Saqqara (or Sakkara, Saqqarah; Arabic: سقارة) is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. 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. 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 0.93 mi).
Well over 200 feet high, it rises in seven-steps over an underground mastaba, a rectangular flat tomb whose form imitates a mud-brick house. Around the pyramid and within a 1.5-kilometer walled enclosure, is a copy of the king’s palace at Memphis, but the buildings are solid masonry, without internal rooms. Two are visible here on the left. They line the ceremonial court, and their form imitates tents of the kind used for celebrating the king’s jubilee–here continuing for eternity.
At Saqqara, the oldest complete hewn-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.
The limestone blocks are much smaller than those used later at Giza and suggest that the builders were used to buildling with brick.
North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir; south lies Dahshur. The area running fromGiza to Dahshur has been used as necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
Contrary to popular belief, the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary god Sokar, but from the Beni Saqqar who are a local Berber tribe. Their name means “Sons of Saqqar.” Since they are not indigenous to the area it would not follow that they would fashion themselves as being born of an ancient Egyptian god whose identity was unknown until the age of archaeology.
The burial chamber is about 100 feet below the base of the pyramid–or about half the height of the pyramid above ground. The architect, whose name appears on a statue, was Imhotet, whose fame led eventually to deification.http://www.greatmirror.com/index.cfm?navid=1162&picturesize=medium
Stepped pyramid at Saqqara
The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty, at the north 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 kingKhasekhemwy 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
- tomb of king Hotepsekhemwy
- tomb of king Nynetjer
- Buried Pyramid, funerary complex of king Sekhemkhet
- Gisr el-Mudir, funerary complex of king Khasekhemwy
- Step Pyramid, funerary complex of king Djoser
Funerary complex of Djoser
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 of massive stone, but with a core consisting of rubble. They are consequently 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 withPyramid Texts. It was custom for courtiers during the Old Kingdom to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the pyramid of their king. Clusters of private tombs were thus formed in Saqqara around the pyramid complexes of Unas and Teti.
Old Kingdom monuments
- Mastabet el-Fara’un, tomb of king Shepseskaf (Dynasty 4)
- pyramid complex of king Userkaf (Dynasty 5)
- Haram el-Shawaf, pyramid complex of king Djedkare
- pyramid of king Menkauhor
- mastaba of Ti
- mastaba of the Two Brothers (Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum)
- pyramid complex of king Unas
- mastaba of Ptahhotep
- pyramid complex of king Teti (Dynasty 6)
- mastaba of Mereruka
- mastaba of Kagemni
- Mastaba of Akhethetep
- pyramid complex of king Pepi I
- pyramid complex of king Merenre
- pyramid complex of king Pepi II
First Intermediate Period monuments
- pyramid of king Ibi (Dynasty 8)
From the Middle Kingdom onwards, 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
During the New Kingdom Memphis was an important administrative and military centre, second only to the capital. From theEighteenth Dynasty onwards many high officials built tombs at Saqqara. When still a general, Horemheb built a large tomb here, though he was later buried as Pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other important tombs belong to the vizier Aperel and toMaia, the wet-nurse of Tutankhamun.
The 1.5-kilometer wall enclosing the pysramid has only one gate, here
Many monuments from earlier periods were still standing, but dilapidated by this period. Prince Khaemweset, son of PharaohRamesses 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.
Inside, there’s a hall with columns imitating papyrus bundles. Unable yet to build freestanding columns, the builders here supported the inchoate form with walls.
New Kingdom monuments
- Several clusters of tombs of high officials, among which the tombs of Horemheb and of Maya and Merit. Reliefs and statues from these two tombs are on display in the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden, the Netherlands, and in the British Museum, London.
After the New Kingdom
In 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 amounts of mummified ibises, baboons, cats, dogs, and falcons.
Monuments of the Late Period, the Graeco-Roman and later periods
- Several shaft tombs of officials of the Late Period.
- Serapeum (the larger part dating to the Ptolemaeic Period)
- The so-called ‘Philosophers circle’, a monument to important Greek thinkers and poets, consisting of statues of Hesiod, Homer,Pindar, Plato, and others (Ptolemaeic)
- Several Coptic monasteries, among which the Monastery of Apa Jeremias (Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods)
Site looting during 2011 protests
Pyramid of Djoser
|Pyramid of Djoser|
|Height||62 metres (203 ft)|
|Base||125.27 metres (411 ft) (larger)
109.12 metres (358 ft) (smaller)
The Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser), or step pyramid (kbhw-ntrw in Egyptian) is an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. It was built for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by hisvizier Imhotep, during the 27th century BC. It is the central feature of a vastmortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.
This first Egyptian pyramid consisted of six mastabas (of decreasing size) built atop one another in what were clearly revisions and developments of the original plan. The pyramid originally stood 62 metres (203 ft) tall, with a base of 109 × 125 m (358 × 410 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone. The step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is considered to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction, although the nearby enclosure known as Gisr el-mudir would seem to predate the complex. The oldest known uncut stone pyramid structure dates to 3000 BC in the city of Caral,Peru.
Djoser was the first or second king of the 3rd Dynasty (ca. 2667 to 2648 BC) of the Egyptian Old Kingdom (ca. 2686 to 2125 BC).He is believed to have ruled for 19 years or, if the 19 years were biennial taxation years, 38 years. He reigned long enough to allow the grandiose plan for his pyramid to be realized in his lifetime.
Djoser is best known for his innovative tomb, which dominates the Saqqara landscape. In this tomb he is referred to by his Horus name Netjerykhet; Djoser is a name given by New Kingdom visitors thousands of years later. Djoser’s step pyramid is astounding in its departure from previous architecture. It sets several important precedents, perhaps the most important of which is its status as the first monumental structure made of stone. The social implications of such a large and carefully sculpted stone structure are staggering. The process of building such a structure would be far more labor intensive than previous monuments of mud-brick. This suggests that the state, and therefore the royal government had a new level of control of resources, both material and human.Also, from this point on, kings of the Old Kingdom are buried in the North, rather than at Abydos. Furthermore, although the plan of Djoser’s pyramid complex is different than later complexes, many elements persist and the step pyramid sets the stage for later pyramids of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Dynasties, including the great pyramids at Giza. Finally, another intriguing first is the identification of the architect Imhotep, who is credited with the design and construction of the complex.
Djoser’s Pyramid draws ideas from several precedents. The most relevant precedent is found at Saqqara mastaba 3038. The substructure lay in a 4m deep rectangular pit, and had mudbrick walls rising to 6m. Three sides were extended and built out to create eight shallow steps rising at an angle of 49˚. This would have been an elongated step pyramid if the remaining side had not been left uncovered. In another parallel to Djoser’s complex, to complete this mastaba complex a niched enclosure wall was erected. Furthermore, the pyramid substructure is reminiscent of the plan of Khasekhemwy’s mud-brick funerary enclosure at Abydos.
Temples of the festival complex.
Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex has several structures pivotal to its function in both life and the afterlife. Several are discussed below with attention paid to function and form. The pyramid was not simply a grave in ancient Egypt. Its purpose was to facilitate a successful afterlife for the king so that he could be eternally reborn. The symbolism of the step pyramid form, which did not survive the 3rd Dynasty, is unknown, but it has been suggested that it may be a monumental symbol of the crown, especially the royal mortuary cult, since seven small step pyramids (not tombs) were built in the provinces. Another well accepted theory is that it facilitated the king’s ascension to join the eternal North Star.
The main excavator of the Step Pyramid was Jean-Phillipe Lauer, a French architect who reconstructed key portions of the complex. The complex covers 15ha and is about 2.5 times as large as the Old Kingdom town of Heirakonpolis. Several features of the complex differ from those of later Old Kingdom pyramids. The pyramid temple is situated at the north side of the pyramid, whereas in later pyramids it is on the east side. Also, the Djoser complex is built on a North-South axis whereas later complexes utilize an East-West axis. Furthermore, the Djoser complex has one niched enclosure wall, whereas later pyramids have two enclosure walls with the outside one being smooth and the inside one sometimes niched.
Bas-Relief from the Tomb of Tiy 1200-1085 B.C. Egyptian Art Saqqara, Egypt
The Enclosure Wall
The Djoser complex is surrounded by a wall of light Tura limestone 10.5m high.The wall design recalls the appearance of 1st Dynasty tombs, with the distinctive paneled construction known as the palace façade, which imitates bound bundles of reeds. The overall structure imitates mudbrick. The wall is interrupted by 14 doors, however only one entrance, in the south corner of the east façade, is functional for the living. This arrangement resembles Early Dynastic funerary enclosures at Abydos in which the entrance was on the east side.The remaining doors are known as false doors, and were meant for the king’s use in the afterlife. They functioned as portals through which the king’s ka could pass between life and the afterlife. The functional door at the southeast end of the complex leads to a narrow passageway that connects to the roofed colonnade.
Saqqara step pyramid, Saqqara, Egypt,Africa http://www.superstock.com
The Great Trench
Outside the enclosure wall Djoser’s complex is completely surrounded by a trench dug in the underlying rock. The trench measures 750m long and 40m wide and is a rectangle on a North-South axis. The walls of the trench were originally decorated with niches and its function seems to have been to make entry into the complex more difficult.
Roofed colonnade entrance
Roofed colonnade corridor leading into the complex, with stone pillars carved to imitate bundled plant stems.
The roofed colonnade led from the enclosure wall to the south of the complex. A passageway with a limestone ceiling constructed to look as though it was made from whole tree trunks led to a massive stone imitation of two open doors. Beyond this portal was a hall with twenty pairs of limestone columns composed of drum shaped segments built to look like bundles of plant stems and reaching a height of 6.6 m. The columns were not free-standing, but were attached to the wall by masonry projections. Between the columns on both sides of the hall were small chambers, which some Egyptologists propose may have been for each of the provinces of Upper and Lower Egypt. At the end of the colonnade was the transverse hypostyle room with eight columns connected in pairs by blocks of limestone. This led to the South Court.
egypt, saqqara, the mastaba of mereruka
The South Court
The South Court is a large court between the South Tomb and the pyramid. Within the court are curved stones thought to be territorial markers associated with theHeb-sed festival, an important ritual completed by Egyptian kings (typically after 30 years on the throne) to renew their powers. These would have allowed Djoser to claim control over all of Egypt, while its presence in the funerary complex would allow Djoser to continue to benefit from the ritual in the afterlife. At the southern end of the court was a platform approached by steps. It has been suggested that this was a platform for the double throne. This fits in to the theory proposed by Barry Kemp, and generally accepted by many, that suggests the whole step pyramid complex symbolizes the royal palace enclosure and allows the king to eternally perform the rituals associated with kingship. At the very south of the South Court lay the South Tomb.
Egypt, Lower Egypt, Saqqara, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, engraved stele in the necropolis http://www.superstock.com
The South Tomb
The South Tomb has been likened to the satellite pyramids of later Dynasties, and has been proposed to house the ka in the afterlife. Another proposal is that it may have held the canopic jar with the king’s organs, but this does not follow later trends where the canopic jar is found in the same place as the body. These proposals stem from the fact that the granite burial vault is much too small to have facilitated an actual burial.
Egyptian Civilization. Tomb of Netcherouymes. Detail of bas-reliefs from Saqqara http://www.superstock.com
The substructure of the South Tomb is entered through a tunnel-like corridor with a staircase that descends about 30m before opening up into the pink granite burial chamber. The staircase then continues west and leads to a gallery that imitates the blue chambers below the step pyramid.
Egypt – Cairo – Ancient Memphis (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979). Saqqara. Necropolis. Private funerary http://www.superstock.com/
Current evidence suggests that the South Tomb was finished before the pyramid. The symbolic king’s inner palace, decorated in blue faience, is much more complete than that of the pyramid. Three chambers of this substructure are decorated in blue faience to imitate reed-mat facades, just like the pyramid. One room is decorated with three finely niche reliefs of the king, one depicting him running the Heb-sed. Importantly, Egyptian builders chose to employ their most skilled artisans and depict their finest art in the darkest, most inaccessible place in the complex. This highlights the fact that this impressive craftsmanship was not meant for the benefit of the living but was meant to ensure the king had all the tools necessary for a successful afterlife
africa, egypt, saqqara, mastaba of ptamotec
The Step Pyramid
Egypt Sakkara Saqqara pyramid step pyramid de…
The superstructure of the Step Pyramid is six steps and was built in six stages, as might be expected with an experimental structure. The pyramid began as a square mastaba (one should note that this designation as a mastaba is contended for several reasons) (M1) which was gradually enlarged, first evenly on all four sides (M2) and later just on the east side (M3). The mastaba was built up in two stages, first to form a four-stepped structure (P1) and then to form a six-stepped structure (P2), which now had a rectangular base on an east-west axis. The fact that the initial mastaba was square has led many to believe that the monument was never meant to be a mastaba, as no other known mastabas had ever been square. The final pyramid was 62m tall and 1221 square meters in area. When the builders began to transform the mastaba into the four step pyramid, they made a major shift in construction Like in the construction of the mastaba, they built a crude core of rough stones and then cased them in fine limestone with packing in between. The major difference is that in mastaba construction they laid horizontal courses, but for the pyramid layers, they built in accretion layers that leaned inwards, while using blocks that were both bigger and higher quality.Much of the rock for the pyramid was likely quarried from the construction of the great trench. It is widely accepted that ramps would have been used to raise heavy stone to construct the pyramid, and many plausible models have been suggested.Apparatuses like rollers in which the heavy stone could be placed and then rolled were employed in transport.
Egypt, Lower Egypt, Saqqara Necropolis, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, http://www.superstock.com
Under the step pyramid is a labyrinth of tunneled chambers and galleries that total nearly 6 km in length and connect to a central shaft 7m square and 28m deep. These spaces provide room for the king’s burial, the burial of family members, and the storage of goods and offerings.The entrance to the 28m shaft was built on the north side of the pyramid, a trend that would remain throughout the Old Kingdom. The sides of the underground passages are limestone inlaid with blue faience tile to replicate reed matting. These “palace façade” walls are further decorated by panels decorated in low relief that show the king participating in the Heb-sed. Together these chambers constitute the funerary apartment that mimicked the palace and would serve as the living place of the royal ka. On the east side of the pyramid eleven shafts 32m deep were constructed and annexed to horizontal tunnels for the royal harem (The existence of this “harem” is debated). These were incorporated into the preexisting substructure as it expanded eastward. In the storerooms along here over 40,000 stone vessels were found, many of which predate Djoser. These would have served Djoser’s visceral needs in the afterlife. An extensive network of underground galleries was located to the north, west and south of the central burial chamber and crude horizontal magazines were carved into these.
Relief. Egyptian Ruins. Saqqara. Egypt
The Burial Chamber
The burial chamber was a vault constructed of four courses of well-dressed granite. It had one opening, which was sealed with a 3.5 ton block after the burial. No body was recovered as the tomb had been extensively robbed. Lauer believes that a burial chamber of alabaster existed before the one of granite. He found interesting evidence of limestone blocks with five pointed stars in low relief that were likely on the ceiling, indicating the first occurrence of what would become a tradition. The king sought to associate himself with the eternal North Stars that never set so as to ensure his rebirth and eternity.
Egypt – Cairo – Ancient Memphis (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979). Saqqara. Necropolis. Private funerary mastaba of Ptahhotep, 5th Dynasty. Relief of agricultural works and ox
© De Agostini / SuperStock
The North Temple and Serdab Court
The northern (funerary/mortuary) temple was on the north side of the pyramid and faced the north stars, which the king wished to join in eternity. This structure provided a place in which the daily rituals and offerings to the dead could be performed, and was the cult center for the king. To the east of the temple is the serdab, which is a small enclosed structure that housed the ka statue. The king’s ka inhabited the ka statue in order to benefit from daily ceremonies like the opening of the mouth, a ceremony that allowed him to breathe and eat, and the burning of incense.
Egypt, Saqqara, Painting in Mastaba of Mereruka
© Silvio Fiore / SuperStock
He witnessed these ceremonies through two small eye holes cut in the north wall of the serdab. This temple appears on the north side of the pyramid throughout the Third Dynasty, as the king wishes to go north to become one of the eternal stars in the North Sky that never set. In the fourth Dynasty, when there is a religious shift to an emphasis on rebirth and eternity achieved through the sun, the temple is moved to the east side of the temple where the sun rises, so that through association the king may be reborn every day.
© LatitudeStock / SuperStock
The Heb-sed Court
The Heb-sed courtyard is rectangular and parallel to the South Courtyard. It was meant to provide a space in which the king could perform the Heb-sed ritual in the afterlife. Flanking the east and west sides of the court are the remains of two groups of chapels, many of which are dummy buildings, of three different architectural styles. At the north and south ends there are three chapels with flat roves and no columns. The remaining chapels on the west side are decorated with fluted columns and capitals flanked by leaves. Each of the chapels has a sanctuary accessed by a roofless passage with walls that depict false doors and latches.Some of these buildings have niches for statues. Egyptologists believe that these buildings were related to the important double coronation of the king during the Heb-sed.