Friday, February 27, 2009

Poles discover a necropolis in Saqqara

Nauka w Polsce

The last season of the mission lead by Prof. Karol Myśliwiec, from the University of Warsaw's Mediterranean Archaeological Center, in Egypt ended with spectacular discoveries, that will help scientists understand procedures in preparing graves in the time of the Old Kingdom. The archaeologists also have found new aspects of burial rituals. The excavation zone is located about 150m. west of the oldest Egyptian step pyramid, that was built for Pharaoh Djoser (27th century B.C.). Poles began excavations in 1987. This was land untouched by other archaeologists. Nobody predicted that Prof. Myśliwiec will achieve success. Jean-Phillipe Lauer - one of the most famous Saqqara experts, who in the 70's spent time on examining and restoring Djoser's complex, didn't think that the Poles would find anything more than a quarry or an ancient rubbish dump.

W 1987 geophysical examinations were carried out. They showed that under the sand's surface there are a lot of artifacts. In the beginning it was decided to make three survey digs, each of the dimension 5x5m.

So far the area of almost 2400 sq. m. has been examined. Archaeologists managed to establish that the necropolis existed in the time of the Old Kingdom (2686-2160 B.C.), and later burials were situated there 2000 years later in the Ptolemy era (332-30 B.C.). Scientists suspect that before Alexander the Great's body ended up in Alexandria, it was buried for a while in Saqqara. This would explain the creation of a new necropolis. From the beginning of Egyptian civilization, it was a dream to be buried close to the Pharaoh, who was the incarnation of god.

"Each grave of an Egyptian dignitary is made up of two parts. The underground could be reached by a shaft in rock that could be even 20m. deep. At the bottom of this shaft, normally on the west side a chamber, in which the sarcophagus was placed, was cut out" - says Prof. Myśliwiec. He added that in cases of very rich people it was a stone casing,, in other peoples cases it was a wooden or even reed sarcophagus. The shaft leading to the burial chamber was securely filled in with sand and covered with a mastabah (Arabic for bench). The construction was similar to a cut pyramid.

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