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The Sed Festival (Heb Sed)

The sed festival is perhaps the most important celebration of kingship in ancient Egypt; it is attested since the First Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic Period it was translated into Greek as 'thirty-year festival', and kings Amenhotep III and Ramesses II seem to have celebrated their first sed in year 30-31 of the reign and after that each third year. This is generally thought to have been the norm for observance of the festival, but there seem to be exceptions from this rule. The possible purpose of the festival seems to have been the renewal of the physical and supernatural energies of the king. No manuscript or inscription with a clear outline of the festival survives: the main sources are pictorial, presenting episodes but without giving specific timing or sequence, and therefore the order of events remains a subject for research. One of the best preserved cycles of scenes is preserved from the Sun temple of King Niuserre in Abu Ghurab. The reliefs from the temple are now in different collections, some in the Petrie Museum (see the link below the following pictures). The typical clothing for the king is a short cloak which reaches the knees and leaves the shoulders almost free.

the king in the sed festival garment
references to sed festivals
Pepy I: 'first sed festival'


from the reliefs found at Abu Ghurab and other attestations the course of events for the festival can be reconstructed

further reading


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