About Sakkara

Sakkara is best known for the Step Pyramid, the oldest known of Egypt's 97 pyramids. It was built for King Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty by the architect and genius Imhotep, who designed it and its surrounding complex to be as grand as it was unique and revolutionary. Imhotep was the first to build stone tombs in honor of the king's majesty. His many titles included 'Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt', 'Administrator of the Great Palace', and 'Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vessels'. Imhotep may have also designed the pyramid of Djoser's successor, Sekhemkhet.

Pyramid of Unas

5th Dynasty kings such as Userkaf (pyramid) and Djedkare-Izezi built their pyramids at Sakkara. The last king of 5th Dynasty, Unas, decorated his burial chamber with the famous 'Pyramid Texts', spells written to help the king ascend to the heavens and descend again, which reveal the relationship of the king to the gods. 6th Dynasty kings such as Pepi I, Merenre and Pepi II built their pyramids to the south of Sakkara.

Sakkara is also famous for its private Old Kingdom tombs (see our feature story on 1st Dynasty Tombs), which contain beautiful and revealing scenes: men force- feeding geese, cattle crossing a canal, men dragging a statue on a sled to the tomb. The best-known tombs are those of Ti, Kagemni, the 'Two Brothers', and Ptahhotep; the most famous is that of Meruruka.

During the New Kingdom (c 1570-332 BC) Memphis took second place to Thebes as Egypt's capital. But although the administration was established at Thebes, the government officials who ruled Upper Egypt lived in Memphis and were buried at Sakkara. Here Geoffrey Martin found the famous tomb that Horemheb built for himself before he became pharaoh, while he was still the overseer of Tutankhamun's army.

The Goddess Isis

Martin also found the tomb of Mava, Tutankhamun's Treasurer. The first of the recent discoveries at Sakkara dates from the New Kingdom. This site is being developed by the French Archaeological Mission of the Bubasteion at Sakkara under the direction of Alain Zivie, Director of Research at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique at Paris.

Zivie started work at a place in Sakkara called Abwab el-Qotat, 'The Doors of the Cats', so called because hundreds of cat mummies were found here. The Ancient Egyptians worshipped the cat goddess Bastet, whose main place of worship was at Tel-Basta near Zagazig in the east of the Delta. At Sakkara her sanctuary or Bubasteion stood above a cliff in which some New Kingdom tombs were cut, some of which were re-used much later for cat burials connected with the Bubasteion.

The Abwab El-Qotat site had been neglected for many years. It was dangerous because the cliff was crumbling and the tombs were falling apart, but the French archaeological team has been working here for the last 14 years. The main focus of their work has been the tomb of the Vizier Aperel or Aperia. In the 14th century BC he served as the prime minister of Lower Egypt under the Pharaohs Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV, known as 'Akhenaten'. (The latter worshipped a single god, the sun's disk or 'Aten'.)

Aperia's tomb was discovered in 1987, and several seasons of excavation and consolidation of the tomb gave Zivie the opportunity to clear almost completely a huge burial complex on four levels. The last level still contained a large part of the funerary treasure of Aperia, his wife Tauret and their son Huy, a prominent general.

The big surprise was the discovery of the funerary chamber, which was found hidden behind the stairway. Despite an ancient plundering this was still full of funerary equipment and othe

Sakkara is one section of the great necropolis of Memphis, the Old Kingdom capital and the kings of the 1st Dynasty as well as that of the 2nd Dynasty. are mostly buried in this section of the Memphis necropolis. It has been of constant interest to Egyptologists.

Three major discoveries have recently been made at Sakkara, including a prime minister’s tomb, a queen’s pyramid, and the tomb of the son of a dynasty-founding king. Each discovery has a fascinating story, with many adventures for the archaeologists as they revealed the secrets of the past.