Saqqara - Egyluxortours

Saqqara is Located 40 km southwest of Cairo, Saqqara is one of the most important cemeteries of Memphis, which was itself one of the most important cities in ancient Egyptian history. The name of the site most likely derives from the god of this necropolis, Sokar.

Saqqara is truly an open-air museum, one that has all of ancient Egyptian history on display. Kings and noblemen from the very first two dynasties (c.3100–2686 BC) were buried here, and this is also the location of the Step Pyramid of Djoser (c.2686–2613 BC), the world’s oldest monumental structure entirely made of stone. The pyramids of some of the most important kings of the Old Kingdom Fifth (c.2494–2345 BC) and Sixth (c.2345–2181 BC) Dynasties are located in Saqqara. One of these, the pyramid of Unas (also known as Wenis; c.2375–2345 BC), features the oldest pyramid burial chamber decorated with texts.

These are the so-called Pyramid Texts, the purpose of which was to protect the deceased king on his journey to the afterlife. In addition to Old Kingdom royal burials, Saqqara is also full of the tombs of the noblemen of this period, which are decorated with scenes and texts of outstanding beauty and craftsmanship. Saqqara also features tombs from the First Intermediate Period (c.2181–2055 BC), Middle Kingdom (c.2055–1650 BC), and New Kingdom (c.1550–1069 BC). The New Kingdom tombs display an architectural style completely different from their Upper Egyptian counterparts in Thebes.

Among them is the tomb of none other than Horemheb (c.1323–1295 BC), the non-royal individual, the general, who became king. He was never buried here, however, for, upon ascending the throne, he built a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings worthy of his royal rank.

Among the most important of Saqqara’s monuments is the Serapeum, a series of underground galleries in which the Apis Bulls were buried from the Eighteenth Dynasty (c.1550–1295 BC) to the Ptolemaic Period (332–30 BC). The Apis Bull was considered an incarnation of Ptah himself, one of the most important gods of Memphis, and as such, there was only ever one Apis Bull at a time. When it died, it was buried with full honors until his successor could be found.

Egypt’s Coptic era is featured in Saqqara as well through the remains of the Monastery of Apa Jeremiah, which was in use until the tenth century AD. Today, Saqqara is also the site of the Imhotep Museum, in which objects from the site’s immense chronological span are displayed.

The Southern Tomb of Djoser.

Saqqara - Egyluxortours

The South tomb is located at the southwestern corner of the King Djoser funeral complex dating to the 3rd Dynasty, Old Kingdom period. This magnificent complex is the oldest stone building in the ancient world. It was named the “Southern Tomb” following its discovery by the English archaeologist Cecil Malaby Firth in 1928.

Incredibly, the tomb is composed of an upper level in the form of a rectangular stone building. Its walls are decorated with a series of stone sockets in the form of entrances and exits, crowned by a frieze of cobra heads that symbolize protection and power.

The lower level of the tomb represents an entrance towards a ramp leading to the burial chamber, which is located at the bottom of a great shaft measuring 7.5 x 7.5 m, and with a depth of roughly 31 m, including a huge sarcophagus made of 16 blocks of pink granite, each measuring approximately 3.60 meters high, 3.5 meters wide, and 3.6 meters long.  Furthermore, one can note the similarity between the well and the sarcophagus with those inside the step pyramid.

One of the most important architectural and decorative elements of the Southern Tomb is a series of corridors, one of which contains three false doors, each topped with exquisite reliefs depicting the king taking part in the Heb-Sed Festival. This was a vital event, a royal jubilee, to rejuvenate the king and renew his right to rule. One can admire the king here being represented wearing the royal beard, as well as the White Crown of Upper Egypt, and several walls of the southern tomb’s corridors are decorated with the same blue faience tiles as the step pyramid.

Various theories have been proposed about this tomb, as it is believed that it belonged to the royal wife of the king, or that it was built to house the internal organs of the king (lungs, stomach, intestines, and liver). The famous French Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer undertook many vital excavations at Saqqara, including the restoration and reconstruction of Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex over 70 years.

Lauer believed that this South Tomb was a symbolic burial for the king’s soul, replacing the royal tomb at Abydos (in the Sohag governorate).

In 2006, restoration work of the South Tomb began, this involved conservation and restoration work of the lower corridors, the strengthening of the walls and ceilings, the fixing of the blue faience tiles to complete the interior inscriptions in the tomb, besides the reassembly and restoration of the granite sarcophagus. In addition, this conservation project also involved the paving of floors and the installation of the ladder, as well as fully lit inside and outside to provide the visitor with an enhanced and enjoyable experience.

Memphite Tomb of Horemheb


Horemheb (c.1323–1295 BC) was the last king of the Eighteenth Dynasty Before his ascension to the throne, during the reign of Tutankhamun (c.1336–1327 BC), he was the highest‑ranking military officer in the realm, and held other titles as lofty as “the King’s Deputy in the Entire Land”. He was ultimately buried in the Valley of the Kings as would befit his royal status. Before this, however, Horemheb had naturally begun work on another tomb, in Saqqara.

This tomb is the largest in the New Kingdom cemetery south of the causeway of the Fifth Dynasty King Unas (c.2375–2345 BC). Like the other major tombs in this cemetery, it is a temple tomb, so named because it reflects the structure of contemporary great state temples.

It is entered through a pylon gateway preceding two open‑air courtyards that themselves precede the inner rooms of the chapel, where Horemheb’s cult was practiced. The central room was surmounted by a pyramid, a solar symbol of rebirth and the burial chamber was underground, accessed through a vertical shaft cut through the floor of the inner courtyard. The discovery of the bones of a fetus along with a female skeleton, possibly of Horemheb’s wife Mutnedjmet, in his Memphite tomb shows that it did not go unused.

The reliefs in this tomb include scenes depicting Horemheb carrying out his duties. One scene shows representatives of foreign rulers pleading before Tutankhamun, with Horemheb acting as the intermediary.

Two scenes, in particular, show his exalted status before his rise to kingship. Here, he is depicted followed by rows of foreign captives, being publicly rewarded with the Gold of Honor by Tutankhamun himself. The Gold of Honor was awarded by kings to their officials for exceptional service, the tomb is decorated with funerary scenes as well, one of which depicts the Opening of the Mouth ritual.

The location of this tomb was not always known, it was discovered in the early 19th century when this area of Saqqara was explored by tomb robbers and art dealers, who then sold their findings to museums and collectors abroad. These were not limited to statues and other portable objects in the Entire sections of wall relief were removed, and none of the provenances was recorded.

Horemheb’s Memphite tomb was particularly affected, and its location was subsequently forgotten. Thankfully, it and the New Kingdom cemetery were eventually rediscovered in 1975.

New Kingdom Cemetery

New Kingdom Cemetery in saqqara

The vast necropolis of Saqqara, which served as the cemetery of ancient Memphis, contains tombs from almost every period of Egyptian history. The New Kingdom (c.1550–1069 BC) cemetery south of the causeway of Unas is where several important officials of the Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasties were buried.

Among them are Ptahemwia, the “Royal Butler, Clean of Hands” under Kings Akhenaten (c.1352–1336 BC) and Tutankhamun (c.1336–1327 BC), Maya, the overseer of the treasury under Tutankhamun, and Tia, the overseer of the treasury during the reign of Ramses II (c.1279–1213 BC). This is also the site of the tomb Horemheb was planning for himself before he became king.

Like most private tombs, the tombs of this New Kingdom cemetery consist of two parts: a sealed underground section that includes the burial chamber, and the above‑ground, accessible, tomb chapel, where the cult of the deceased was practiced. What sets the tombs of this cemetery apart, however, is the fact that they are neither mastabas nor rock‑cut, but free‑standing structures known as temple tombs.

The larger tombs, like the great state temples of the period (hence their name), were entered through a pylon gateway that led into an open‑air courtyard that preceded the tomb chapel.

The central chapel would have been surmounted by a small pyramid, a symbol of rebirth. A shaft in the forecourt led to the underground burial chamber. This section of Saqqara was explored by tomb robbers and art dealers in the 19th century.

Many statues and reliefs were taken without being recorded and sold to museums and collectors abroad. A 19th-century map of the area made by Prussian Egyptologist Karl R. Lepsius led to the rediscovery of the New Kingdom cemetery in 1975 by the Anglo‑Dutch expedition of the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in London and the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, led by Geoffrey T. Martin.


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