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The Abydos carvings are mysterious carved hieroglyphs which were found on a ceiling beam in the temple of Seti I in Abydos. Source: merlin74 / Adobe Stock

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.

The temple of Seti I at Abydos, home to the mysterious Abydos carvings. (merlin74 / Adobe Stock)

The temple of Seti I at Abydos, home to the mysterious Abydos carvings. (merlin74 / Adobe Stock)

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.

Interior at the temple of Seti I at Abydos with its stunning carvings. (Vyacheslav Argenberg / CC BY 4.0)

Interior at the temple of Seti I at Abydos with its stunning carvings. (Vyacheslav Argenberg / CC BY 4.0)

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.

The Abydos carvings are also known as the helicopter hieroglyphs. (merlin74 / Adobe Stock)

The Abydos carvings are also known as the helicopter hieroglyphs. (merlin74 / Adobe Stock)

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.

In blue the hieroglyphs for the name of Seti I and in green the hieroglyphs for the name of Ramesses II. (Rain in Cool)

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.

Top image: The Abydos carvings are mysterious carved hieroglyphs which were found on a ceiling beam in the temple of Seti I in Abydos. Source: merlin74 / Adobe Stock

By Cecilia Bogaard


Austin, J. 6 October 2016. “Proof of time travel? Riddle of planes and helicopter found in Egyptian hieroglyphs” in Express. Available at:

Brennan, H. 2011. The Secret History of Ancient Egypt: Electricity, Sonics and the Disappearance of an Advanced Civilisation. Bedford Square Books.

Discovering Egypt. No date. “Karnak Temple dates from around 2055 BC to around 100 AD” in Discovering Egypt. Available at:

Hypnogogial. 23 May 2010. “Helicopter Hieroglyphs Explained” in Rain is Cool. Available at:

Mruzek, J. No date. “The Abydos Helicopter & Secrets of the Golden Section” in Prehistoric Science – Complex Mathematics Encrypted in Art. Available at:



To believe we can 'read' ancient text as verbatim is silly. Were it not for the Rosetta stone where multiple languages copied text, like a modern tourist language guide, we couldn't read hieroglyphics at all. The same is true of the cuniform clay tablets. So, verbatim understanding is a unreal expectation. It is also clear that we have a long way to go to understand human consciousness. For ever humans have 'seen' the distant past and future. There is no explanation for these visions. Particularly when these proffacies later appear to be true. So in Abydos, are they interpretation of distant past, or future? We only know they were unlikely of that period. Modern mainstream science pushes a linear development of civilization. This must be questioned. Evidence abounds this is not true.

Until i see a believable explanation and demonstration showing how the ancient egyptians cut, shaped, and transported massive granite blocks from Aswan to upper egypt… i don’t want to see another so-called expert tell me that something “obviously did not exist” because the mainstream claims they were carved using copper chisels, copper saws, and stone pounders, and moved with pure manpower, is far less likely than the Egyptians having flying machines or that Aliens helped them.

There are stone pounders at Aswan that have been there since the early 1980’s that tourists have used to pound on blocks of granite hours per day, every day since they were put there… and only a couple centimeters have been removed in 40 years.

There is absolute proof of large diameter circular saws being used to cut granite in ancient Egypt. I’m talking “powered saws” because people have found a  discarded granite box where it is clear a saw was used that had a rate of material removal fast enough that the saw cut many inches off-line before the worker noticed it had done so. That would never happen with a hand powered tool.

I differ from author Cecilia about the items “obviously did not exist". Does she have proof of that?

I also want to point out that all the talk is about just "helicopter” and it is an image of ONE SPECIFIC TYPE of helicopter, a cargo helicopter, designed to lift and transport very heavy objects. Put "Sikorsky Skycrane” in Google images and you will see the uncanny resemblance.

People who believe these signs represent aircraft must avoid the issue of context for their views to be sustained. It's almost as if they don't know that hieroglyphics represent a spoken language that's governed by rules of syntax and grammar, like all languages are. You can't just insert random words into a sentence and have it make sense. If I say, "My girlfriend took me to the Apple Store and helicopter me an iPad for my birthday," that doesn't make sense. You expect a word like "purchased" or "bought" instead of "helicopter." The question that the aircraft believers can never answer is how the sentence reads that those signs occur within. Now if the sentence began with something like, "A strange object appeared in the sky..." that would support the aircraft theory. But if it's more along the lines of random words inserted, like "helicopter me an iPad," then it doesn't make sense. I'd like to see someone who believes these signs represent aircraft to read the full sentence and explain how the signs fit into it for a coherent meaning. They can't, because it doesn't make sense as aircraft within its context, which is a palimpsest of the names of Seti and Rameses. They seem to believe that because they can't read hieroglyphics, that no one else can either. Aircraft makes no sense within the context of the full inscription. It would be just random words inserted into an otherwise coherent meaning.

The BLUE PLANET PROJECT book has some interesting illustrations of different types of aliens. It is also claimed that they were smuggled out by a government scientist working on top secret projects with aliens. Could they be real?


Cecilia Bogaard's picture


Cecilia Bogaard is one of the editors, researchers and writers on Ancient Origins. With an MA in Social Anthropology, and degree in Visual Communication (Photography), Cecilia has a passion for research, content creation and editing, especially as related to the... Read More

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