Sakkara is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in Egypt. It was the cemetery for Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt, yet it is still one of the intact archaeological sites, despite the fact that so much has already been found here. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas, Sakkara is also the site of many tombs from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. Most are made out of mud bricks, but some tombs are made of limestone, decorated with daily life scenes.
When you are at Sakkara, you will notice that it is divided into: Southern Sakkara, which is dominated by the step Pyramid and Northern Sakkara, which is dominated by the Pyramid of King Titi, and Mastaba tombs of the old kingdom like Mastaba of Mereruka and The mastaba-tomb of Ty which is one of the most famous of the Old Kingdom, remarkable for the diversity and relevance of topics, it is situated about 150 metres from the entranceway leading into the Serapeum. The Serapeum is the set of underground galleries (catacombs) where the Apis bulls were buried, considered to be sacred as the living image of the god Ptah of Memphis.
Recently 7 tombs at south of Saqqara necropolis has been open to public, the newly inaugurated tombs belong to King Tut’s general, who later became King Horemheb; his treasurer, Maya; the steward of the temple of Aten, Meryneith; the royal butler to both King Tut and Akhenaten, Ptahemwia; the overseer of the treasury of Ramsess II, Tia and the harem overseer under King Tutankhamun, Pay and his son, Raia.
The Step Pyramid (Step pyramid of Djoser):
It was built for King Zoser, one of the greatest Kings of the third dynasty (2721-2780 BC). Originally meant as a tomb, this Pyramid was designed and built by his great architect Imhotep. The Pyramid is built as a step Pyramid, 60m high, and consisting of 6 steps; each one built on top of each other and smaller than the one below.
Today it is considered as one of the oldest stone structures built by man, and the first time the Ancient Egyptians would attempt to use limestone. Zoser's Pyramid is entirely built of limestone, small bricks of limestone, and not of the best quality, and yet it has remained for more than 4700 years. The Pyramid's four sides are very nearly aligned to the four cardinal points. On the northern side is the original entrance of the Pyramid.
Pyramid of Unas:
Pyramid of King Unas, which dates back to the end of the 5th Dynasty (originally known as Beautiful are the places of Unas). It was the first Pyramid that had inscriptions decorating the walls of the burial chamber! There are more than 700 incantations, which are supposed to help the dead King throughout the afterlife, and they are known as the Pyramid texts. Unfortunately the Pyramid has been closed for more than 6 years now.
However, Jaromir Malek considers "the main innovation of Unas' pyramid, and one that was to be characteristic of the remaining pyramids of the Old Kingdom (including some of the queens), was the first appearance of the Pyramid Texts". These texts were inscribed in Sixth Dynasty royal versions, but Unas's texts contain verses and spells which were not included in the later 6th dynasty copies. The pyramid texts were intended to help the king in overcoming hostile forces and powers in the Underworld and thus join with the Sun God Ra, his divine father in the afterlife. The king would then spend his days in eternity sailing with Ra across the sky in a solar boat.
Tomb of Horemoheb:
The tomb of Horemheb is mainly laid out as a temple of two courtyards. The scale is fairly modest, but the wall-decorations are nice and interesting, often relating to the everyday life of Horemheb.
oremheb's tomb was never used. In 1348 he had Pharoh Ay removed from power, and became new pharaoh himself. Hence his last resting place became the Valley of the Kings. These ground were used by other notables for their graves, like the sister of Pharaoh Ramses 2, Tia and the treasurer of Tutankhamon, Maya.
The grounds are still being excavated, but nobody will stop you from entering.
Pyramid of Teti:
Teti was the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty and ruled for 23 years, from 2345 until 2323 BCE. The Pyramid of Teti is quite interesting in the fact that it was built as a step pyramid, after the Zoser principle, but covered in limestone, so that it appeared as a true pyramid. But everything that could be removed, has since long been removed. The pyramid can be entered, and it is interesting. It is all quite similar to the interior of Unas' pyramid, built around 20 years earlier, only on a larger scale.
Walls are covered by Pyramid Texts as in Unas', but there is more damage to it here. The burial chamber is in fine condition and the huge basalt sarcophagus is in excellent condition and undamaged. It has stripes of hieroglyphic inscriptions with parts from the Pyramid Texts. A few fragments of the mummy was found the first time the sarcophagus was opened, thanks to ancient robbers.
Mastabas are interesting because their interiors have so much more decorations and colours than the austere pyramids. Mastabas were rectangular buildings often without any exterior decorations. Inside there was everything from one to many rooms. They were covered with wall-decorations that the gods about the person or the people buried in the mastaba. The actual burial ground could often be underground.
Mastaba of Mereruka
Mereruka's mastaba is both the largest and finest of the Old Kingdom tombs at Saqqara. Mereruka lived under the reign of Teti, whose pyramid it lies next to. He was married to the oldest daughter of the pharaoh, princess Seshseshet.
The mastaba consists of an impressive 32 chambers, divided between Mereruka, his princess-wife and their son Meriteti. Most rooms are decorated, and contains interesting scenes of both the deceased as well as everyday scenes from the Old Kingdom.
The foremost attraction of this tomb is clearly the life-size statue of Mereruka himself, placed in a niche overlooking a room whose ceiling rests on 6 square columns.
Mastaba of Ti
The mastaba of Ti was discovered in 1865, and is the largest and finest of the private tombs at Saqqara. Its many wall-paintings have been one of the most central sources of information on daily life in the Old Kingdom.
The mastaba cosits of a courtyard, a storage room, Ti's chapel and a serdab, like the one Zoser had built for himself. Ti couldn't be any less than the great pharaoh. The serdab can be seen from the chapel, allowing us now to look at Ti's statue (or rather a copy of it, the original is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo).
The greatest attraction is of course the rich wall-paintings with scenes from Ti's contemporary Egypt, together with scenes of his own deeds. Many of the paintings also deal with the needs of Ti in the afterlife; near the corridor leading to his chapel are scenes of bearers who bring food and animals to Ti's ka.
The Serapeum is located north west of the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, a necropolis near Memphis. It was the burial place of the Apis bulls, living manifestations of the god Ptah. It was believed that the bulls became immortal after death as Osiris Apis, shortened to Serapis in the Hellenic period. The most ancient burials found at this site date back to the reign of Amenhotep III. The Serapeum was also used by dignitaries and princes as a tomb, people seeking the holy presence of the divine powers.
The recently opened tombs in Saqqara 7 New Kingdom Tombs in the cemetery of South Saqqara has been Opened to the public.
Maya tomb - Maya was King Tut’s treasurer and was essential to restoring Egypt to her pre-Amarna glory. He helped the King to reopen the temples in Luxor as well as build new temples and shrines to Amun to show that King Tut was dedicated to restoring order to Egypt. Maya was responsible for restoring order in Egypt, while his colleague Horhemheb restored order abroad. While his tomb was left unfinished, visitors will now be able to see the mudbrick pylon with spectacular relief fragments as well as courtyard images of Maya and his wife Merit, who was also buried in the tomb, receiving offerings.
Horemheb tomb – Horemheb began building his tomb in Saqqara while he was a general under King Tutankhamen. After the death of King Tut and his immediate successor, Ay, Horemheb became king of Egypt and left his tomb at Saqqara in favor of a more prestigious spot in the Valley of the Kings. All the hard work on this beautiful tomb was not wasted and his wife Mutnodjmet was buried there at the time of her death. The tomb is built and decorated in the Amarna style art and the interior design shows that it was meant to be a funerary temple. The details of this tomb, which is the largest in the New Kingdom Cemetery, are fascinating.
The Tomb of Meryneith - Meryneith was the Steward of the Temple of Aten and the Scribe in the Temple of Aten during the reign of Akhenaten. After the king’s death, he became the High Preist of Aten as well as the High Priest at the Temple of Neith. His tomb is built of mudbrick encased in limestone blocks. In the very back of the temple there are three chapels for the offering cult of Meryneith. The central one shows a scene of metal workers and the bases of two small columns. A mudbrick pyramid may have originally stood here.
The Tomb of Ptahemwia - Ptahemwia was the “Royal Butler, One of Clean Hands” to both Akhenaten and his son, Tutankhamen. He was responsible for brining the king food and drink and his tomb contains the prestigious title of “Beloved of the King”. Ptahemwia’s tomb is also mudbrick encased in limestone and contains three chapels. In one of these chapels, Martin and his team found 56 coffins from the New Kingdom. Most of them contained the bodies of children who were affected by disease.
The Tomb of Tia - Tia was one of the top officials under Ramsess II, and was the Overseer of the Treasury. He was married to one of Ramsess II’s sisters, who was also named Tia. Tia’s tomb was also used as a mortuary temple to the god Osiris and contains depections of Tia and his wife making a pilgrimage to Abydos, the cult center of Osiris.
The Tombs of Pay and his son, Raia - Pay was the Overseer of the Harem under King Tutankhamen. Pay’s tomb consists of a chapel that opened into a pillared court with three offering chapels. Pay’s son, Raia, began his career as a solider in the army, but took over his father’s post after his death. Raia added a courtyard, and two stelae, as well as performed renovations to the tomb before he himself was buried there. The two stelae were brought to Berlin when Richard Lepsius discovered them in 1928