for National Geographic News
A development boom near Egypt's Abydos archaeological site is damaging one of the most sacred gathering places for ancient pilgrims, experts say.
Millions of Egyptians crossed the desert surrounding Abydos from 664 B.C. to A.D. 395 to pay homage to the god of the dead, Osiris. Many of Egypt's earliest pharaohs were buried at the site.
Modern pressures in the form of new farms and buildings have taken their toll on the 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) wide area, sometimes called the Mecca of ancient Egypt.
The temples and tombs are also home to the earliest known Egyptian hieroglyphics.
(See photos of Abydos.)
But now, an international team of archaeologists are rallying to protect Abydos from future harm.
This month, a government-run project to renovate Abydos will begin, according to archaeologists and architects involved in the effort.
"It is the site where we learn the most about the origins of [pharaohs in] Egyptian culture," said Günter Dreyer, director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo.
"Imagine a road running though this."
The Abydos site has been nicknamed Omm El Qaab, or Mother of Pots in Arabic, because pilgrims left millions of pieces of pottery in the desert around several cemeteries and temples built by Seti I, Ramses I, Ramses II, and Ramses IV.
Ancient pharaohs built in the desert partly to avoid damage from the annual floods and farming practices in the Nile Valley.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES