Sakkara, Saqqarah; ) is a vast,
ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as
the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis.
Saqqara features numerous pyramids,
including the world famous Step
, as well as a number of mastabas
. Located some 30 km south of modern-day
Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 km by 1.5
At Saqqara, the oldest complete hewn-stone building complex known
in history was built: Djoser
's step pyramid,
built during the third
. 16 other Egyptian kings have built pyramids at
Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or
dilapidation. High officials have added private funeral monuments
to this necropolis during the entire pharaonic period
. It remained an
important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for
more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic
the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir; south lies
Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as necropolis by the
inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it has been
designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
The name Saqqara is possibly derived from Sokar
, an ancient Egyptian funerary god.
The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty
, at the north side of
the Saqqara plateau. During this time, the royal burial ground was
first royal burials at Saqqara, comprising underground galleries,
date to the Second Dynasty
Second Dynasty king Khasekhemwy was
buried in his tomb at Abydos, but also built a funerary monument at
Saqqara consisting of a large rectangular enclosure, known as
probably inspired the monumental enclosure wall around the Step
Pyramid complex. Djoser's funerary complex, built by the royal
, further comprises a large
number of dummy buildings and a secondary mastaba (the so-called
'Southern Tomb'). French architect and Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer
spent the greater
part of his life excavating and restoring Djoser's funerary
Early Dynastic monuments
Funerary complex of Djoser
all Fourth Dynasty kings
chose a different location for their pyramids.
During the second half of the Old Kingdom
, under the Fifth
Dynasties, Saqqara was again
the royal burial ground. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty pyramids are
not built of massive stone, but with a core consisting of rubble.
consequently less well preserved than the world famous pyramids
built by the Fourth Dynasty kings at Giza.
, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, was
the first king to adorn the chambers in his pyramid with Pyramid Texts
. It was custom for courtiers
during the Old Kingdom to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the
pyramid of their king. Clusters of private tombs were thus formed
in Saqqara around the pyramid complexes of Unas and Teti
Old Kingdom monuments
- pyramid of king Ibi (Dynasty 8)
From the Middle Kingdom
onwards, Memphis was no longer the capital of the country, and
kings built their funerary complexes elsewhere. Few private
monuments from this period have been found at Saqqara.
During the New Kingdom
was an important administrative and military centre, second only to
the capital. From the Eighteenth Dynasty
high officials built tombs at Saqqara. When still a general,
Horemheb built a large tomb here, though he
was later buried as Pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.
Many monuments from earlier periods were still standing, but
dilapidated by this period. Prince Khaemweset
, son of Pharaoh Ramesses II
, made repairs to buildings at
Saqqara. Among other things, he restored the Pyramid of
Unas and added an inscription to its south face to
commemorate the restoration.
He enlarged the Serapeum
, the burial site of the mummified
, and was later
buried in the catacombs. The Serapeum, containing one undisturbed
interment of an Apis bull and the tomb of Khaemweset, were
rediscovered by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette
New Kingdom monuments
After the New Kingdom
periods after the New Kingdsom, when several cities in the Delta served as capital of Egypt, Saqqara remained in use
as a burial ground for nobles.
Moreover the area became an
important destination for pilgrims to a number of cult centres.
Acitivities sprang up around the Serapeum, and extensive
underground galleries were cut into the rock as burial sites for
large amounts of mummified ibises, baboons, cats, dogs, and