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In the Shadow of Djoser’s Pyramid

Research of Polish Archaeologists in Saqqara

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Karol Jan Myśliwiec

The book presents the discoveries made by the Polish archaeological mission in Saqqara, the central part of the largest ancient Egyptian royal necropolis. The area adjacent to the Pyramid of King Djoser on the monument’s west side, so far neglected by archaeologists, turned out to be an important burial place of the Egyptian nobility from two periods of Pharaonic history: the Old Kingdom (the late third millennium BC) and the Ptolemaic Period (the late first millennium BC). The earlier, lower cemetery yielded rock-hewn tombs with splendid wall decoration in relief and painting. The book also describes methods of conservation applied to the discovered artefacts and episodes from the mission’s life.

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Chapter 1. History and archaeology: Saqqara in Egyptian history

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Chapter 1. History and archaeology: Saqqara in Egyptian history

Abstract: An outline of the site history from the earliest times of human activity to present days. A diachronic presentation of the greatest discoveries made there by archaeological missions from various countries, along with the scientific research and restoration work done in Saqqara.

Keywords: the Old Kingdom, pyramids, mastabas, the Ptolemaic period, Serapeum.

The oldest part of the largest royal necropolis in the world, located on the western side of the River Nile at a distance of about 30 km south of Cairo – Saqqara – derives its name from the god Sokar, considered by the ancient Egyptians to have been the guardian of this huge cemetery.

It is situated on a rocky plateau, with the Sahara extending to the west (Fig. 1). The rock surface is today covered by a thick layer of sand blown in from the desert over the course of the last four millennia. The silhouettes of pyramids, pharaohs’ tombs, and mastabas, much smaller sepulchral structures meant for the courtiers, rise up out of the sand.

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The eastern edge of the plateau lies adjacent to a wide streak of fertile land, hydrated with canals, a dense network of which leads to the edge of the Nile’s bank. Monumental buildings, temples and the palace of Memphis, the capital of Egypt in the third millennium BC, lay between the river and the necropolis. The largest of these was the temple of the god Ptah, who stood at the top of the local pantheon of deities. This was where the pharaohs were crowned, even if they resided far from Memphis and even if they were not native Egyptians, as occurred frequently in the first millennium BC.

The ruins of this large cosmopolitan metropolis have been preserved to this day in fragmentary form. Here and there, among the cultivated fields or palm groves, a stone block decorated with hieroglyphs or a part of an enormous abode brick wall protrude from the earth.

The ancient cemetery, covered with a thick layer of sand, has been preserved in much better shape. In antiquity, this city of the dead was full of ‘life.’ During the day, priests would hurry about in between the tombs, carrying out their duties related to the cult of the ancestors, especially that of the pharaohs revered as holy. The families of various dignitaries, who had departed on their journey to the Land of Osiris, i.e. the afterworld, would also come to visit. The tombs currently being discovered by archaeologists were frequently silent witnesses to the tragedies that played out in even the most noble of households after its head had departed. The beautiful bas-reliefs and paintings decorating the walls enable reading between the lines of ←22 | 23→the hieroglyphic inscriptions and sequences of idyllic scenes about what was actually going on in the land of the pharaohs.

Already in antiquity, the dignified atmosphere of this place frequently transformed at night, when well-organised bands of thieves looted the necropolis. Their main objects of interest were the sarcophagi containing the bodies of the deceased, but primarily the artefacts made from precious metals which belonged to the tomb’s endowment. The looters were completely uninterested in the deceased’s body; usually they had not even a grain of respect for this incarnation of the god Osiris. Dismembered body parts are sometimes found outside the place a person had been buried, for example on the lid of the sarcophagus, or sometimes once again placed in the original spot but in fragments. All of this indicates that the looters were not only exceptionally knowledgeable about the topography of the tombs but also masters of camouflage.

Along with profaning the corpse, they were also capable of scoffing at the cemetery guardians, and – indirectly – at present-day discoverers. When a dried bouquet of flowers was found by archaeologists almost 100 years ago on a sealed stone sarcophagus of one of the Third- Dynasty rulers, they had expected to find an intact burial. The sarcophagus turned out to be empty. Things were none the different a few dozen years ago, when the most famous of all currently living Egyptian archaeologists rallied television stations from around the world to make a direct transmission of the opening of a sarcophagus in one of the tombs next to the pyramids from the Old Kingdom period in Giza, not far from Saqqara. Everything seemed to indicate that the sarcophagus was intact. When the heavy sealed lid was lifted, the millions of people gathered in front of their TVs across the continents were presented with an empty interior. A similar surprise but in connection to a tomb 500 years younger awaited Polish archaeologists conducting excavations in Saqqara. This time the object of our hopes for finding an intact corpse and funerary equipment was a coffin elaborately plaited from Nile reeds, standing in a rock burial chamber at the bottom of a deep shaft. The lid was attached to the trunk with a wide ribbon tied into a bowknot. What did we find inside? Three ossicles as reminiscences of the dismembered corpse. Observing the various pieces of evidence testifying to the cunning and cynicism of the ancient treasure hunters, who seem to have gone about ‘redistributing’ the goods placed in the tomb next to the body of the deceased very soon after the funeral, we would be justified in thinking that they not only scoffed at the Egyptian world of the gods but also cooperated, if in secret, with the professional guardians in charge of protecting the peace and quiet of the dead. In these respects, not much has changed to this day.

The choice of a location for Egypt’s capital at the beginning of the Old Kingdom era was not random. Somewhat further to the north, the life-giving ←23 | 24→Nile, after having travelled in solitude through modern-day Sudan and Egypt, branches out into multiple arms, forming the vast Delta. This huge plain with exceptionally fertile and well-hydrated soil is Lower Egypt, which in the last centuries of antiquity and the first centuries of our era was considered to be ‘Rome’s granary.’ The area located south of the Delta is Upper Egypt. Life here was concentrated in a narrow, few-kilometre-large stretch of fertile land, adjacent to both banks of the Nile, and in a few oases lying among the desert sands in the western part of the country. This is where the great centres of administration, religion and culture came into being, such as Thebes (today’s Luxor), Abydos, Edfu, Dendera or Elephantine (an island on the Nile in modern-day Aswan).

Located at a spot connecting Upper and Lower Egypt, Memphis was an ideal setting for the central seat of power. This was the function it performed from the beginnings of the reign of the Third Dynasty, following the consolidation of the state formed from the merging of the two parts of the country. However, already a few centuries earlier, at the turn of the fourth and the third millennia, an important administrative centre had developed here, evidence of which is the necropolis for those in power during the reign of the First and the Second Dynasties.

Saqqara’s landscape looked completely differently than it does today. In the northern part of the territory, there was an extensive lake, which today is only recalled by a depression covered with sand. Settlement developed around the lake, and a wadi (hollow), the area’s main traffic route, ran southwards. The rocky plateau was interspersed with gullies running from the east to the west, down which streams periodically would flow, escaping finally out into the lakes located in spots where today there are only cultivated fields.1

The plateau, situated in the middle of this terrain, was used since the earliest times for sepulchral purposes. During the reign of the First and the Second Dynasties, i.e. in the first centuries of the third millennium BC, enormous tombs were built here, which archaeologists for a long time considered as having belonged to the first pharaohs (Il. 2). Up until the 1960s, Egyptologists were divided into two groups: those that believed the oldest royal necropolis of united Egypt was located in Saqqara and those attributing the monumental tombs erected in the Upper Egyptian Abydos with housing the first rulers. To be sure, supporters of the first of these theories included the discoverers of the archaic necropolis in Saqqara, i.e. the Englishmen James ←24 | 25→E. Quibell (1867–1935) and Cecil M. Firth (1878–1931), who conducted excavations between 1920 and 1930, and later Walter B. Emery (1902–1971), who continued with their work between 1936 and 1956. The dispute was only finally resolved by the studies done by two prominent researchers from the younger generation. The first of these was the Englishman Barry Kemp, who in 1967, after analysing the entire archaeological context, opted for the Upper Egyptian Abydos as the burial place of the first pharaohs, as confirmed by the excavations conducted there by the German researcher Günter Dreyer (1943–2019) from 1977. The ‘royal’ tombs in Saqqara turned out the be ‘only’ the burial places of some of the many noblemen of that time.2

However, this necropolis bears enormous significance to the development of our knowledge about the role Memphis performed since the very beginnings of Egyptian statehood. The site is also crucial for expanding our understanding of the further evolution of tomb architecture in Saqqara. The courtiers’ tombs were monumental structures consisting of an aboveground part and an underground one. The walls of the largest tomb, made from mud brick, were forty to fifty metres long and three to five metres high. They were covered with rich polychromy. Since they were built on the surface of a ca. 50-metre-high scarp, they must have been visible from afar, most probably also from the country’s capital, located 4 kilometres away. The underground part of these tombs was in the form of a rectangular chamber carved into the rock, divided into a number of smaller rooms by brick walls.

The oldest of these mastabas is dated to the period during which the king named Hor Aha, the second ruler of the First Dynasty, was in power. It contained exceptionally rich funerary equipment, including hundreds of pottery vessels with the king’s name written in black ink, wooden labels, stamps, furniture, flint tools, paddles and stone tools. It was surrounded by a double fortified wall, behind which, on the northern side, the remains of a wooden ritual boat were found, inserted into a hollow of the appropriate size and shape.3

One mastaba (no. 3504), attributed to the period in which a king by the name of Djet was in power, was uniquely decorated. From the exterior, the base of its walls was adorned with almost 300 bucrania, i.e. bull’s heads. Even though they were modelled in clay, they had authentic animal horns and these were associated with the ruler. Such symbolism survived until the end of the age of the pharaohs, taking on a variety of forms.

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A series of further innovations, both in the administration of the state and in the architecture of the mastabas, began during the reign of a king called Dewen. Imitating the tomb of the ruler erected in Abydos, the architecture of Saqqaran mastabas was enriched through the addition of stairs leading to the sepulchral chamber. Following the funeral, the entrance to the tomb was blocked with a single slab or a few heavy stone plates (Eng. portcullis). Towards the end of the reign of the First Dynasty, the risalit (avant-corps, i.e. divided into niches) wall façade began to be replaced by a smooth front in which two recesses in the shape of ‘false doors’ were retained, located in the northern and southern part of the eastern wall. Similarly to the royal tombs in Abydos, some mastabas designated for the nobility in Saqqara are surrounded by additional burials. For example, 62 burials of servants placed in rows on three sides of the main structure were discovered next to mastaba no. 3504.

The tomb-house concept appears during the early period of the Second Dynasty’s reign. It is completely carved out in rock, while the layout of the chambers should be reminiscent of the interior of a house. In three tombs from this period (nos. 2302, 2307 and 2337), archaeologists even recognised chambers performing the functions of baths and toilets. The life of a nobleman in the afterworld must have met the highest standards possible.4

During the Second Dynasty’s reign, Saqqara became a royal necropolis. This period is one of the darkest in the history of Pharaonic Egypt. The kings resided in Memphis and built their tombs in Saqqara. However, in the last phase of this dynasty’s reign, a political schism occurred which led to its last two pharaohs, Peribsen and Khasekhemwy, being buried in the necropolis in Abydos. The inscriptions on the statues of this latter ruler mention the suppression of an uprising in Lower Egypt.

So far two royal tombs have been found in Saqqara, belonging to rulers from the Second Dynasty. These are enormous structures attributed to the pharaohs Hotepsekhemwy (the first of this dynasty’s rulers) and Nynetjer (its third ruler). Their underground parts are similar – they both have a long corridor with a few dozen side rooms (most probably used for storage purposes) leading to the funerary chamber. Their aboveground parts, in the shape of huge rectangular mastabas from mud brick or stone, were destroyed by the later funerary structures built for Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty. The tomb attributed to Hotepsekhemwy (based on the stamp impressions found in its interior), the larger of the two, 130 × 46 metres in dimension, with a corridor located five metres below the earth’s ←26 | 27→surface, came to be discovered under the foundations of Unas’s mortuary temple adjacent to the pyramid, while Nynetjer’s tomb, situated somewhat to the east, was later covered by the ramp that led to the temple. The first royal tomb was discovered in 1901 by Alessander Barsanti (1858–1917), while the second was explored in 1937–1938 by Selim Hassan (1887–1961). In turn, Günter Dreyer from the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo studied the much smaller (40 × 45 m) tomb belonging to Nynetjer.5

An even smaller (15 × 15 m) but similar in shape underground structure, discovered quite recently by the Dutch mission in the close vicinity of the two tombs mentioned above, might have belonged to one of Nynetjer’s ephemeral successors, bearing the names Weneg, Senedj and Nubnefer. During the New Kingdom period, i.e. about 1500 years later, the ancient tomb was incorporated into a new one, dedicated to a nobleman called Merneith. It cannot be excluded that the underground part of one of the royal Second-Dynasty tombs was later included into the sepulchral complex of the Djoser pyramid, as thought by the German researcher Rainer Stadelmann (1933–2019).6 Such a structure might have been located in the area adjacent to the pyramid on the latter’s west side, i.e. in the direct neighbourhood of the Polish excavation concession. According to another, equally plausible hypothesis, one of the royal Second-Dynasty tombs lies a few or a couple of dozen metres further to the west, i.e. inside the area of the Polish concession. Such a hypothesis would be confirmed by some of the more recent discoveries, which I shall discuss in more detail further in this book.

While the last two rulers of the Second Dynasty abandoned the Saqqara necropolis and, undoubtedly due to political divisions, ordered that they be buried in Abydos, the second of these, bearing the name Khasekhemwy, left a permanent trace in Saqqara in the form of a mysterious structure gigantic in size, the outlines of which are visible today on the desert surface on the western side of the Djoser pyramid. In the place called Gisr el-Mudir in Arabic, a mighty stone wall with niches lies hidden underneath the sand, enclosing a rectangle 650 × 200 metres in dimension, meaning that this area is almost twice as large as the surface of the funerary complex of the oldest pyramid. The recent studies carried out by the Scottish mission directed by Ian Mathieson (1927–2010) have not solved the mystery of this unique monument. They only made it possible to establish that in later times its terrain was re-used both for sacral and sepulchral purposes.

In ca. 2650 BC, i.e. at the beginning of the reign of the Third Dynasty, a tomb was built in Saqqara, marking one of the breakthrough moments in ←27 | 28→the history of monumental architecture. This is the famous ‘step pyramid,’ the work of the legendary architect, priest and doctor called Imhotep. The first pyramid in the world.

The revolution began with the introduction of stone into the construction of mastabas, i.e. the aboveground part of the royal tomb. It had been initially assumed that this would be the shape that the Djoser tomb would take. However, the mastaba was expanded a few times widthways and upwards, which resulted in the tomb acquiring the shape of a ‘step pyramid’ (Figs. 12). This exceptional structure became the object of special cult in Pharaonic Egypt, while its creator was worshipped for thousands of years as a holy sage. He must also have been buried in the vicinity of his achievement; however, Imhotep’s tomb has thus far not been found, even though archaeological missions from a variety of countries have searched for it.7 It cannot be excluded that it had been located on the western side of the pyramid, in the area currently being studied by Polish archaeologists.

Even though the oldest pyramid owes its final shape to the gradual expansion of the initial mastaba, it might have been inspired by earlier, much smaller cult structures similar in form. Some researchers want to see an archetype in the holy benben stone, which was located in the cult centre of the sun god, Heliopolis, on the opposite, eastern side of the Nile. A closer analogy is presumed by other Egyptologists in the tumuli, which crowned the tombs of the elites from the archaic period in the above-described necropolis in northern Saqqara and the tombs of the rulers from this era in the royal necropolis in Abydos. One of the Saqqara tombs (S 3038), dated to the reign of a ruler named Anedjib, was in the form of steps, reminiscent of the Djoser pyramid.8

This pyramid is only the main point of a huge funerary complex encompassing many aboveground stone structures, the functions of which in many cases remain to this day a mystery, as well as a complex system of underground chambers and corridors carved into rock. The function of the sarcophagus containing the ruler’s body was performed by a granite chamber (1.6 × 2.9 m) at the bottom of a deep (27 m) shaft underneath the pyramid. Understanding the functions of the individual elements of this conglomerate is not made any easier by the fact that after Djoser’s death, the insides of his pyramid were re-used as a burial site for various people, which led to a mixing of archaeological contexts. It was also not left untouched by looters in modern times.

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Systematic scientific studies of the Djoser complex have been conducted since 1924. They were initiated by two English archaeologists, James E. Quibell and Cecil M. Firth, later joined by the Frenchman Jean-Philippe Lauer (1902–2001). The last of these devoted 75 years of his long life to Saqqara. He conducted excavations here up until his death, reconstructing some elements in situ, while simultaneously publishing the results of his work. He also instigated the construction of a monographic museum in Saqqara called the Imhotep Museum, which for 20 years has been one of the greatest tourist attractions locally, regularly exhibiting the most valuable moveable objects discovered by archaeological missions from various countries.

Following the 1992 earthquake, which led to the collapse of many weaker elements of the pyramid, the biggest challenge for Egyptologists in Saqqara has been securing this venerable building from further disintegration. The conservation activities are accompanied by archaeological research aimed at gaining a better understanding of its structure and history. This is being conducted by a Latvian mission under the direction of the French archaeologist Bruno Deslandes. Using the most modern apparatus, including three-dimensional scanners, GPS, 3D geographic information systems (3D GIS), etc., the multidisciplinary team of specialists has identified the construction’s structural pathologies, with its seven-kilometre-long underground labyrinths. It has discovered four new corridors dropping diagonally down underneath the so-called South House, re-established the coherence of the whole funerary complex’s original concept and proven that the pyramid complex was in fact one big cemetery, in which, for example, the ruler’s two daughters had been buried. The owners of the remaining 11 galleries have not yet been identified.9

The entire Djoser funerary complex was surrounded by a mighty wall (reaching a height of 10.5 m), referred to as a risalit or avant-corps wall, with its front lined with snow-white limestone blocks and a sequence of recesses moulded into it similar to the royal palace façades or the façade of the wall surrounding the nearby Memphis, the country’s capital. At a distance of about 100 metres from this wall, the so-called ‘Dry Moat,’ a 40-metre-large and 20-metre-deep groove cutting into the rock, forms a rectangular shape around the pyramid. The latest studies done by the Polish mission have proven that the area between the risalit wall and the ‘Dry Moat’ was a quarry, the source of the raw material used in the construction of the ←29 | 30→Djoser funerary complex (Fig. 3). A similar function was most probably performed by the ‘Dry Moat’.10

In all probability, Imhotep designed one other pyramid, which was supposed to have been similar in shape to the Djoser pyramid. Located to the south-west, it was meant to have housed Sekhemkhet, Djoser’s son and successor. Only the construction of its lower part was completed, with a tunnel leading to the funerary chamber from the northern side. A unique sarcophagus with a sliding posterior wall has been preserved in its interior. When it was discovered, it was sealed shut and there was a bouquet of dried flowers lying on its lid. However, it turned out that the inside of the sarcophagus was empty. Was it a cenotaph (a false tomb) or rather camouflage left behind by looters? Jean-Philippe Lauer put forward the hypothesis that the body of Djoser’s prematurely deceased son was not in fact put to rest in the unfinished pyramid, but rather in the so-called South Tomb, a part of his father’s sepulchral complex. This is by no means the only mystery linked to Sekhemkhet’s tomb. To this day, no one has managed to solve the mystery of the death of the Egyptian archaeologist, Zachary Goneim (1905–1959), who discovered the structure in 1950. His body was found in the waters of the Nile.

The construction of the first pyramid was most probably one of the largest breakthroughs that ever occurred in the history of architecture. The idea for the monumental form of the pharaoh’s tomb soon found its mimics among Djoser’s successors. Each subsequent ruler wanted to have his own pyramid, while the first pharaoh of the next, i.e. Fourth Dynasty, Snofru, erected three of them, probably due to the technical problems he encountered during construction. The royal necropolis expanded further to the north and south of Saqqara, along the desert plateau neighbouring a belt of cultivated land.

The final resting places of yet another two Old Kingdom kings were also found in the direct vicinity of the Djoser pyramid. The first of these belonged to Userkaf, founder of the Fifth Dynasty. This ruler left a significant mark on the whole dynasty due to his initiation of the construction of so-called sun temples, which were reminiscent of funerary complexes for rulers – but instead of pyramids they had obelisks, symbols of the Sun God. This testifies to the growing significance of the cult of this deity, whose main centre was Heliopolis, a city located on the opposite side of the Nile, at a relatively small distance from Memphis. Sun temples, dedicated to the cult of the Sun God, with whom the pharaoh was associated already at that time, were erected in the area north of the Djoser pyramid. This is also where the pyramids and ←30 | 31→funerary complexes were built for Userkaf’s successors, the constructors of yet more sun temples.

Locating his pyramid, a structure named ‘Pure are the [Cult] Places of Userkaf,’ in the shadows of Djoser’s pyramid, just next to its north-eastern corner, the founder of the new dynasty was most probably searching for a way to legitimise his power by basking in the reputation attached to the great pharaoh from 200 years earlier. While much smaller than Djoser’s pyramid, this structure stands out due to the originality of the architectural solutions applied. It catches one’s attention due, for example, to the harmony between the colours of the various types of stone used to build the courtyard with the pillars, which is the main part of the sepulchral temple adjacent to the pyramid from the south. The black basalt paving of the floor contrasted with the pink of the granite pillars encircling the courtyard from three sides and the whiteness of the walls made from the best-quality limestone. There was a statue of the king made from pink granite standing in the southern part of the courtyard. While only his head has been preserved, its dimensions make it possible to conclude that the whole sculpture must have been about 5 metres high. This is the oldest known colossal statue representing an Egyptian ruler, alongside the famous sphinx carved out in rock in front of the pyramids in Giza, dating from the Fourth Dynasty.11

On the opposite side of the Djoser pyramid, near its south-east corner, Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, erected his sepulchral complex. A ramp has been preserved to this day, linking the sepulchral temple next to the pyramid to the so-called lower temple, to which barges would arrive via a canal leading from the River Nile. On the ramp’s lateral walls, fragments of some beautiful bas-reliefs have been preserved with very original subject matter, depicting, among other things, a group of starving Bedouins, which until recently was interpreted as evidence of the impoverishment of the Egyptian population towards the end of the Old Kingdom era.

However, Unas’s pyramid is famous primarily for the Pyramid Texts, which were first carved onto its walls. This is the oldest written text of Egyptian religious literature, one of the first literary works in human history. The content of the Pyramid Texts indicates clearly that they were supposed to have made it easier for the deceased pharaoh to enter the world of ←31 | 32→the gods and transform into a divine being. Thus, they ensured his passage from death to life. These texts were supposedly recited by the priests during the pharaoh’s funeral proceedings, but their magical effects also crossed over into the afterworld. The particular places in the tomb corresponded to specific regions of the realm of the dead. The Pyramid Texts were a collection of various types of texts, e.g. prayers, hymns, myths, litanies, spells, etc., which undoubtedly must have been created much earlier. They might also have been recorded on unpreserved papyrus, but they were first recorded on stone on the walls of the burial chamber and its adjacent rooms. Inside Unas’s pyramid, the text is in the form of a compact sequence of vertical strips, in which the hieroglyphs were modelled using the sunken relief technique, then covered with blue paint, which contrasts with the snow-white limestone surface.12

The idea was imitated during the next period, that of the Sixth Dynasty. Towards the end of this dynasty’s reign, the pyramids of subsequent pharaohs and of their wives were similarly decorated. In later versions of the Pyramid Texts completely new literary themes appeared, sometimes very surprising ones.

The finding of a block in the Pyramid of Pepi I with a text alluding to a legend about the homoerotic rape of the god Horus by the god Seth caused quite a stir in the scientific world. This episode had only been known up until then from documents written a few hundred years later and it did not cross anyone’s mind that it had been present in Egyptian theological consciousness as early as in the Old Kingdom era, and perhaps even earlier.13 With time, the form the hieroglyphs took on to write down the Pyramid Texts also changed. During the reign of the Sixth Dynasty, such solutions were preferred as – for example – light green monochrome, symbolizing the rebirth and eternal perpetuation of the deceased, i.e. the main theme of this compendium of theological knowledge.

The Pyramid Texts were discovered in 1880 by the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero (1846–1916), Auguste Mariette’s successor and the organiser of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation. He was also the first translator of the texts. His work was continued by the Swiss Egyptologist Gustave Jéquier (1868–1946), who added such discoveries as that of the Pyramid Texts inside the queens’ pyramids, located south of Saqqara. In ←32 | 33→light of subsequent discoveries and research, new translations of the texts and interpretations of their function appear every so often. The author of the newest translation is the American Egyptologist, James P. Allen. The discoveries made towards the end of the twentieth century by a team of French Egyptologists, led over the course of a few decades (from 1963) by Jean Leclant (1920–2011), were a milestone in research into the Pyramid Texts. The newest studies on the architecture of the pyramids were conducted by Audran Labrousse.14

Similarly to Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, Teti, the first pharaoh of the next dynasty, and the last during the Old Kingdom era, also ordered that he be buried in Saqqara. He chose a place for himself near the Djoser Pyramid, on a plateau located to the north-east, not far from Userkaf’s building. His reign began a turbulent period in history, characterised by plots against subsequent pharaohs, sometimes inspired by the highest dignitaries at their courts. The newest research is confirmed by the ancient historical text (Manetho), according to which Teti was murdered by his own courtiers. Some researchers consider Teti’s ephemeral successor, shrouded in mystery, to have been the organiser of this assassination. His name, Userkare, is completely absent from the autobiographies of the dignitaries of the time, carved into the walls of their funerary chapels, but it appears in some of the kings’ registers, even in much later times.15 Not all Egyptologists believe in the historical sources which suggest the ill fame of this ephemeral person. One of the French researchers from the younger generation, Vassil Dobrev, is even convinced of the existence of an unfinished pyramid belonging to this ruler, which Dobrev is currently looking for a few kilometres to the south of the Djoser Pyramid. Everything seems to point to it being precisely the short reign of this ‘usurper,’ whose exact relationship to the Pharaoh Teti’s family remains a mystery, to which we should date the most beautiful tomb discovered so far in Saqqara by the Polish archaeological mission directed by this book’s author.16

At least two conspiracies against Pepi I, Teti’s son and rightful heir to the throne, are attested by the inscriptions carved into the walls of his courtier’s tombs. Following in the footsteps of the dignitaries from the first ←33 | 34→three dynasties, whose expansive tombs were located in the northern part of Saqqara, the court aristocracy from the final phase of the Fifth Dynasty and the reign of the Sixth Dynasty were also buried at the Saqqara necropolis. The largest and most beautiful of the preserved mastabas from this period neighbour the ‘step pyramid’ on its northern and southern sides. Increasing numbers of new tombs have been discovered since the middle of the nineteenth century by archaeologists from various countries. However, not all of them were properly explored and published by their discoverers; some have been waiting to be discussed in an academic publication for almost 100 years. As a result, a special challenge for the Egyptologists of our generations is to finish this work. Among the researchers who in recent decades have performed an especially significant role in terms of the scientific exploration, documentation and publication of tombs from the Old Kingdom period in Saqqara, two deserve special distinction: Hartwig Altenmüller from the University in Hamburg and Naguib Kanawati, the creator of Egyptology on the Australian continent with its main research centre at Macquarie University in Sydney.17

The hieroglyphic texts and scenes adorning the walls of these tombs (Figs. 45) are testimony to these turbulent times, during which grandeur and sophistication are interwoven with the first signs of the gradual decomposition of the country of the pharaohs. However, delving into these events is reminiscent of a trial based on circumstantial evidence, as the texts do not speak of them directly. Instead, rich information about the era can only be found in what can be read between the lines. The participants of the conspiracies against the king were punished severely, either by losing their rights to tombs at the royal necropolis or through the intentional destruction of their images and inscriptions in the tombs that had been carved earlier.18 Among the titles associated with the dignitaries and their progeniture, the xntj-Š (pronounced ‘henti-esh’) function appears increasingly more frequently, the meaning of which has been intensely debated among Egyptologists for a long time, and which – as it would seem in light of the newest sources – refers to a type of custodian of public order serving the ruler, perhaps a type ←34 | 35→of police service to maintain the status quo.19 A general feeling of lack of security and fear of tomorrow can be discerned even in the new arrangement and functions of the rooms in the particular tombs and in their decoration. At the same time, however, it is clearly visible that the ambitions of the dignitaries increasingly extended towards royal prerogatives. The forms of some of the inscriptions adorning the walls of their tombs could easily be confused for the Pyramid Texts, while individual elements of the architecture of these tombs are overlaid with polychromy imitating granite, a valuable building material characteristic for the temples of the gods and kings’ tombs.

The largest noblemen’s tombs from the end phase of the Fifth Dynasty and the beginnings of the Sixth Dynasty are located in Saqqara near the pyramids of Unas and Teti. The mastaba of Vizier Mereruka stands out within this second group due to its size and the wealth of decorations. The impressive number of rooms (49!) in the aboveground part is to some extent reminiscent of the slightly earlier Ptahshepses’ tomb from the period of Pharaoh Niuserre’s reign (Fifth Dynasty), located near the royal pyramids in Abusir, a few kilometres north of Saqqara.20 In many respects, each of these monumental buildings imitates the royal sepulchral complexes. It contains, for instance, rooms for solar barges, which were to have been used by the tomb’s owner to travel to the afterworld, as in the case of the dead pharaoh. The walls of each of the tombs were decorated with beautiful reliefs showing idyllic scenes from the life of the deceased. Some are faithful representations of the daily life of Egyptians, even including surprising humoristic elements. Many of the bas-reliefs repeat the motifs known from the decorations of the pharaonic sepulchral temples and the solar temples of the period. It is highly likely that they were made by the artists who served at the royal court.

However, it is not only art that expressed the close relationship between the highest noblemen and the pharaoh. Many of their careers were based on marriages with a pharaoh’s daughter, which is a specific signum temporis for the end phase of the Old Kingdom era. This testifies to the courtiers’ growing role and the conciliatory politics of the rulers, who were becoming increasingly more dependent on their subjects. In the case of Mereruka’s marriage to King Teti’s daughter, it resulted in a family conflict with very serious repercussions. This was mainly due to the fact that the princess was not his first wife. He had already had children with her predecessor, including ‘the oldest son,’ as the firstborn was called in Egyptian nomenclature, traditionally considered to be the tomb owner’s heir. The new marriage forced ←35 | 36→Mereruka into a propagandist lie, sure to lead to new conflicts, when his next male descendant was born, the king’s grandson. The young man’s name says it all: Meri-Teti (‘Teti’s beloved’). Part of Mereruka’s huge mastaba was at that time designated for a funerary chapel for the young favourite, who usurped the title ‘oldest son’ in the inscriptions carved into its walls.21 One lie soon led to another. The very same inscriptions also refer to Meri-Teti as ‘the son of the king from his body.’ We can only imagine what feelings this must have evoked in his eldest half-brother.

These emotions soon found a material outlet when the ruling pharaoh passed away, the favourite’s grandfather. The genuine ‘oldest son’ destroys Meti-Teti’s images and his name on the bas-reliefs on the walls of his chapel, leaving behind his titles. His half-brother’s reviled name is replaced with his own, which he then changes immediately after the new pharaoh, Pepi I, ascends the throne. He euphemistically takes a new name, Pepi-anch (‘Long live King Pepi!’). Lopsided hieroglyphs were used to write this name in place of the hammered-out original inscriptions. Was the flattery deducible from this new basilophoric (i.e. one that contains the king’s name) name enough to gain the new pharaoh’s favour and recover his original rightful position in the family? It is hard to say, all the more so as the new ruler, Pepi I, was also Teti’s son, and thus the uncle of the young man upon whom such painful damnatio memoriae (condemnation of memory) was inflicted. The new ruler might have limited room for manoeuvre, due to – for instance – the fact that he only came to power after Userkare was overturned. This latter’s short term in power, which remains shrouded in mystery, need not have been a period of idyllic peace at the court. This can be confirmed by the conspiracies that mark the period of the first two pharaohs from the Sixth Dynasty named Pepi – this can undoubtedly be seen as expression of the intrigues that shook up the court. Almost all of the tombs belonging to the most distinguished noblemen from this period bear the silent traces of political conflicts fuelled by arguments over issues of inheritance that divided the families into opposing factions. We can trace this in detail in the funerary chapels of two dignitaries from this period, recently discovered by Polish archaeologists in Saqqara.

Special testimony of the rising role of the courtiers, as well as of the pharaoh’s increasing dependency on the administration, comes in the form of a long autobiographic inscription preserved in the Upper Egyptian Abydos on the walls of the tomb belonging to a dignitary called Uni. We can find out that ←36 | 37→the tomb’s owner obtained increasingly higher privileges and offices during the reigns of three subsequent rulers: Teti, Pepi I and Merenre I. According to the most shocking information, Uni was appointed by Pharaoh Pepi I to pass judgement on his wife, the queen, implicated in a palace conspiracy against her own husband. Uni boasts, “The clandestine process against the king’s wife, his favourite, took place at the harem. His Majesty told me to pass judgement myself, without the presence of any other vizier or clerk aside from myself …, because His Majesty trusted me …. Never in the past had anyone of my status learnt any of the secrets of the harem.” None of the preserved written records makes it possible to presume that any such situation took place at any other time in the history of Egypt.

Based on the preserved historical sources, it is nowadays assumed that at least two such plots against the king occurred during Pepi I’s reign, resulting in progressing political anarchy. Subsequent administrative reforms led to an increase in civil service employment while simultaneously weakening the pharaoh’s power. As already mentioned, there was a noticeable rise in the importance of the dignitaries referred to as xntj-Š.

Despite various signs of the progressing weakening of central authority, the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom (VI) period ruled for about 150 years. It left behind four pyramids in Saqqara, the burial places of the rulers Teti, Pepi I, Merenre I and Pepi II. The last three of these are located in the southern part of the area today called Saqqara. However, they were not the first royal tombs in this area. The earliest ruler who had himself buried there was Shepseskaf, the last pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. For unknown reasons, he abandoned the tradition followed by his predecessors, for whom monumental pyramids were erected in Giza. The reasons must have been so important that not only was the place of burial changed but also the shape of the tomb. Karl Richard Lepsius (1810–1884), one of Saqqara’a first researchers, defined this shape as a huge sarcophagus (95 m long, 67 m wide, 18 m high) with a vaulted (= convex) lid and vertical walls made from mud brick. Placed on a huge foundation platform, it initially had diagonal walls, covered with limestone in their upper parts, and with granite in the lower ones. The burial chamber was in the shape of the letter T, approached via a corridor with three stone blockades. The architectural innovations introduced into the burial chamber of this unique monument later became typical for pyramids from the end of the reign of the Fifth (beginning with Djedkare Izezi) and the Sixth Dynasties. Partially discovered by Auguste Mariette in 1858, Shepseskaf’s tomb was later (in 1924–1925) excavated by Gustave Jéquier, who interpreted the originality of its form as an expression of the profound changes in the political theology of the period, the attempt to break with the Heliopolitan dogma, and what follows – with the overpowering influence of the sun god’s clergy. The hypothesis can also not be excluded ←37 | 38→according to which this building’s form was a type of archaism with references to the ancient tradition of the Lower Egyptian religious centre of Buto. The unfinished interior of this monumental sarcophagus and the lack of any sort of funerary equipment enable putting forward the supposition that the tomb’s owner was never actually buried there.

The pyramids of Sixth Dynasty rulers, erected not far from Shepseskaf’s tomb, were not equal in terms of their size and construction techniques to the monumental funerary architecture of the Fourth dynasty, i.e. the largest pyramids (belonging to Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos) located in Giza, the northern part of the Memphis necropolis. However, the bas-relief decoration of the walls in the funerary temples adjacent from the east to the pyramids of the Sixth Dynasty belong to the greatest works of Egyptian art.

Right next to Pepi I’s pyramid, similar though much smaller ones were erected for the pharaoh’s six wives and his son named Hor-Netjerikhet, who had probably died before he could ascend the throne. Among the queens’ pyramids, Ankhesenpepi II’s structure stands out. She was the wife of two subsequent pharaohs and the mother of a third ruler, as well as the regent queen until her son came of age. Her tomb was the first queen’s pyramid to be decorated with the Pyramid Texts. She was bestowed this honour usually set aside for rulers. A similar decoration was later given to three of the four wives of the Sixth Dynasty’s last pharaoh, Pepi II.

The reign of this last ruler marks the end of the Old Kingdom era, the first of three long periods of the might of ancient Egypt. The reasons behind its fall might have been very diverse. The changes in the political and social structure of the country, undoubtedly resulting from the expansion and increasing significance of the civil service, were also influenced by the climate fluctuations that occurred towards the end of the third millennium BC. Periodic droughts alternately with periods of torrential rain might have caused periods of famine, while the disruption of the traditional system of the redistribution of material goods gradually impaired the pharaoh’s authority. For the first time in history, the mighty and well-organised country fell apart into a number of smaller centres ruled by local dynasties. Memphis, once the capital of the country, becomes one of such centres. A particularly telling sign of this collapse at the royal necropolis are the meagre tombs, frequently lacking in any type of decoration, with their underground parts forged into the rock, while the aboveground parts were made from adobe brick. There are also numerous collective tombs, containing larger numbers of primitively made shafts and chapels. The lack of inscriptions does not enable establishing whether families were buried there or anyone who could afford to think about the afterlife.

In the so-called First Intermediate Period, i.e. the turn of the third and the second millennia BC (the Seventh to the Tenth Dynasties), the royal ←38 | 39→necropolis in Saqqara continued to be the place of burial of dignitaries, but they could no longer compare either in terms of their size or interior decoration with the mastabas from the Old Kingdom period. Most of them are anonymous tombs. Their aboveground part, made from adobe brick, were usually destroyed, while the burial chambers, dug into the rock at the bottom of shafts, were often looted by ancient thieves. There were frequent cases of collective burials, such as those discovered recently by Polish archaeologists to the west of Djoser’s pyramid. One of them is in the shape of a long corridor with six rooms, irregular in shape, performing the function of cult chapels, and with over 20 shafts dug into the floor.22 The only decoration in the chapels are ‘false doors’ by the western wall, and sometimes also an offering table. The funerary equipment accompanying the deceased usually consists of a few pottery vessels, sometimes also a stone or bone headrest. Some of the deceased were buried in tombs from an earlier period. This situation was maintained for a few hundred years, even though a group of cult chapels decorated with bas reliefs have been preserved from the Middle Kingdom period, especially that of the Twelfth Dynasty. The bas reliefs contain inscriptions with the names of the tomb owners.

It is not until the middle of the second millennium BC, i.e. the beginning of the New Kingdom, that the Saqqara necropolis regains the position it held in the third millennium BC. This is primarily connected to the increase in the significance of Memphis as a religious, administrative and military metropolis. The beginnings of this renaissance occurred during Totmes III’s reign, when Memphis became the seat of the Lower Egyptian vizier. It should however be noted that the northern part of the New Kingdom Saqqara necropolis began to develop slightly earlier, at latest during Hatshepsut’s time in power. This development lasted without interruption until the reign of the Ramesses. Scientific research of the New Kingdom necropolis in Saqqara began in 1975, when the archaeological mission of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (the Netherlands) initiated excavations at the plateau running from the southern side of the ‘step pyramid.’ It was initially conducted with the participation of the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, while as of 1999 the excavations were pursued with the cooperation of the Institute of Egyptology at the Leiden University. The works were directed in turn by: Geoffrey Martin, Maarten Raven and René van Walsem. The mission’s greatest achievement involved locating General Horemheb’s tomb, the last ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty.23

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Since 1980, the northern New Kingdom necropolis has also been systematically explored, encompassing rock tombs dug into the scarp of the Saqqara plateau on the southern side of Pharaoh Teti’s pyramid. The French mission working under the direction of Alain Zivie has uncovered 15 new tombs. Both the above-listed teams have so far discovered about 50 noblemen’s tombs from the New Kingdom period. In terms of their size and rich adornment, these tombs are frequently comparable to the monumental mastabas from the Old Kingdom period, though their form is completely different. Among the tombs of dignitaries buried in Saqqara during the New Kingdom period, the enormous structures erected during the final phase of the Eighteenth Dynasty, i.e. after the collapse of Akhenaton’s ‘religious revolution,’ have huge historical significance. Memphis continued at the time to perform the administrative function of the capital of the country, even though in many terms it had to compete with the mighty Thebes (today’s Luxor), where subsequent rulers from this period were buried in the Valley of the Kings. A naturalist artistic style, which somewhat earlier had been typical for Akhenaton’s court art, can be found in the decorations of many Saqqaran tombs of Memphis noblemen. This ruler’s monotheistic reforms were and continue to be considered by some as heresy, by others as a ‘religious revolution,’ while by still others – as the highest form of sophisticated theological thought, a kind of synthesis that moved towards monotheism. After the fall of Akhenaton and of the Egyptian capital he had established, which bore the name ‘Aton’s (god’s) Horizon’ (a place in Middle Egypt today called Tell el-Amarna in Arabic), his court was scattered between Memphis (north Egypt) and Thebes (the south of the country). Those buried in Saqqara at that time included a vizier called Aper-El, his son named Hui and the dry-nurse of the later Pharaoh Tutankhamun, a lady by the name of Maia, depicted in the bas relief with the young prince seated in her lap. Their tombs have beautifully decorated cult chapels, dug into the eastern façade of the Saqqara rock massif. This place was later called the Bubasteion from the name of the goddess Bastet, whose holy animals, cats, were buried here in large numbers in the form of mummies. The French mission discovered 15 tombs dug into the scarp of the Saqqara plateau.24

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On the plateau extending on the southern side of the ‘step pyramid’ belonging to Netjerikhet (Djoser’s name recorded in inscriptions from the period of his reign), monumental tombs were built for the most important noblemen during the period from the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty’s reign throughout the entire Ramesside era (the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Dynasties). They were exceptionally majestic in appearance, with the aboveground cult structures built in the form of miniature Egyptian temples, but having an adobe brick core, overlaid with white limestone slabs. The wall surface was richly decorated with bas-reliefs and paintings, which in stylistic terms constitute an imitation of the Amarna period’s style. The most beautiful of these tombs was constructed for a general of the Egyptian army named Horemheb. He commanded the army during an exceptionally difficult period, when the country of the pharaohs, weakened by the ‘religious revolution,’ could easily have fallen prey to aggressive neighbours. While he was preparing the place of his eternal sleep in Saqqara, it most probably did not cross his mind that he would spend the last years of his life and die as a pharaoh. When he became the ruler of Egypt, he funded himself a new tomb; however, this time in a rock massif of the Theban Valley of the Kings, next to the tombs of the New Kingdom’s greatest rulers. That was also where he was ultimately buried, even though the decoration of the tomb in Thebes was never actually finished.25

During the reign of the first Ramesses (Nineteenth Dynasty), Saqqara retained the splendour due a necropolis in which holy bulls were laid to rest. A person who especially expressed his predilection for this place already during his lifetime was one of Ramesses II’s oldest sons, Khaemweset. Instead of pursuing a political career and becoming entangled in the royal court’s intrigues, he settled with taking on the function of main priest in the Memphite temple of the local demiurge, the god Ptah. Everything indicates that he was an intellectual and aestheticist, who became passionate about the conservation of ancient monuments from the Old Kingdom period, especially in the Saqqara area. The renovator left behind a number of hieroglyphic inscriptions with his name, for example on the southern wall of Unas’s pyramid.26 His mother, Ramesses II’s first wife, who bore the name Iset-nofret (‘Isis is beautiful’), was his life companion. She ceased to be ‘the Great Royal Wife’ when the famous Nefertari appeared on the scene, for whom Ramesses built a temple in the far-off land of Nubia (one of the two rock temples at Abu Simbel) and a beautifully decorated tomb in the Theban ←41 | 42→Valley of the Queens. To this day, we do not know where Iset-nofret was buried. We have cause to believe that her tomb is located in Saqqara and that her son made sure it was a place fit for a queen.27

Among other structures, two funerary cult chapels also come from the Ramesside period. They belong to the priests of the Memphis temple of the god Ptah and were discovered by the Dutch mission in the last decade.28 Unfortunately, the plundering of the tombs at the Saqqara necropolis began already at the beginning of that period, and it continues to this day.

The next period of prosperity in the history of ancient Memphis occurred during the reign of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, which originated from the distant Kush, i.e. modern-day North Sudan. Pharaohs with negroidal features imitated the pharaonic traditions, especially those that were linked to the place of their coronation, Memphis. They willingly took on the names of Old Kingdom rulers as their enthronement names, built new temples to the Egyptian gods and renovated old ones, while their favourite headdress was a type of closely fitted cap, similar to the one worn by the Memphis god Ptah.29 An especially valuable piece of evidence showing their renovative ambitions is a text Egyptologists refer to as the ‘monument of Memphite theology’ or (from the ruler’s name) the ‘Shabaka Stone.’ Carved into a large stone slab, it contains a unique presentation of the local theology of Memphis, much more abstract than the theologies from other religious centres. To begin with, Shabaka boasts that he had the text carved into stone, because insects might eat the papyrus on which it was initially written. Unfortunately, at a later date the slab was re-used as a mill wheel and for this purpose it was appropriately cut out. A significant part of this valuable document has not been preserved.30

The archaicising tendencies, visible in the religion, literature and art of this period, are characteristic for the next dynasty (XXVI). The rulers originating from the Lower Egyptian Sais were able to reunite the country under ←42 | 43→an indigenous sceptre. As this occurred after a few hundred years of foreign rule, fascination with the ancient Egyptian culture was even more magnified. The tombs of the noblemen from the Twentieth-Fifth and the Twentieth-Sixth Dynasties discovered in various parts of Saqqara refer back to the best traditions of the previous époques. The tomb of Bakenranef, a vizier from the times of Psamtik I, the first ruler of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, was located in the scarp enclosing the plateau from the east. Discovered in 1820 and later visited by subsequent great Egyptologists of various nationalities (Jean-François Champollion, Ippolito Rosellini, Karl Richard Lepsius), it has been the subject of systematic studies done since 1974 by the Italian archaeological mission directed by Edda Bresciani.31

The originality of this tomb is linked not only to the exceptionally extensive architecture of the underground galleries but also the wall decorations, which constitute a real compendium of religious texts from various periods. Aside from the Pyramid Texts, we can find here the so-called Netherworld books from the New Kingdom, known mostly from the Theban tombs, as well as other texts, probably written by Memphite theologists. A text written in demotic script (i.e. very simplified script from the Late Period) onto the wall of the southern gallery, called the vizier’s gallery, provides information that this part of the tomb was reused as late as during Nectanebo I’s reign, the first ruler of the last local (XXX) dynasty, i.e. almost three hundred years after the death of the tomb’s owner.

The tradition of burying noblemen in the Saqqaran necropolis was maintained until the Ptolemaic period. The largest collections of Egyptian art in the entire world contain enormous stone sarcophagi, with their surface densely adorned with hieroglyphic texts and religious scenes.32 Even though their exact provenience has not always been established, it is known that almost all of them come from Saqqara. In turn, the middle class was most often buried in wooden coffins with the surface beautifully decorated with paintings and inscriptions. Due to a lack of space at the necropolis, they were frequently gathered at the spacious tombs from the Old Kingdom period. An exceptionally rich conglomerate of such burials has recently been discovered by the archaeological mission of the Louvre museum, which has been conducting excavations under the direction of Christiane Ziegler since 1981 between the ramp of Unas’s pyramid and the south-east corner ←43 | 44→of the Djoser funerary complex. This rich material enables tracing the development of sepulchral practices since the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty until the Ptolemaic Period.33 Up to four generations of men, women and children are represented in a group of about 60 deceased persons buried in this spot. Their genealogy can be reconstructed thanks to the inscriptions on the coffins. Among the inscriptions, scripts of various languages have been found, including Proto-Cyprian, Aramaic and Phoenician, which emphasises the cosmopolitan nature of the Memphite society during this period.

However, the greatest mark on the Saqqara necropolis during the period from the New Kingdom to the Graeco-Roman era was left not by the burials of noblemen but rather by those of holy animals. During Amenhotep III’s reign, whose son, the famous ‘heretic’ called Akhenaton, rose to fame as a reformer of the Egyptian religion, holy bulls called Apis began to be buried. This holiest among all the animals revered within the Egyptian pantheon had its seat at the temple of the god Ptah in Memphis. The burial of each subsequent Apis was a great event of state importance. The mummified bull was buried in a stone sarcophagus placed in one of the underground chambers in the galleries carved into the rock not far from Netjerikhet’s pyramid, on its north-western side. During the Ptolemaic period, i.e. over 1000 years after the New Kingdom, the Graeco-Roman god Serapis was equated with Apis. The gigantic tomb of the holy bulls was called the Serapeum in reference to this god’s name. However, no remains of any of the buried animals have been preserved to this day. Nonetheless, the artefacts found in the direct vicinity of their sarcophagi are extremely important for the reconstruction of the history of ancient Egypt. This group primarily includes votive stelae placed there by the ‘sponsors’ of subsequent burials.34 The inscriptions written on the stelae include, among other information, the date of the funerals provided in reference to the reigns of subsequent rulers, as well as the genealogies of the noblemen. It would be hard to overestimate the significance of this source for the reconstruction of history, especially for establishing the chronology of the so-called Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties XXI–XXV), encompassing almost the entire first half of the first millennium BC, i.e. from the fall of the New Kingdom until the renaissance of Egyptian statehood under the reign of local rulers (the Twenty-sixth Dynasty).

The moment of the discovery of the Serapeum in 1850 by the Frenchman Auguste Mariette (1821–1881) is a very special date for Egyptology. In ←44 | 45→less than 30 years after the deciphering of the hieroglyphs by Jean-François Champollion, the archaeology of ancient Egypt was born as an academic field with a methodology that went far beyond the realm of simply collecting objects. This refers to both the observation of the archaeological context during excavations and the precise documentation of the artefacts. The methods used in the middle of the nineteenth century of course differed, especially in technical aspects, from the methods applied by modern-day archaeology in Egypt; however, it was at that time when the academic foundations of the approach to the object of study were formulated.

The area surrounding the Serapeum was the most important part of Saqqara in the fourth century BC, i.e. during the reign of the local pharaohs (the Thirtieth Dynasty) and in the early Ptolemaic period. Between the Serapeum and Teti’s pyramid, slightly to the north of Djoser’s pyramid, a road ran that doubtless performed an important ritual function. The roadside was decorated with statues, while close to the Serapeum an unusual monument was located, referred to today as the Ptolemaic exedra. A few dozen large statues depicting famous Greek poets and philosophers, made from local, extremely fragile, grey-coloured limestone, were placed on a plinth in the shape of a horseshoe. What were Greek figures doing standing nearby the mummies of holy bulls? The research done by the Polish archaeologist, Michał Pietrzykowski, who passed away prematurely (1946–1993), showed that the hemicycle (another Greek name for the exedra) was made in the first half of the Ptolemaic period, while the statues, unfortunately only fragmentarily preserved, portrayed ancient philosophers and poets, whom Alexander the Great considered to be his most important figures of authority.35 Was this then a monument to commemorate the place of burial of the great commander, considered in Egypt to have been not only its liberator from the Persian yoke but also a pharaoh and a god? In one of the following chapters of the book, we shall see that such an interpretation fits some of the discoveries made by Polish archaeologists at a distance of only a few hundred metres from this site.36

On the northern side of the above-mentioned dromos (road), running from east to west, lies the area of the holy animals, mummified and buried here in the underground galleries for the entire final one thousand years of the history of ancient Egypt, and especially in the second half of the first millennium BC. It was precisely these mummies that were the greatest attraction for the first European explorers, who in modern times have made their way ←45 | 46→to Saqqara. These included, for example, Richard Pococke (1704–1765), who described his visits to ‘ditches’ and ‘shafts’containing birds. Systematic academic research has been done here by English archaeologists, first – in 1962–1971 – under the direction of Walter B. Emery (1903–1971), and since the 1990s – that of Harry S. Smith, Sue Davies and Paul T. Nicholson.37

However, Emery was not interested in birds; it was his ambition to discover the tomb of Imhotep, the creator of the first pyramid. He therefore focused on the tombs of the noblemen from the Third Dynasty located in the western part of the Saqqara plateau, north-east of the entrance to the Serapeum. When he found a large amount of votive pottery from the Late Period and pottery sherds that served as the coffins for mummified birds, he considered them to be a hint indicating where the tomb of the deified architect might be located. However, instead of finding the tomb of the legendary Imhotep, he came across the entrance to a catacomb with mummified monkeys, which – similarly as in the case of the ibis – were a zoomorphic incarnation of the god of wisdom, Thoth. In contrast to the ibis, which were mostly buried in thousands of terracotta vessels, each of the monkeys had its own individual niche. The animal mummy lay in a wooden reliquary, around which the hollow was fully filled with gypsum.38 The chamber was closed off with a limestone block with the animal’s biography inscribed onto it. Live holy monkeys resided in their seat inside the temple of the god Ptah in Memphis.

One of the newest revelations concerning this gallery involved the discovery of a camouflaged passage to a ‘new ibis gallery,’ which turned out to be a place dedicated to the burial of… falcons, the holy animals of the god Horus. Through such means, cosmic balance was maintained between the solar element (Horus) and the lunar element (Thoth).39

Continuing excavations in the northern direction from the described galleries, the English researchers discovered a series of graves secondarily used as burials of cows associated with Isis, the goddess considered to have been the mother of the holy bull Apis. One such tomb was the departure point for the ‘Mother of Apis Catacombs,’ as the next gallery was called, this time reminiscent in its shape to the Serapeum. Similarly as the place of rest for the holy bulls, the Iseum contained numerous stelae dedicated, amongst others, by the stoneworkers and priests responsible for caring for these graves. The inscription on one of them mentions that the queen was visiting Syria ←46 | 47→when the funeral took place, which can only be a reference to the famous Cleopatra VII and her meeting with Marc Anthony in 41 BC, which occurred after the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. The oldest of the dated burials in this gallery happened in ca. 393 BC.40

At the northern edge of the plateau, yet another ‘ibis catacomb’ was discovered. However, studies into the animal mummies indicated that various bird species had been buried there. Most of them had been soaked in tar or resin and wrapped in canvas; some had been treated with greater care and adorned with a painting or applique. The heads of several birds bear gypsum masks with polychrome surfaces. One of these is unique as it has the facial features characteristic for the Egyptian rulers of that period. The bird mummies from this gallery were also usually placed in ceramic vessels. In total, over a million mummified birds have been found in Saqqara over the course of the excavations done so far. They were proffered by ancient pilgrims and placed in sealed clay jugs. Among the other objects found in the bird catacombs, the most important is the archive of documents written in Demotic and Greek by an interpreter of dreams by the name of Hor, associated with the administration of the ibis cult.41

In 2009, excavations were initiated in the dog catacombs. These galleries were placed as early as in 1895 on the plan of Saqqara drawn by Jacques de Morgan. Current work done there is the joint venture of two institutions: the Egypt Exploration Society and the University of Cardiff. Dogs were buried on the eastern side of the Saqqara plateau. Long galleries run from the main corridor on both sides, sometimes entering the noblemen’s mastabas from the archaic period. Everything indicates that the dogs were buried in a hurry, as in the majority they were lying crowded one on top of another. However, some belonged to dog elite, considered to be the incarnation of the god Anubis. As ‘temple animals’ they were granted the honour of being buried in special niches carved into the gallery walls. In turn, the mummies of the dog plebs performed the function of votive sacrifices. As the dog was considered to be the holy animal of Anubis, the patron of mummification, the galleries of dog mummies were named Anubieion.

During the excavations conducted by James E. Quibell in 1906–1907 in the northern part of the Anubieion funerary complex, the remains of a unique temple constructed for Bes, the patron god of women in labour, were discovered. Its walls were decorated with clay statues depicting the dwarfish Bes in the company of a naked goddess. The archaeological context of this ←47 | 48→room also contained a group of votive figures of an erotic nature, including representations of men with huge phalluses. It is assumed that this was a place connected to the fertility cult or the location of the oracle.42

The excavations in the holy animal catacombs are far from finished, among other things, due to the exceptionally poor type of rock in which the galleries and funerary chambers were carved. The research and publications on the discovered material will definitely last many more decades.

Saqqara was an important religious centre also in the first centuries of Christianity. South of Djoser’s pyramid, a huge monastery dedicated to St Jeremiah was erected in the fifth century AD, one of the most beautiful buildings of Christian Egypt. In use from Justinian times until it was closed in 990, the monastery was beautifully designed architecturally, elements of which can be seen today in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.43

Saqqara was never forgotten. Ancient authors, such as Herodotus or Strabo, listed it among the most important travel destinations in Egypt. Treasure seekers were attracted by the tombs of kings and noblemen even in the early Muslim period. Around 820, the Caliph Al-Mamun himself entered some of the pyramids. As late as in 1024, the inhabitants of Cairo made pilgrimages to places called ‘Joseph’s prisons,’ located at the edges of the Saqqara necropolis. Saqqara was also visited by intellectual elites, including mayors, doctors, biologists, cosmographers, diplomats, mathematicians, etc.44

In medieval Europe, an expedition to Saqqara was in good taste, especially as part of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Mummies became a trading item as belief in their therapeutic properties was common. Either a ‘sticky’ mixture with the addition of bitumen and tar or powdered mummy or even a piece of the mummy could help with stomach problems, wounds or ulcers. The medicinal use of mummies was mentioned in 1363 by Guy de Chavillac, Pope Clement VI’s surgeon. A European in Saqqara would have a few of the graves opened in order to choose the right goods and expediate them off to Alexandria, from which they were sent by sea to Europe. ‘Apothecaries’ ←48 | 49→would compete against each other to monopolise the ‘goods’ and dictated horrendous prices.45

Yet the looting of Egyptian graves was not a European idea as the Egyptians themselves had been involved in such acts at least since the New Kingdom times (the middle of the second millennium BC), mainly in search of gold treasure. Trade in looted Egyptian artefacts continues to this day.

‘Visiting the mummies’ was a saying often used by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European travellers. With time, the hobby of collecting memorabilia developed: no private collection could go without its own mummy. Huge fortunes were made in a flash from trading in embalmed corpses. Among the precursors of mummymania, we should include the Polish explorer, pilgrim and diarist Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł ‘the Orphan’ (1549–1616), who made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1582–1584. He did not omit Egypt. Aside from the mummies, he was also interested in small items, such as ushabtis and amulets. For collector purposes, he also studied the tombs in Saqqara, as we can read in the diaries he wrote in Latin, later translated into a few other languages.

At the time, Saqqara was referred to as the Plain of the Mummies or the Sands of the Mummies. In 1615, it was visited by Pietro Della Valle, who left behind one of the most vibrant traveller’s accounts from the seventeenth century. He bought two richly-adorned mummies from the Roman period, which after many peregrinations finally made their way to the office of the Saxon elector, currently held in the Dresden State Art Collections. The multi-lateral fascinations of Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), a Jesuit collector, led him to Saqqara, about which he wrote providing extensive quotations with long descriptions of the Saqqara necropolis written by Tito Livio Burattini, the chamberlain of the Polish king in 1638–1639. Kircher was the first traveller to publish a copy of the bas-relief from the Old Kingdom period. It depicts a scene in a slaughterhouse, which is typical for the noblemen’s tombs from the Fifth to the Sixth Dynasties at the Saqqara necropolis.46

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, the gallery of mummified birds in Saqqara was entered by, for example, Père Vansleb (in 1672–1673) and Paul Lucas, the royal antiquarian (journeys to Egypt in 1699–1702, 1707, 1716–1717). The last of these also noted the bull’s heads, and even entire such embalmed animals buried in a wooden coffin adorned with gilding and polychromy. Next to the coffin, there were eight canopic jars, which Lucas considered to have contained the bodies of girls sacrificed to Apis. ←49 | 50→Today we know that the jars were filled with the entrails of mummified bodies. It is obvious from Lucas’s account that at that time travellers entered the interior of the Memphite Serapeum.47

The 1737 account by the English cleric Richard Pococke has become an important source for gaining some knowledge of Saqqara’s topography. Whenever he was only able to snatch himself away from the prostitutes in Dahshur (a town located south of Saqqara), he would prepare detailed documentation of the artefacts in Saqqara. He measured the pyramids, described their state of preservation, provided their Arabic names and legends about them. His description of the necropolis specified the topography of the tombs, while also containing scrupulous records of the bird gallery and one of the noblemen’s tombs.48

The texts by the above-mentioned travellers are full of scientific hypotheses and fanciful interpretations. Hieroglyphs had not yet been deciphered. The next step forward was made by the prominent mathematician Carsten Niebuhr, who in 1776 called for more comprehensive studies of the tombs in Saqqara and Upper Egypt. He suggested that the hieroglyphic texts be copied, without changing even the slightest details, so that these faithful reproductions could be later used by researchers. Niebuhr can be considered to have been a scientific precursor of Egyptology.49

What proved to be a breakthrough moment in its development was Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition do Egypt in 1798–1801. A large group of researchers of various specialisations joined the army as it travelled to the Nile, with the task of documenting everything they found worthy of note, especially artefacts from bygone eras. As a result, the monumental Description de l’Égypte ou Recueil des Observations et des Recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’Expédition de l’Armée Française (Description of Egypt, or Collection of Observations and Research Conducted in Egypt during the Expedition of the French Army) came into being, with subsequent volumes published in 1809–1828.

This work later found many imitators, especially in Italy and Germany. Similar compendia of knowledge about Egyptian monuments were soon created by Ippolito Rosellini (I monumenti dell’Egitto e della Nubia, Pisa 1832–1844) and Karl Richard Lepsius (Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien – 12 volumes – Berlin 1849–1859; Leipzig 1913).

The deciphering of hieroglyphic writing by Jean-François Champollion in 1822 became a milestone in the formation of Egyptology as a scientific ←50 | 51→discipline. Alongside Egyptomania, which did not cease for a moment and turned into the mass plundering of artefacts in Egypt, Egyptology as a science about the language and culture of pharaonic times began to develop. Researchers of the writing and language, which became an increasingly larger group, distinguished subsequent phases of their development. The Rosetta Stone became a point of departure in this research, found in the town of this name by Napoleon’s soldiers and later handed over to England as the result of the peace treaty. The very same text is inscribed on the stone three times: once in Greek and twice in Egyptian, but using two different forms of writing – hieroglyphs and demotic script. Beginning with the reading of the names of rulers, which were almost identical in all three texts, step by step Champollion reconstructed the complicated system of hieroglyphic writing and the Egyptian language. Research into Egyptian language and literature continues to this day and is the domain of increasingly more highly specialised philologists.50 Many mysteries still remain to be solved in this field; perhaps archaeologists will have to come to their aid by discovering yet another multilingual document.

Archaeology followed in the footsteps of philology. After the excavations at the Memphite Serapeum, initiated by Auguste Mariette in 1850, the Antiquities Service was formed in Egypt, which later took on the name of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, with the goal of putting an end to secret excavations, as well as to the trade in mummies and other artefacts. This was not achieved all at once. Fertiliser producers began to make money from embalmed corpses, used, for example, to fertilise the magnificent English gardens. Mummies were also used in the sugar refinement process, while the bandages from mummies served to produce paper. It was not until the twentieth century that Egyptian mummies ceased to function as an industrial good.51

In 1858, the viceroy of Egypt, Said Pasha, appointed Auguste Mariette to be the Maamur, i.e. the head of all work related to antiquity. His successor to the role of director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service was Gaston Maspero, who had discovered the Pyramid Texts. The Egyptian Museum was created, which in 1891 moved from its original seat in the part of Cairo referred to as Bulak to one of the former private residences of the Khedive Ism’ail Pasha in Giza, a neighbourhood located close to the great pyramids from the Old Kingdom period. In 1902, it received a building at ←51 | 52→Tahrir Square, constructed especially for this purpose. Nonetheless, despite its enormous size, it has long been too small, as for decades this was where all the most important artefacts discovered by archaeologists throughout the entire country, including in Saqqara, were deposited. The exposition is bursting at the seams, while the underground rooms are filled with chests containing thousands of valuable artefacts. Over the last half a century more and more regional museums of a monographic nature have been built, i.e. ones that only contain items discovered in a given area. Among the youngest, as well as most modern ones, we can include the small Imhotep Museum in Saqqara, owing its name to the creator of the first pyramid. Two new, impressively sized museum buildings are currently being built outside Cairo’s centre, which are to relieve the Egyptian Museum of some of the burden, itself already being an architectural monument. The 2011 and 2013 political events have however delayed their construction.


1 F. Welc, J. Trzciński, “Geology of the Site,” in: K. Myśliwiec (ed.), Old Kingdom Structures between the Step Pyramid Complex and the Dry Moat (Saqqara V, Part 2), Warsaw 2013, pp. 323–343, pl. CLI–CLXI.

2 G. Dreyer, “The Tombs of the First and Second Dynasties at Abydos and Saqqara,” in: Z. Hawass (ed.), The Treasures of the Pyramids, [Cairo 2003], pp. 62–77; Y. Tristant, “Saqqâra à l’époque thinite,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 8–13.

3 G. Drayer, “The Tombs,” pp. 70–71.

4 Y. Tristant, “Saqqâra,” p. 13.

5 G. Dreyer, “Aktuelles von der Grabanlage des Ninetjer,” Sokar 14 (2007), pp. 6–7.

6 R. Stadelmann, Die ägyptischen Pyramiden. Vom Ziegelbau zum Weltwunder, Mainz am Rhein 1985, pp. 37–40.

7 A. Labrousse, “Imhotep divinité emblématique,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 36–39.

8 G. Dreyer, “The Tombs,” p. 72.

9 B. Deslandes, “La pyramide à degrés de Djéser révélée. Les dernières découvertes,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 30–35.

10 F. Welc, “The Third Dynasty Open Quarry West of the Netjerykhet Pyramid Complex (Saqqara),” Études et Travaux 24 (2011), pp. 271–304.

11 M. Verner, “The Pyramids of the Fifth Dynasty,” in: The Treasures of the Pyramids, pp. 237–240; Userkaf’s statue: K. Michałowski, L’art de l’ancienne Égypte, Paris 1968, p. 364, fig. 214; V. Brinkmann (ed.), Sahure. Tod und Leben eines großen Pharao. Eine Ausstellung der Liebighaus-Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, 24. Juni bis 28. November 2010, München 2010, pp. 77, 79, fig. 49.

12 M. Verner, “The Pyramids,” p. 259; cf. The Pyramid Texts in King Pepi I’s funerary chamber in Saqqara: A. Labrousse, “The Pyramids of the Sixth Dynasty,” in: The Treasures of the Pyramids, p. 26

13 W. Barta, “Zur Reziprozität der homosexuellen Beziehung zwischen Horus und Seth,” Göttinger Miszellen 129 (1992), pp. 33–38.

14 A. Labrousse, L’architecture des pyramides à textes, vol. 2: Saqqara sud, Le Caire 2000.

15 Ch. Theis, “Userkare. Ein ephemerer Herrscher des Alten Reiches,” Sokar. Geschichte & Archäologie Altägyptens 30 (2015), pp. 56–67.

16 K. Myśliwiec, “Dating the Tombs of Merefnebef and Nyankhnefertem,” in: M. Bárta, F. Coppens, J. Krejčí (eds.), Abusir and Saqqara in the Year 2010, Prague 2011, pp. 651–663.

17 Cf., for instance, the following source publications on the Saqqara tombs by these authors: H. Altenmüller, Die Wanddarstellungen im Grab des Mehu in Saqqara, Mainz 1998; N. Kanawati et al., Mereruka and His Family, Part 3:1: The Tomb of Mereruka (“The Australian Centre for Egyptology. Reports” 29), Oxford 2010.

18 N. Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unas to Pepy I, London–New York 2003; M. Afifi, “The Conspiracies in the First Half of the Sixth Dynasty,” Études et Travaux 26.1 (2013), pp. 25–29.

19 N. Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unas to Pepy I, pp. 14–24.

20 M. Verner, The Mastaba of Ptahshepses. Reliefs, Prague 1977; J. Krejčí, The Architecture of the Mastaba of Ptahshepses (“Abusir” 11), Prague 2009.

21 N. Kanawati et al., Mereruka and His Family, Part 1: The Tomb of Meryteti (“The Australian Centre for Egyptology. Reports” 21), Oxford 2004, pp. 7–44.

22 K. Myśliwiec, “Fragen an eine Nekropole in Sakkara,” Sokar 13 (2006), pp. 11–14, Abb. 15–16.

23 G. T. Martin, The Memphite Tomb of oremeb, Commander-in-Chief of Tutankhamūn, Part 1: The Reliefs, Inscriptions and Commentary, London 1989; idem, The Hidden Tombs of Memphis: New Discoveries from the Time of Tutankhamun and Ramesses the Great, London 1991; M. J. Raven et al., The Memphite Tomb of Horemheb, Commander in Chief of Tutankhamun, Part 5: The Forecourt and the Area South of the Tomb with Some Notes on the Tomb of Tia, Turnhout 2011.

24 A. Zivie, La tombe de Maia: mère nourricière du roi Toutânkhamon et grande du harem (Bub.I.20), Toulouse 2009; The Lost Tombs of Saqqara, [Toulouse] 2007; Découverte ā Saqqarah: le vizir oublié, Paris 1990.

25 E. Hornung, F. Teichmann, Das Grab des Haremhab im Tal der Könige, Bern 1971.

26 F. Gomaa, Chaemwese: Sohn Ramses’ II. und Hoherpriester von Memphis (“Ägyptologische Abhandlungen” 27), Wiesbaden 1973.

27 M. I. Aly, “À propos du prince Khâemouaset et de sa mère Isetneferet. Nouveaux documents provenant du Sérapéum,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo 49 (1993), pp. 97–105.

28 M. J. Raven, “La nécropole de Saqqâra au Nouvel Empire,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011), Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 46––49; “Les serviteurs d’Akhénaton,” pp. 50–51.

29 K. Myśliwiec, “Ramesside Traditions in the Arts of the Third Intermediate Period,” in: E. Bleiberg, R. Freed (eds.), Fragments of a Shattered Visage. The Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ramesses the Great, Memphis 1991, pp. 111–113.

30 H. Altenmüller, Denkmal memphitischer Theologie, in: Lexikon der Ägyptologie. Bd. 1: A–Ernte, Wiesbaden 1972, col. 1065–106

31 E. Bresciani, “Saqqâra à l’époque tardive,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 54–57; E. Bresciani et al., Saqqara I. Tomba di Boccori. La galleria di Padineit visir di Nectanebo I, Pisa 1983.

32 G. Maspero, H. Gauthier, Sarcophages des époques persane et ptolémaïque, vol. 1–2, Le Caire 1914–1939.

33 Ch. Ziegler et al., Les tombes hypogées de Basse Époque: F7, F17, H, j1, Q, n1 (“Fouilles d du Louvre ā Saqqara” 2), Paris–Louvain 2013.

34 M. Malinine, G. Posener, J. Vercoutter, Catalogue des stèles du Sérapéum de Memphis, vol. 1, Paris 1968.

35 M. Pietrzykowski, Rzeźby greckie z Sarapeum memfickiego. Studium ikonograficzne, Warszawa 1976, especially pp. 135–145.

36 See chapter 10 of this book, fn. 53–64.

37 P. T. Nicholson, “Nécropole des animaux sacrés: dernières découvertes,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 62–67.

38 Nicholson, “Nécropole,” pp. 63–64.

39 Nicholson, “Nécropole,” p. 64.

40 Nicholson, “Nécropole.”

41 J. D. Ray, The Archive of Hor, London 1976; cf. Lexikon der Ägyptologie, Bd. 5: Pyramidenbau–Steingefäße, Wiesbaden 1984, col. 427, fn. 84.

42 J. E. Quibell, Excavations at Saqqara (1905–1906), Le Caire 1907, pp. 12–14, pl. 26–28.

43 J. E. Quibell, Excavations at Saqqara (1908–1909, 1909–1910). The Monastery of Apa Jeremias, Le Caire 1912; R. Habib, The Coptic Museum: A General Guide, Cairo 1967, p. 162; C. Wietheger, Das Jeremias-Kloster zu Saqqara unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Inschriften, Altenberge 1992.

44 G. Lacaze, “Momies, idoles et pérégrinations aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, p. 69.

45 F. Janot, “Le trafic des momies de Saqqâra,” Dossiers d’Archéologie 20 (avril 2011): Saqqâra. Des trésors inépuisables, pp. 74–75.

46 G. Lacaze, “Momies,” pp. 70–71, bottom illustr. on p. 71.

47 Lacaze, “Momies,” p. 72.

48 Lacaze, “Momies.”

49 Lacaze, “Momies,” p. 73.

50 Textes et langages de l’Égypte pharaonique. Cent cinquante années de recherches, 1822–1972. Hommage ā Jean-François Champollion, vol. 1–3 (“Bibliothèque d’Ètude “ 64), Le Caire 1974.

51 F. Janot, “Le trafic,” p. 75.