Saqqara

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Saqqara
سقارة
Saqqara pyramid ver 2.jpg
The stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
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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
Site notes
UNESCO World Heritage Site
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 a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. [1] Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas (Arabic word meaning 'bench'). Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.35 by 0.93 mi).

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Necropolis large ancient cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments

A necropolis is a large, designed cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments. The name stems from the Ancient Greek νεκρόπολις nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead".

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Contents

At Saqqara, the oldest complete stone building complex known in history was built: Djoser's step pyramid, built during the Third Dynasty. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation. 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.

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.

History of ancient Egypt aspect of history

The history of ancient Egypt spans the period from the early prehistoric settlements of the northern Nile valley to the Roman conquest, in 30 BC. The Pharaonic Period is dated from the 32nd century BC, when Upper and Lower Egypt were unified, until the country fell under Macedonian rule, in 332 BC.

Ptolemaic dynasty Macedonian Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt

The Ptolemaic dynasty, sometimes also known as the Lagids or Lagidae, was a Macedonian Greek royal family, which ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 to 30 BC. They were the last dynasty of ancient Egypt.

North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir; 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 supposedly, from a local Berber Tribe called Beni Saqqar. [3]

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.

Dahshur Village in Giza Governorate, Egypt

Dahshur is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the west bank of the Nile approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Cairo. It is known chiefly for several pyramids, two of which are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt, built from 2613–2589 BC.

World Heritage Site place listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or natural significance

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.

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.

Abydos, Egypt City in ancient Egypt

Abydos is one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, and also of the eighth nome in Upper Egypt. It is located about 11 kilometres west of the Nile at latitude 26° 10' N, near the modern Egyptian towns of el-'Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana. In the ancient Egyptian language, the city was called Abdju. The English name Abydos comes from the Greek Ἄβυδος, a name borrowed by Greek geographers from the unrelated city of Abydos on the Hellespont.

Khasekhemwy final king of the Second dynasty of Egypt

Khasekhemwy was the final king of the Second Dynasty of Egypt. Little is known about him, other than that he led several significant military campaigns and built the mudbrick fort known as Shunet El Zebib.

Gisr el-Mudir

Gisr el-Mudir also known as the Great Enclosure, is one of the oldest known stone structures in Egypt, located at Saqqara only a few hundred metres west of the Step Pyramid and the Buried Pyramid. The function of the space is not yet clear.

Early Dynastic monuments

Hotepsekhemwy Egyptian pharaoh

Hotepsekhemwy is the Horus name of an early Egyptian king who was the founder of the 2nd dynasty. The exact length of his reign is not known; the Turin canon suggests an improbable 95 years while the Ancient Egyptian historian Manetho reports that the reign of "Boëthôs" lasted for 38 years. Egyptologists consider both statements to be misinterpretations or exaggerations. They credit Hotepsekhemwy with either a 25- or a 29-year rule.

Nynetjer Egyptian pharaoh

Nynetjer is the Horus name of the third pharaoh of the Second Dynasty of Egypt. The length of his reign is unknown. The Turin Canon suggests an improbable reign of 96 years and Egyptian historian Manetho suggested that Nynetjer's reign lasted 47 years. Egyptologists question both statements as misinterpretations or exaggerations. They generally credit Nynetjer with a reign of either 43 years or 45 years. Their estimation is based on the reconstructions of the well known Palermo Stone inscription reporting the years 7–21, the Cairo Stone inscription reporting the years 36–44. According to different authors, Nynetjer ruled Egypt from c. 2850 BC to 2760 BC or later from c. 2760 BC to 2715 BC.

Buried Pyramid step pyramid

The Buried Pyramid is an unfinished step pyramid constructed ca. 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.

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.

Egyptian pyramids Ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt. As of November 2008, sources cite either 118 or 138 as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

Unas Egyptian pharaoh

Unas or Wenis, also spelled Unis, was a pharaoh, the ninth and last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Unas reigned for 15 to 30 years in the mid-24th century BC, succeeding Djedkare Isesi, who might have been his father.

Pyramid Texts literary work

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved onto the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of pyramids at Saqqara from the end of the Fifth Dynasty, and throughout the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and into the Eighth Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period.

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. It is thought that the mummified animals, half of which were birds, although a great many were dogs as well, were possibly intended to pass on the prayers of their owners to their deities. [6]

In July 2018, researchers discovered an extremely rare gilded burial mask. The last time a similar mask was found, was in 1939. [7] In November, 2018, seven ancient Egyptian tombs were located at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, with a collection of scarab and cat mummies, dating back to the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. [8]

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. [9] The tomb also contains five shafts that may lead to a sarcophagus below. [10]

On April 13, 2019, an expedition led by Department Member of 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. [11] [12] [13] [14]

“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  the head of the excavation team Mohamed Megahed. [12]

According to CNN, it is surprising that there are some paintings that prevailed its brightness over a long time in the tomb mainly made of white limestone bricks. Another interesting fact is that the tomb had a tunnel entrance generally typical for pyramids. [12]

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. [11] [13] [12] [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Pyramid of Djoser archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt

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Pyramid of Teti smooth-sided pyramid

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Tomb of Perneb object highlighted in The MET collection

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Imhotep Museum archaeological museum in located at the foot of the Saqqara necropolis complex, near Memphis in Lower Egypt

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The Memphite Necropolis is an ancient Egyptian necropolis located in the city of Memphis, Lower Egypt. It includes the sites of Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur. Most of the pyramids of the Old Kingdom were built here, along with many mastabas and other tombs.

Pyramid of Nyuserre Pyramid complex of the last pharaoh to be buried at Abusir

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References

  1. Fernandez, I., J. Becker, S. Gillies. "Places: 796289136 (Saqqarah)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 22, 2013.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. "Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur — UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  3. Graindorge, Catherine, "Sokar". In Redford, Donald B., (ed) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol. III, pp. 305–307
  4. "Egyptological Looting Database 2011".
  5. "Saqqara.nl".
  6. "Eight million dog mummies found in Saqqara".
  7. Archaeologists Have Uncovered a Place Where The Ancient Egyptians Mummifed Their Dead, Science Alert, 16 July 2018
  8. "Ancient Egyptian tombs yield rare find of mummified scarab beetles". Reuters. 11 November 2018.
  9. Brice-Saddler, Michael, Look inside a ‘one of a kind,' 4,400-year-old tomb discovered in Egypt , The Washington Post, December 16, 2018
  10. Owen Jarus (December 15, 2018). "4,400-Year-Old Tomb of 'Divine Inspector' with Hidden Shafts Discovered in Egypt". Live Science . Retrieved December 15, 2018. Wahtye was a high-ranking priest who carried the title of divine inspector, said Mostafa Waziri, the general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities who led the Egyptian team that discovered the tomb... Several other discoveries have been made this year at Saqqara. They include a 3,300-year-old tomb of a high general, a burial ground containing a 2,500-year-old mummy wearing a silver face mask gilded with gold and a tomb complex that has more over 100 cat statues.
  11. 1 2 "Newly Discovered 4,000-Year Old Egyptian Tomb Stuns Archaeologists". Geek.com. 2019-04-15. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  12. 1 2 3 4 CNN, Jack Guy (2019-04-15). "Colorful tomb puzzles Egypt archaeologists". CNN Travel. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  13. 1 2 Earl, Jennifer (2019-04-15). "Discovery of Egyptian dignitary's 4,000-year-old colorful tomb stuns archaeologists". Fox News. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  14. 1 2 "Egypt: Vivid 4,300-year-old tomb belonging to Fifth Dynasty senior official unveiled". Sky News. Retrieved 2019-04-23.