

Leclére, François. (2002),Fouilles dans le cimetière osirien de Karnak – travaux récents. Bulletin de la société d’égyptologie. vol. 153 , 24-44.

Leclere, François and Laurent Coulon. Eyre, Christopher (1998),La nécropole osirienne de la “Grande Place” à Karnak : fouilles dans le secteur nord-est du temple d’Amon. Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Cambridge, 3-9 September 1995. Leuven: Peeters, 649-659.

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