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 Location: 30km South of Cairo, Egypt.  Grid Reference: 29.978 N, 31.216 E.

 

      Saqqara: ('Stepped Pyramid', 'Ziggurat').

The stepped pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Saqqara was the necropolis and sacred centre for the great city of Memphis, the remains of which can be seen nearby.  This great city was founded about 3,000 B.C. by the first pharaoh of Egypt.

The name Serapeum is most often used to refer to the burial place of the sacred Apis bulls at Saqqara. It consisted of a huge underground complex to the north-west of the Step Pyramid of Djoser where the bulls were buried in enormous granite sarcophagi between the 18th Dynasty and Ptolemaic times.

 

Article: Saqqara - Home of the Oldest Known Papyrus Roll (c. 2,900 B.C).

"The ancient Egyptians had used rolls made of papyrus from the early days of the Old Kingdom. The oldest known papyrus roll was found in the tomb of Hemaka in Saqqara, and dates to the 1st dynasty, around 2900 BC. The hieroglyph for 'papyrus roll' existed already in inscriptions from this period. The 1st dynasty roll was blank; the oldest examples with writing dated from the 4th and 5th dynasties"

(Ref: Roemer, "The Papyrus Roll in Egypt, Greece, and Rome," Eliot & Rose (eds) A Companion to the History of the Book [2007] 84).

 

 

   Saqqara: (Sakkara, Saqqarah)

Description - As well as the famous step-pyramid of Djoser (Zoser), the Saqqara complex includes numerous other funerary structures that date back from the first dynasty. Saqqara represents the first complete model of the typical pyramid complex including enclosure walls and a causeway.

The oldest mastaba-tombs in Saqqara are build in the time of Aha in the northern spur of Saqqara (2)

 

Djoser's (Zoser) Step-pyramid:

The step pyramid is believed to have been initiated by the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser and designed by his vizier Imhotep. It is considered by Egyptologists to be the Oldest Pyramid in the world.

The Step-pyramid is believed to have evolved from an original 'Mastaba' form which was later built upon and extended several times until it attained its present shape. It was built from local limestone and cased in the better quality Tura limestone. (1)

 

  

Djoser's step-pyramid was built with mud-fired bricks, then surrounded by a recessed outer wall that surrounded the whole complex.

 

  

The 'stepped' theme is seen in a first dynasty tomb (left), from Saqqara - note the similar buttress walls, and is repeated in the shape of the internal corbelled roofs of the fourth dynasty (right). An excellent example of negative space construction.

 

 

The first Causeway in the world.

 
 
 

The causeway is believed to have been originally covered along its whole length.

(The ceiling was originally completely covered with painted stars.)

 

News Article: Seattle Times. June 6th. 2008.

'Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered the "missing pyramid" of a pharaoh and a ceremonial procession road where high priests carried mummified remains of sacred bulls, Egypt's antiquities chief said earlier this year'.

Zahi Hawass said the pyramid of which only the base remains is believed to be that of King Menkauhor, an obscure pharaoh who ruled for only eight years more than 4,000 years ago.

(Click here for more on this subject)

 

Evidence of serpent worship at Saqqara.

 

The Serapium: The Serapeum is the term most often used to refer to the burial place of the sacred Apis bulls at Saqqara. It consisted of a huge underground complex to the north-west of the Step Pyramid of Djoser where the bulls were buried in enormous granite sarcophagi between the 18th Dynasty and Ptolemaic times.

Extract from Strabo: "One finds a temple to Serapis in such a sandy place that the wind heaps up the sand dunes beneath which we saw sphinxes, some half buried, some buried up to the head, from which one can suppose that the way to this temple could not be without danger if one were caught in a sudden wind storm. It was impossible to doubt it. This buried Sphinx, the companion of fifteen others I had encountered in Alexandria and Cairo, formed with them, according to the evidence, part of the avenue that led to the Memphis Serapeum...

It did not seem to me possible to leave to others the credit and profit of exploring this temple whose remains a fortunate chance had allowed me to discover and whose location henceforth would be known. Undoubtedly many precious fragments, many statues, many unknown texts were hidden beneath the sand upon which I stood. These considerations made all my scruples disappear. At that instant I forgot my mission (obtaining Coptic texts from the monasteries), I forgot the Patriarch, the convents, the Coptic and Syriac manuscripts, Linant Bey himself, and it was thus, on 1 November 1850, during one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen in Egypt, that a group of thirty workmen, working under my orders near that sphinx, were about to cause such total upheaval in the conditions of my stay in Egypt."

 

The sacred bulls were buried in a single block of granite that weighed between sixty and eighty tons. All twenty-four sarcophagi had been plundered. Their lids had been praised loose and the contents taken. Further excavation revealed an older gallery and then another one further on. The way into the first of the galleries was blocked by a huge rock which was blown apart with explosives. Beneath where the rock had been, was found a mummy of a man. This was the mummy of a son of Ramasses II, Prince Khaemwese. He was in charge of the restoration of the Pyramid of Unas. He was also governor of Memphis and a high priest of Ptah. He had requested to be buried with the sacred bulls rather than a tomb of his own.

The mastabas at Saqqara display some interesting features. Three of the tombs had an associated mud-brick boat burial on their north side and some of the mastabas also had raised platforms which ran around them. The heads were modelled out of mud but the horns were real, and it has been estimated that a tomb might have been surrounded by up to three hundred of them. Throughout Egyptian history the bull was closely associated with kinship. The pharaoh was referred to as 'Mighty Bull' (1).

Bull Worship at Saqqara - (The facade of tomb 3504)...

The superstructure of the tomb shows evidence of 30 niches and 34 projections along its periphery. The structure was built on a wide platform on which, placed at reguar intervals, were clay bovine heads with real horns. At the rate of 7 to each niche and 4 on the facade, there would have been a total of 346. The bull played a considerable role in the Old kingdom, and in the pyramid texts the King is often called 'The Bull of the Sky'. But because of its horns the bull was also related to the moon. Thus it is tempting to note that the number of bull heads here approximates to that of 12 lunations (354 days), and extremely close to the number of days which Sir Fred Hoyle related to the periodic return of eclipses. (3)

  

Bull worship at at Chatal Huyak, Turkey.

(It is suggested that the 'Metsamorian' culture may have been predecessors to the Egyptian culture).

(More about Metsamor)

 

The corners of the pyramids of Djoser, Userkaf, and Unas align to Heliopolis: As do those of Giza and Abusir.

(Click here for more on this subject)

 

(Other Egyptian Sites)

 

 

References:

1) Lucia Gahlin. Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion. 2001. Anness Publ.
2). http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/saqqara/Saqqara/Introduction.htm
3). Lucie Lamy. Egyptian Mysteries. 1981. Thames and Hudson.

 

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