The 3,500 year old door was once said to have magical properties, allowing those still remaining in the world of the living to speak with the dead and receive their guidance in intricate and coveted rituals. And now one of these doors has been unearthed, belonging to User near the Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt.
Farouk Hosni announced the discovery of the door after the almost three ton stone slab was unveiled. The artifact is described by Farouk as having religious texts engraved upon the surface, being approximately six feet tall, and being made of heavy red granite allowing it to weather the sands of time without being considerably weathered itself. The religious communication device was, according to Hosni, supposed to be in the tomb of User, Vizier to the Queen Hatshepsut during the 15th century BC during her lifelong reign as queen of Egypt. Also found was a temple dedicated to User in Gebel el-Silsila north of Aswan in a mountain quarry.
The “false door” as Egyptologists call it, was a means for User and his wife to speak to the living, allowing their advice to pass into the world of the living long after they had died. And the advice was highly coveted, as the creation of the engraved device would not have been cheap. For a thousand years the object remained in its proper place before being captured by the Roman empire and recycled into a wall’s decorative piece, but left intact for the most part.
After Hatshepsut had been reigning for no more than five years, affairs of state became increasingly complex and the service of an advisor was required in 1474 BC. User was the uncle of Rekhmire, Vizier to King Tutmosis the second. Over the next twenty years his career would see him appointed mayor of the city, prince of the kingdom, and master of the city’s bureaucracy. After their deaths, the Vizier and his wife were entombed with the door in Hatshepsut’s tomb acting as a sort of “radio” to the afterlife through which priests interpreted his advice.
The Egyptian interest in communicating with the dead was not, however, limited to use through these doors. The hieroglyphs themselves tell stories of priests and mages making contact with the spirits of the dead, and receiving communication from them about everything regarding Egyptian life, and what to do in current affairs. The dead were revered, and their wisdom was the wisdom of ageless experience.
Currently the stone door is being studied by archaeologists. In 2008 three other doors were found in the Necropolis 60 miles south of Cairo. This latest addition is working out the long standing pattern in Egypt for means of speaking with deceased relatives, highly respected counselors, and even Viziers so their wisdom could help Egypt through tumultuous times. Perhaps the Egyptian obsession with the dead was indicative that history, even the history of the deceased, is important to understand in order to learn from the experiences of others. And perhaps this is the same reason we are interested in uncovering the cities of the dead, to draw on their experiences as well.