Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cairo Attractions (1): Saqqara the complicated necropolis

The vast necropolis of Saqqara, the cemetery area of ancient Memphis, lies on the edge of the Western (Libyan) Desert, on the west bank of the Nile, some 9mi/15km south of the Pyramid of Cheops. Extending over an area of almost 4.25mi/7km from north to south and 550-1,650yd/500-1,500m from east to west, it contains tombs from almost every period of Egyptian history. The whole necropolis has been repeatedly prospected and plundered from an early period down to modern times, notably under the Byzantine Emperors and the Caliphs. Nevertheless modern scientific excavations, most recently those directed by Walter B. Emery in 1936-56 and by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities since 1965, have still been able to recover much new material which has made important contributions to knowledge.
for more info visit: Planet ware
1- Imhotep Museum

It was with great excitement that the new Imhotep Museum was opened in April 2006 by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. A modern museum, both in technology and security, this is a place not to be missed on your next visit to Saqqara. Located twenty kilometers south of the Giza Pyramids, Saqqara is the site of the Step Pyramid and the funerary complex of King Zoser (Djoser), the Pyramid of Unas, the Teti Pyramid, Old Kingdom tombs with scenes of daily life, and much more. The Step Pyramid of Zoser is Egypt's first pyramid, designed by Imhotep, for whom the museum is named. The sands of Saqqara have yielded treasures from the Archaic Period, the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, Late Period and Greco-Roman Period. And there is still much yet to be discovered! The excavations are continuing and each season more treasures are found. In 1997 the building of the new museum began. The idea was to have a special place dedicated only to the many discoveries from this area. Located near the entrance, not far from where the ticket office was formerly located, visitors will be pleased to find artifacts that are attractively displayed, well air-conditioned buildings and modern toilet facilities. The museum consists of five halls: 1) Theater and model of the funerary complex, 2) Main Hall including the architectural elements, 3) New Discoveries, 4) Model Tomb Hall, and 5) Library of Jean-Philippe Lauer.
for more info visit: Tour Egypt
2- Djoser Pyramid

Djoser's Pyramid is considered a leader in the long history pyramid construction in Egypt. The Step Pyramid was built during the 3rd Dynasty (2649-2575 BC) for the pharaoh Djoser by his architect Imhotep. Djoser's pyramid was a revolutionary design for its time. Previously, pharaohs were buried in mastabas --  bench-like tombs that became common for nobles, pharaohs, and the royal family. Djoser wanted something different, something that would have him not only remembered, but as a symbol of his power and influence over his people.. Turning to Imhotep, a great architect of the time, construction on his tomb began. Imhotep originally planned building a mastaba, but the plan soon changed. Both Imhotep and Djoser wanted to build it larger and larger it seems. In the end the original mastaba soon had 5 smaller ones stacked on top of it, one on top of the other. By the end of its construction, the Step Pyramid had a height of 62 m and a base area of 140 m by 118 m -- one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time. It is also remarkable for the use of stone as construction material, instead of mud brick, which had been used before and it was the largest stone structure in existence at the time.  
3- Horemheb tomb

The tomb was discovered by art robbers at the beginning of the 19th century. Looted reliefs were acquired by a number of European and American museums. The tomb's location was then lost, it was relocated in 1975 and excavated in 1979. The tomb was built in 3 phases as Horemheb's status rose. The first design consisted of an entry pylon into forecourt, a colonnaded court containing the burial shaft and 3 chapels or offering rooms. Intrusive burials were found in the side chapels. The forecourt was then walled to produce 2 small chapels, one at each side. They were entered by two new piercings through the pylon. A new walled forecourt was constructed in front of the pylon. To make this extension a 5th/6th dynasty mastaba was demolished and the burial shaft with a burial chamber some 17 m below incorporated into the new forecourt. Burials from the 19th dynasty were found at 9 m depth. Finally the forecourt was closed by a pylon some 7 m high and colonnaded to form the first peristyle open court. The narrowed original forecourt was covered with a vaulted roof and contained statues while the chapels became storage rooms. Military scenes were carved on the original peristyle court and scenes showing Horemheb's duties in office on the walls of the later, 1st peristyle open court including one where he deputised for Tutankhamen on the north wall. Careful inspection shows that a uraeus was added to the images after Horemheb became Pharaoh. 
for more info: wikipedia
4- Pyramid Of Teti

The Sixth Dynasty rolled in like the thunderhead that portents a rising storm.  There had been tension between the royal line from which Teti descended and the one which had just vacated the throne.  Court officials had grown accustomed to wealth.  Provincial nobles were flexing their will to independence.  Famine.  Waves of refugees.  Ongoing religious reform.  Teti’s agenda could be summarized in two words–damage control. Teti’s Pyramid has a height of about 172 feet, and its external surface is mostly rubble. Like other pyramids of the time, it consisted of a step pyramid-style core faced with dressed white limestone that gave it the appearance of a smooth-sided pyramid.  Also like many pyramids of the time, the facing stones were plundered, leaving the core to break down due to exposure. The layout of Teti’s pyramid is similar to that of King Unas, although slightly larger.  Like that of Unas, the walls of the antechamber and burial chamber are inscribed with the Pyramid Text, rituals and incantations intended to guide the king through the afterlife.  The vaulted ceiling is a painted canopy of stars.  The basalt sarcophagus was left intact, and there were fragments of what may have been his mummy recovered inside.
for more info:
5- Mereruka Tomb

The mastaba of Mereruka is situated in the north-east sector of the necropolis of Saqqara, not far from the edge of the plateau, just to the north of the pyramid of Teti, the first pharaoh of 6th Dynasty. During this period power of the pharaohs was declining as can be seen in the comparatively small size and poor construction of their pyramids. However, increasing power attained by the large aristocratic families became apparent in the size and quality of the decoration of their mastabas. Two mastabas, located next to each other, are of special importance, that of the vizier Mereruka and that of Kagemni (his predecessor). Mereruka's is by far the more complex and is located to the west of the other. It is not given over totally to Mereruka; his chambers will be given the prefix "A". The south west quarter was designed as being a separate set of chambers for his wife, Watetkhethor; her chambers will have the prefix "B". The main structure was later extended at the north for his son, Meryteti; his chambers are prefixed "C". Both of these areas have their entrance from within the part of the complex devoted to Mereruka.  
for more info: Osiris net
6- Serapeum

I'll let you discover one of the most mysterious places in Giza, and the whole of Egypt ... the Serapeum, these strange catacombs. Some people, like Dr. Aidan Dodson, a professor of archaeology at the University of Bristol, do not hesitate to regard this incredible place, this Serapeum  as the most important monument in the history of Egyptology. This extraordinary subterranean site was rediscovered first by the indefatigable Greek geographer Strabo, who traveled in Egypt around 24 AD, accompanying his friend, the Roman prefect Aelius Gallus all along the Nile. It was he who alerted us in his writings to the sandstorms that can dangerously take you by surprise at the entrance to the site, concealed between two dunes, and bury you before you even find the door. He also mentioned the avenue of the sphinxes in particular, which made a 1300 m. path through the dunes towards the Serapeum. This was a very important clue that made it possible much later to rediscover the site, which had disappeared from view, completely covered by sand. 
for more info: Gigal research

Official website for Saqqara project Click here  

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