Monday, October 22, 2007

An introduction to Saqqara

I will be uploading next photos I can gather of Saqqara. Here is a summary of Saqqara and it's sites from Wikipedia:


While Memphis was the capital of Ancient Egypt, Saqqara served as its necropolis. Although it was eclipsed as the burial ground of royalty by Giza and later by the Valley of the Kings in Thebes, it remained an important complex for minor burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times. The step pyramid at Saqqara was designed by Imhotep for King Djoser (c.2667-2648 BC). It is the oldest complete hewn-stone building complex known in history. It is also the location of the newly opened (in 2006) Imhotep Museum.
Early Dynastic

View of Saqqara necropolis, including Djoser's step pyramid (centre). The mound to the far left is the Pyramid of Unas; the one on the right is the Pyramid of Userkaf.
Although the earliest burials of nobles at Saqqara can be traced back to the First Dynasty, it was not until the Second Dynasty that the first kings were buried there, including Hotepsekhemwy and Nynetjer.
Old Kingdom
The most striking feature of the necropolis, however, dates from the Third Dynasty. Still visible today, is the Step Pyramid of the Pharaoh Djoser. In addition to Djoser's, there are another 16 pyramids on the site, in various states of preservation or dilapidation. That of the fifth-dynasty Pharaoh Unas, located just to the south of the step pyramid and on top of Hotepsekhemwi's tomb, houses the earliest known example of the Pyramid Texts – inscriptions with instructions for the afterlife used to decorate the interior of tombs, the precursor of the New Kingdom Book of the Dead. Saqqara is also home to an impressive number of mastaba tombs. Because the necropolis was lost beneath the sands for much of the past two millennia – even the sizable mortuary complex surrounding Djoser's pyramid was not uncovered until 1924 – many of these have been superbly preserved, with both their structures and lavish internal decorations intact.

Major Old Kingdom structures

Gisr el-mudir this massive enclosure may date from the Early Dynastic period.
Sekhemkhet's Step Pyramid (the Buried Pyramid)
Step Pyramid of Netjerikhet Djoser
Shepseskaf's Mastabat Fara'un
Userkaf's pyramid, now looking like a conical hill.
Djedkare Isesi pyramid complex, known as Haram el-Shawaf.
Unas pyramid complex, now mainly collapsed.
Teti's pyramid complex, looking more like a small hill, rather than a man-made construction.
Pepi I complex, with its associated queens pyramids.
Merenre's complex
Pepi II, last great pyramid built in the Old Kingdom.
Ibi, built in the Eighth dynasty, it is now almost totally destroyed.
There are a few pyramids that date from the First Intermediate Period, the most notable being Khendjer's Pyramid in South Saqqara.

New Kingdom Necropolis
While most of the mastabas date from the Old Kingdom, one major figure from the New Kingdom is also represented: Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, who had a tomb built here for himself before he assumed the throne in his own right, while still serving as one of Tutankhamun's generals. However, it should be noted that Pharaoh Horemheb was never buried here. After his death he was interred, as were many other 18th Dynasty kings, in the Valley of the Kings in Ancient Thebes.

Later Burials and Monuments
Another major monument at Saqqara is the Serapeum: a gallery of tombs, cut from the rock, which served as the eternal resting place of the mummified bodies of the Apis bulls worshipped in Memphis as embodiments of the god Ptah. Rediscovered by Auguste Mariette in 1851, the tombs had been opened and plundered in antiquity – with the exception of one that lay undisturbed for some 3,700 years. The mummified bull it contained can now be seen in Cairo's agricultural museum.
On the approach to the Serapeum stands the slightly incongruous arrangement of statues known the Philosophers' Circle: a Ptolemaic recognition of the greatest poets and thinkers of their Greek ancestors, originally situated in a nearby temple. Represented here are Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, Plato, and others.

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