Saqqara

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Saqqara
سقارة
Saqqara pyramid ver 2.jpg
The stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
Egypt relief location map.jpg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Shown within Egypt
Location Giza Governorate, Egypt
Region Lower Egypt
Coordinates 29°52′16″N31°12′59″E / 29.87111°N 31.21639°E / 29.87111; 31.21639 Coordinates: 29°52′16″N31°12′59″E / 29.87111°N 31.21639°E / 29.87111; 31.21639
Type Necropolis
History
Periods Early Dynastic Period to Middle Ages
Associated with4
Site notes
Part of"Pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur" part of Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
Includes
Criteria Cultural: (i), (iii), (vi)
Reference 86-002
Inscription1979 (3rd Session)
Area16,203.36 ha (62.5615 sq mi)

Saqqara (Arabic : سقارة, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation:  [sɑʔˈʔɑːɾɑ] ), also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English /səˈkɑːrə/ , is an Egyptian village in Giza Governorate, that's known for its vast, ancient burial ground of Egyptian pharaohs (kings) and royals, serving as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. [1] Saqqara contains numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb, and a number of mastaba tombs. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.3 by 0.9 mi).

Contents

Saqqara contains the oldest complete stone building complex known in history, the Pyramid of Djoser, built during the Third Dynasty. Another sixteen Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire Pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.

North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir, and south lies Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as a necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. [2] Some scholars believe that the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary deity, Sokar, but from a local Berber tribe called Beni Saqqar. [3]

Relief from tomb (Louvre) P1060928 Louvre Lamentations enterrement B57 rwk.JPG
Relief from tomb (Louvre)

History

Early Dynastic

Map of the site Saqqara map.jpg
Map of the site
View of Saqqara necropolis, including Djoser's step pyramid (centre), the Pyramid of Unas (left) and the Pyramid of Userkaf (right) Egypt.Saqqara.Panorama.01.jpg
View of Saqqara necropolis, including Djoser's step pyramid (centre), the Pyramid of Unas (left) and the Pyramid of Userkaf (right)

The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty, at the northern side of the Saqqara plateau. During this time, the royal burial ground was at Abydos. The first royal burials at Saqqara, comprising underground galleries, date to the Second Dynasty. The last Second Dynasty king, Khasekhemwy, was buried in his tomb at Abydos, but also built a funerary monument at Saqqara consisting of a large rectangular enclosure, known as Gisr el-Mudir. It probably inspired the monumental enclosure wall around the Step Pyramid complex. Djoser's funerary complex, built by the royal architect Imhotep, further comprises a large number of dummy buildings and a secondary mastaba (the so-called 'Southern Tomb'). French architect and Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer spent the greater part of his life excavating and restoring Djoser's funerary complex.

Early Dynastic monuments

Funerary complex of Djoser Saqqara BW 1.jpg
Funerary complex of Djoser

Old Kingdom

Wooden statue of the scribe Kaaper, 5th or 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom, from Saqqara, c. 2500 BC Agyptisches Museum Kairo 2016-03-29 Ka-aper 01.jpg
Wooden statue of the scribe Kaaper, 5th or 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom, from Saqqara, c. 2500 BC

Nearly all Fourth Dynasty kings chose a different location for their pyramids. During the second half of the Old Kingdom, under the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, Saqqara was again the royal burial ground. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty pyramids are not built wholly of massive stone blocks, but instead with a core consisting of rubble. Consequently, they are less well preserved than the world-famous pyramids built by the Fourth Dynasty kings at Giza. Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, was the first king to adorn the chambers in his pyramid with Pyramid Texts. During the Old Kingdom, it was customary for courtiers to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the pyramid of their king. Thus, clusters of private tombs were formed in Saqqara around the pyramid complexes of Unas and Teti.

Old Kingdom monuments

First Intermediate Period monuments

Middle Kingdom

From the Middle Kingdom onward, Memphis was no longer the capital of the country, and kings built their funerary complexes elsewhere. Few private monuments from this period have been found at Saqqara.

Second Intermediate Period monuments

New Kingdom

Lantern Slide Collection: Views, Objects: Egypt. - Apis Tombs, passage showing Sarcophagi Recess, Sakkara., n.d., Brooklyn Museum Archives S10.08 Sakkara, image 9639.jpg
Lantern Slide Collection: Views, Objects: Egypt. - Apis Tombs, passage showing Sarcophagi Recess, Sakkara., n.d., Brooklyn Museum Archives

During the New Kingdom, Memphis was an important administrative and military centre, being the capital after the Amaran Period. From the Eighteenth Dynasty onward, many high officials built tombs at Saqqara. While still a general, Horemheb built a large tomb here, although he later was buried as pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other important tombs belong to the vizier Aperel, the vizier Neferrenpet, the artist Thutmose, and the wet-nurse of Tutankhamun, Maia.

Many monuments from earlier periods were still standing, but dilapidated by this period. Prince Khaemweset, son of Pharaoh Ramesses II, made repairs to buildings at Saqqara. Among other things, he restored the Pyramid of Unas and added an inscription to its south face to commemorate the restoration. He enlarged the Serapeum, the burial site of the mummified Apis bulls, and was later buried in the catacombs. The Serapeum, containing one undisturbed interment of an Apis bull and the tomb of Khaemweset, were rediscovered by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in 1851.

New Kingdom monuments

After the New Kingdom

During the periods after the New Kingdom, when several cities in the Delta served as capital of Egypt, Saqqara remained in use as a burial ground for nobles. Moreover, the area became an important destination for pilgrims to a number of cult centres. Activities sprang up around the Serapeum, and extensive underground galleries were cut into the rock as burial sites for large numbers of mummified ibises, baboons, cats, dogs, and falcons.

Monuments of the Late Period, the Graeco-Roman and later periods

Site looting during 2011 protests

Saqqara and the surrounding areas of Abusir and Dahshur suffered damage by looters during the 2011 Egyptian protests. Store rooms were broken into, but the monuments were mostly unharmed. [4] [5]

Recent discoveries

During routine excavations in 2011 at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University uncovered almost eight million animal mummies at the burial site next to the sacred temple of Anubis. It is thought that the mummified animals, mostly dogs, were intended to pass on the prayers of their owners to their deities. [6]

"You don't get 8 million mummies without having puppy farms," she says. "And some of these dogs were killed deliberately so that they could be offered. So for us, that seems really heartless. But for the Egyptians, they felt that the dogs were going straight up to join the eternal pack with Anubis. And so they were going off to a better thing," said Salima Ikram. [7] [8]

In July 2018, German-Egyptian researchers’ team head by Ramadan Badry Hussein of the University of Tübingen reported the discovery of an extremely rare gilded burial mask that probably dates from the Saite-Persian period in a partly damaged wooden coffin. The last time a similar mask was found was in 1939. [9] The eyes were covered with obsidian, calcite, and black hued gemstone possibly onyx. "The finding of this mask could be called a sensation. Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times." said Hussein. [10] [11]

In September 2018, several dozen cache of mummies dating 2,000 years back were found by a team of Polish archaeologists led by Kamil Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Warsaw. [12] The Polish-Egyptian expedition works under the auspices of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. [13] Investigations were carried out for over two decades in the area to the west of the Djoser Pyramid. The most important discoveries include the tomb of vizier Merefnebef with a funerary chapel decorated with multi-colored reliefs, which was uncovered in 1997. [14] as well as the tomb of courtier Nyankhnefertem uncovered in 2003. [15] The expedition also explored two necropoles. Archaeologists revealed several dozen graves of noblemen from the period of the 6th Dynasty, dating to the 24th–21st century BC, and 500 graves of indigent people dating approximately to the 6th century BC – 1st century AD. Most of the bodies were poorly preserved and all organic materials, including the wooden caskets, had decayed. [12] [16] [17] The tombs discovered most recently (in 2018) form part of the younger, so-called Upper Necropolis. [18]

Most of the mummies we discovered last season were very modest, they were only subjected to basic embalming treatments, wrapped in bandages and placed directly in pits dug in the sand

Kamil Kuraszkiewicz.

The research of the Polish-Egyptian expedition also focuses on the interpretation of the so-called Dry Moat, a vast trench hewn around the Djoser Pyramid. The most recent discoveries confirm the hypothesis that the Dry Moat was a model of the pharaoh's journey to the netherworld, a road the deceased ruler had to follow to attain eternal life. [13] [19] [20]

In November 2018, an Egyptian archaeological mission located seven ancient Egyptian tombs at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara containing a collection of scarab and cat mummies dating back to the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. [21] Three of the tombs were used for cats, some dating back more than 6,000 years, while one of four other sarcophagi was unsealed. With the remains of cat mummies were unearthed gilded and 100 wooden statues of cats and one in bronze dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. In addition, funerary items dating back to the 12th Dynasty were found besides the skeletal remains of cats. [22] [23] [24] [25]

In mid-December 2018, the Egyptian government announced the discovery at Saqqara of a previously unknown 4,400-year-old tomb, containing paintings and more than fifty sculptures. It belongs to Wahtye, a high-ranking priest who served under King Neferirkare Kakai during the Fifth Dynasty. [26] The tomb also contains four shafts that lead to a sarcophagus below. [27]

On 13 April 2019, an expedition led by a member of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Mohamed Megahed, discovered a 4,000-year-old tomb near Egypt's Saqqara Necropolis. Archaeologists confirmed that the tomb belonged to an influential person named Khuwy, who lived in Egypt during the 5th Dynasty. [28] [29] [30] [31] "The L-shaped Khuwy tomb starts with a small corridor heading downwards into an antechamber and from there a larger chamber with painted reliefs depicting the tomb owner seated at an offerings table", reported Megahed. [29] Some paintings maintained their brightness over a long time in the tomb. Mainly made of white limestone bricks, the tomb had a tunnel entrance generally typical for pyramids. [29] Archaeologists say that there might be a connection between Khuwy and pharaoh because the mausoleum was found near the pyramid of Egyptian Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, who ruled during that time. [28] [30] [29] [31]

On 3 October 2020, Khalid el-Anany, Egypt's tourism and antiquities minister announced the discovery of at least 59 sealed sarcophagi with mummies more than 2,600 years old. Archaeologists also revealed the 20 statues of Ptah-Soker and a carved 35-centimeter tall bronze statue of god Nefertem. [32] [33] [34]

On 19 October 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of more than 2,500 years of colorful, sealed sarcophagi. The archaeological team unearthed gilded, wooden statues and more than 80 coffins. [35] [36]

In November 2020, archaeologists unearthed more than 100 delicately painted wooden coffins and 40 funeral statues. The sealed, wooden coffins, some containing mummies, date as far back as 2,500 years. Other artifacts discovered include funeral masks, canopic jars and 1,000 ceramic amulets. [37] According to Khaled el-Anany, tourism and antiquities minister, the items date back to the Ptolemaic dynasty. One of the coffins was opened and a mummy was X-ray-scanned, determining it was most likely a man about the age of 40. Within another 2100 BC-dated burial site a whole family was found buried, considered to be a rich person's family based on the male's weak bone structure; death was determined to be malaria. [38]

“This discovery is very important because it proves that Saqqara was the main burial of the 26th Dynasty,” said Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist and Egypt's former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. [39] [40]

In January 2021, The tourism and antiquities ministry announced the discovery of more than 50 wooden sarcophagi in 52 burial shafts which date back to the New Kingdom period, each around 30 to 40 feet deep and a 13 ft-long papyrus that contains texts from Chapter 17 of Book of the Dead. Papyrus scroll written in hieroglyphics belonged to a man named Bu-Khaa-Af, whose name is written on it. His name can also be seen on his sarcophagus and on four wood-and-ceramic figurines called ushabtis. [41] [42]

A team of archaeologists led by Zahi Hawass also found the funerary temple of Naert or Narat and warehouses made of bricks. [43] [44] [45] Researchers also revealed that Narat’s name engraved on a fallen obelisk near the main entrance. Previously unknown to researchers, Naert was a wife of Teti, the first king of the sixth dynasty. [46]

See also

Related Research Articles

Egyptology Study of Ancient Egypt

Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, architecture and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the 4th century AD. A practitioner of the discipline is an "Egyptologist". In Europe, particularly on the Continent, Egyptology is primarily regarded as being a philological discipline, while in North America it is often regarded as a branch of archaeology.

Mastaba

A mastaba or pr-djt is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides, constructed out of mudbricks. These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. In the Old Kingdom epoch, local kings began to be buried in pyramids instead of in mastabas, although non-royal use of mastabas continued for over a thousand years. Egyptologists call these tombs mastaba, from the Arabic word مصطبة (maṣṭaba) "stone bench".

Pyramid of Djoser Archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt

The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an archaeological site in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. The 6-tier, 4-sided structure is the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. It was built in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. The pyramid is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.

Djoser Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty

Djoser was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty during the Old Kingdom and the founder of this epoch. He is also known by his Hellenized names Tosorthros and Sesorthos. He was the son of king Khasekhemwy and queen Nimaathap, but whether he also was the direct throne successor is still unclear. Most Ramesside Kinglists name a king Nebka before him, but since there are still difficulties in connecting that name with contemporary Horus names, some Egyptologists question the received throne sequence.

Teti, less commonly known as Othoes, sometimes also Tata, Atat, or Athath in outdated sources, was the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt. He was buried at Saqqara. The exact length of his reign has been destroyed on the Turin King List but is believed to have been about 12 years.

Egyptian pyramids Ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures in Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient masonry structures located in Egypt. Sources cite at least 118 identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

Ancient Egyptian funerary practices Elaborate set of funerary practices

The ancient Egyptians had an elaborate set of funerary practices that they believed were necessary to ensure their immortality after death. These rituals included mummifying the body, casting magic spells, and burials with specific grave goods thought to be needed in the afterlife.

Cats were represented in social and religious practices of ancient Egypt for more than 3,000 years. Several ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power. The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat.

Abusir Village in Giza Governorate, Egypt

Abusir is the name given to an Egyptian archaeological locality – specifically, an extensive necropolis of the Old Kingdom period, together with later additions – in the vicinity of the modern capital Cairo. The name is also that of a neighbouring village in the Nile Valley, whence the site takes its name. Abusir is located several kilometres north of Saqqara and, like it, served as one of the main elite cemeteries for the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis. Several other villages in northern and southern Egypt are named Abusir or Busiri. Abusir is one relatively small segment of the extensive "pyramid field" that extends from north of Giza to below Saqqara. The locality of Abusir took its turn as the focus of the prestigious western burial rites operating out of the then-capital of Memphis during the Old Kingdom 5th Dynasty. As an elite cemetery, neighbouring Giza had by then "filled up" with the massive pyramids and other monuments of the 4th Dynasty, leading the 5th Dynasty pharaohs to seek sites elsewhere for their own funerary monuments.

Tuna el-Gebel Place in Minya Governorate, Egypt

Tuna el-Gebel was the necropolis of Khmun. It is located in Al Minya Governorate in Middle Egypt.

El-Assasif

El-Assasif is a necropolis near Luxor on the West Bank at Thebes, Egypt, Upper Egypt. It is located in the dry bay that leads up to Deir el-Bahari and south of the necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga'.

Merneith Regent of Egypt

Merneith was a consort and a regent of Ancient Egypt during the First Dynasty. She may have been a ruler of Egypt in her own right, based on several official records. If this was the case and the earlier royal wife Neithhotep never ruled as an independent regent, Merneith may have been the first female pharaoh and the earliest queen regnant in recorded history. Her rule occurred around 2950 BC for an undetermined period. Merneith’s name means "Beloved by Neith" and her stele contains symbols of that ancient Egyptian deity. She may have been Djer's daughter and was probably Djet's senior royal wife. The former meant that she would have been the great-granddaughter of unified Egypt's first pharaoh, Narmer. She was also the mother of Den, her successor.

El Lahun Village in Faiyum, Egypt

El Lahun.

Pyramid of Unas Pyramid complex of the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt built at Saqqara

The Pyramid of Unas is a smooth-sided pyramid built in the 24th century BC for the Egyptian pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty. It is the smallest Old Kingdom pyramid, but significant due to the discovery of Pyramid Texts, spells for the king's afterlife incised into the walls of its subterranean chambers. Inscribed for the first time in Unas's pyramid, the tradition of funerary texts carried on in the pyramids of subsequent rulers, through to the end of the Old Kingdom, and into the Middle Kingdom through the Coffin Texts that form the basis of the Book of the Dead.

Pyramid of Teti

The Pyramid of Teti is a smooth-sided pyramid situated in the pyramid field at Saqqara in Egypt. It is the second known pyramid containing pyramid texts. Excavations have revealed a satellite pyramid, two pyramids of queens accompanied by cult structures, and a funerary temple. The pyramid was opened by Gaston Maspero in 1882 and the complex explored during several campaigns ranging from 1907 to 1965. It was originally called Teti's Places Are Enduring. The preservation above ground is very poor, and it now resembles a small hill. Below ground the chambers and corridors are very well preserved.

Qar was a doctor during the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt, which lasted from about 2350 to 2180 BC. He was the royal physician.

Buried Pyramid Step pyramid

The Buried Pyramid is an unfinished step pyramid constructed c. 2645 BC for Sekhemkhet Djoserty. This pharaoh was the second of the Third Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, which reigned over Egypt circa 2686–2613 BC and is usually placed at the beginning of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Many historians believe that the third dynasty played an important role in the transition from Early Dynastic Period of Egypt to the Age of the Pyramids.

Pyramid of Neferefre Unfinished pyramid

The Pyramid of Neferefre, also known as the Pyramid of Raneferef, is a 25th century BC unfinished pyramid complex built for the Egyptian pharaoh Neferefre of the Fifth Dynasty. Neferefre's unfinished pyramid is the third and final one built on the Abusir diagonal – a figurative line connecting the Abusir pyramids with Heliopolis – of the necropolis, sited south-west of Neferirkare's pyramid.

Serapeum of Saqqara

The Serapeum of Saqqara is a serapeum located north west of the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, a necropolis near Memphis in Lower Egypt. It was a burial place of Apis bulls, sacred bulls that were incarnations of the ancient Egyptian deity Ptah. It was believed that the bulls became immortal after death as Osiris Apis, a name that appears in Coptic as ⲟⲩⲥⲉⲣϩⲁⲡⲓ, Userhapi, which was borrowed in Greek as Σέραπις, Serapis, in the Hellenistic period.

The archaeology of Ancient Egypt is the study of the archaeology of Egypt, stretching from prehistory through three millennia of documented history. Egyptian archeology is one of the branches of Egyptology.

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