Helicopter Hieroglyphs? Debunking the “Mystery” of the Abydos Carvings

In the ancient city of Abydos, within the famed temple of Seti I, strange hieroglyphs were discovered on the ceiling. Appearing to depict modern or extraterrestrial vehicles, some claim that the Abydos carvings are evidence of ancient astronauts visiting Egypt over 3,000 years ago.

Temple of Seti I and the Abydos Carvings
The sacred city of Abydos, near Al-Balyanā on the west bank of the Nile, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt encompassing a vast area of about 8 km2 (3.08 mi2). Originally it was a necropolis for Egyptian royalty during the 1st and 2nd dynasties – although some remains have been discovered from earlier – and then became a pilgrimage destination for worshiping Osiris.


Over time, the temple of Osiris was expanded by a succession of pharaohs, some of whom built monumental cenotaphs or mortuary temples at the site. The beautifully decorated temple of Seti I, the ancient Egyptian king from the 19th dynasty who ruled from 1290 to 1279 BC and son of Ramses I , was one of the most spectacular to have been constructed at Abydos. The temple of Seti I is best remembered for a long gallery which includes the “Abydos King List” in which Seti I and his son Ramses II can be seen making offerings to the cartouches of 76 dead predecessors, the first being Menes. Behind the mortuary temple of Seti I, visitors can also view a megalithic structure known as the Osireion. Discovered in the early 1900s, the meaning and use of the structure remains unknown. Besides an impressive array of graffiti, both Phoenician and Aramaic, the temple of Seti I has gained attention for what are known as the Abydos carvings.


Out-of-Place Artifacts or Palimpsest: Understanding the Abydos Carvings
Also dubbed the “helicopter hieroglyphs,” the Abydos carvings have been interpreted in pseudoscientific circles as being “mysterious” or “out-of-place” artifacts. Proponents of these ideas believe they depict impossibly-modern 20th century or extraterrestrial technology, such as what appears to be either a helicopter, or possibly even a submarine, two planes, or even, wait for it, a UFO, all of which obviously did not exist at the time the hieroglyphs were carved.

From this point of view, espoused by ancient astronaut theorists, these hieroglyphs are seen as proof of extraterrestrial contact in the past. Some of these UFOlogists claim that extraterrestrials were responsible for the construction of famed monuments including the pyramids and Stonehenge, amongst others. While some have argued that the images circulating on the internet are fakes, they are in fact real, but Egyptologists have attempted to offer a more rational explanation for the Abydos carvings.

It was common in ancient Egypt for hieroglyphs to be re-carved and re-faced over the years. This process of writing on the same surface more than once is called palimpsest, and it was common practice when a new Pharaoh was establishing a dynasty to write over the hieroglyphs of his predecessors. It is well known that such a process took place at the temple of Seti I in Abydos, during the reign of his son Ramses II.

One blogger named Hypnogogial, claims to “get really irritated at gullibility and slopping thinking” of “New-Age/UFO/Atlantis enthusiasts,” explaining that this portion of the roof support was begun during the reign of Seti I and completed by Ramses II. Therefore, “anywhere it says Seti I, Rameses II is carved over it, or vice versa.” This superimposing of hieroglyphs for one name over the hieroglyphs of the other, along with the erosion that comes over time, creates the visual effect of modern technology where in fact there is none.

There is a Logical Reason for the Abydos Carvings. Or is There?
However, there is still some disagreement over the palimpsest theory. If the above depictions are indeed “left overs” from previously carved hieroglyphs, the symbols should appear random and unique. Several sources make reference to the Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al-Awsat having published pictures from the Amon Ra temple in Karnak in which the carvings are very similar to those found in Abydos.

Following this line of reasoning, if the carvings at Karnak are real, the palimpsest theory apparently falls apart. For how, ask ancient astronaut theorists, could Egyptian carvings in a temple dating back over 3,000 years show technology which was created in the 20th century. Were they visited by people from the future? Or, in keeping with this kind of inquiry, the obvious next step is to wonder whether extraterrestrials visited our planet in some kind of UFO all those centuries ago and ancient Egyptian artists depicted their spacecraft in a corner of a roof support within a temple at Abydos. It’s very hard to convince the pseudoscientific of the need for true scientific inquiry. The mere mention of images showing a connection between Karnak and the Abydos carvings is enough to debunk scientifically reasoned explanations made by professional Egyptologists.

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