Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 76, Saqqara, Egypt(8)

Phew, it is a good thing that we made such an early start this know , it is really hot in Egypt in August!!
Next stop....Saqqara.

Covering a 7km stretch of the Western Desert, Saqqara, the huge cemetery of ancient Memphis, was an active burial ground for more than 3500 years, and is Egypt’s largest archaeological site. The necropolis is situated high above the Nile Valley’s cultivation area, and is the final resting place for deceased pharaohs and their families, administrators, generals and sacred animals.

Old Kingdom pharaohs were buried within Saqqara’s 11 major pyramids, while their subjects were buried in the hundreds of smaller tombs found in the great necropolis. Not surprisingly, the name Saqqara is most likely derived from Sokar, the Memphite god of the dead.

Most of Saqqara, except for the Step Pyramid, was buried in sand until the mid-19th century, when the great French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette uncovered the Serapeum. Since then, it has been a gradual process of rediscovery: the Step Pyramid’s massive funerary complex was not discovered until 1924 and it is still being restored.

Intended to hold his mummified body, Pharaoh Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara began as a traditional, flat-roofed mastaba. But by the end of his 19-year reign, in 2611 B.C., it had risen to six stepped layers and stood 204 feet (62 meters) high. It was the largest building of its time.

Extensive use of stone—here and there carved to resemble wood, reeds, or other softer materials—made the tomb more durable than its mud-brick forebears. Such pioneering techniques led many ancient historians to credit the chief architect, Imhotep, with inventing stone architecture.

The Step Pyramid complex was enclosed by a 30-foot (10-meter) wall and included courtyards, temples, and chapels covering nearly 40 acres (16 hectares)—the size of a large town in the third millennium B.C.
As in earlier mastaba tombs, the Step Pyramid's burial chambers are underground, hidden in a maze of tunnels, probably to discourage grave robbers. The tomb was nevertheless plundered, and all that remains of Djoser, the third king of Egypt's 3rd dynasty (time line), is his mummified left foot!!

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