Early Dynastic monuments (Dynasties 1-3)
PART I: GENERAL INTRODUCTION ON SAQQARA AND MEMPHIS
The site of Saqqara is the central portion of the Memphite necropolis
which stretches from the northernmost sites of Abu Rawash, Giza to
Zawiyet el Aryan, Abusir, Saqqara, South Saqqara and finally Dahshur
and Mazghuna in the south, for more than 30 kilometers.
Memphis was founded at the end of "Dynasty 0" or beginning
of the First Dynasty and was the capital of Egypt at least since the
early Second Dynasty to the Eighth Dynasty (with the exception of
some reigns, particularly in the IVth Dynasty) and again it became
a major center in the XIIth Dynasty; after the second Theban reconquest,
its importance began to increase once again with Ahmose and still
more from the reign of Thutmosis III to Akhenaton; Thutmosis III resided
in Memphis for the most of his reign, especially in the period of
the Asiatic campaigns; in this period the riverine harbour Prw-Nfr
and the garrison Pa Khepesh were particularly active; most
of the early 18th Dynasty ereditary princes resided in the city during
their youth, this fact certainly depending on the presence of very
important structures of instruction like the House of Life, the temples
and the garrison.
After the short-lived Akhetaton (Amarna), Memphis returned to be officially
the capital of Egypt in the reign of Horemheb until the construction
of Piramesse. Under the great Ramses II, despite the new-born capital
in the Delta, Memphis knew another period of splendour for commercial
and political reasons; Ramses II lived here before Piramesse was completed;
his son (High Priest of Ptah) Khaemwaset restored many monuments of
the necropolis, as attested by the inscriptions he left on some pyramids
at Abusir and Saqqara (cf. the fragmentary one up on the south side
of the Unas pyramid); he was buried in the Serapeum in the 55th year
of his father's reign.
In the late period the city passed through alternating phases as the
new building projects of the Tanite and Saite pharaohs and the strangers'
dominations of Ethiopics, Assirians and Persians.
Known as 'Balance of the Two Lands' (Mekhat Tawy)
and 'White Wall' (Inbw Hedj), it received only in the Middle
Kingdom the denomination of Men-Nefer, after the name of the
Pyramid and funerary complex of Meryra Pepi (I) of the VIth Dynasty;
and from 'Men-nefer' the present Graecized name 'Memphis' originated
(indeed Mennefer became largely used only since the 18th dynasty,
because in the Middle Kingdom the name of the Teti pyramid Djed-Iswt,
was preferentially adopted to designate the urban center). For further
names of the city as 'Ankh Tawy', 'Njwt Heh' and others cf.
Zivie, in: LA III, 24-26.
The site of Memphis was identified in late 1500 by the traveller Francois
de Pavie and, few later, by Jean de Thévenot (Zivie, op. cit.,
33, n. 219); since the first half of the '700, R. Pococke, who visited
Egypt in 1737, basing on the classic writers Strabo and Plinius, correctly
assumed that the site of the ancient capital had to be located around
the modern village of Mit Rahina. This is situated circa 2,5 km east
south-east of the Pyramid of Djoser, and 2 km east of that of Pepi
I; (the ancient site was obviously much wider than the actual ruins
field at Mit Rahinah - Bedrashiya).
The earliest site of Memphis (Dyn. 1-3) laid instead just at the feet
of the North Saqqara archaic necropolis plateau, below the 1st Dynasty
mastabas, therefore under the south-west part of the modern village
Also the necropolis of Middle Saqqara (the area extending around the
two Step Pyramid complexes) is actually nearer to the village of Abusir
than to the modern hamlet of Sakkara (which is in front of the site
of South Saqqara).
The increasing height of the Nile flood and the eastward shift of
the Nile-bed, alongside other factors, resulted in the abandonment
of the site of the early capital located under Abusir in favour of
the new and more eastern settlement located near Mit Rahina, which
seems to have occurred sometime in the late Third Dynasty.
For various reasons (first of all constructional overcrowding,
long lasting reuse of building materials, the massive accumulation
of Nile deposits and modern frequentation and exploitation), the field
of ruins in the site of the ancient capital has revealed to be rather
poor of archaeological remains, especially of Old Kingdom age buildings
(but a good number of Old Kingdom pots has been found). However the
necropolis of Helwan and Saqqara,
east and west of the city, were undoubtly founded in the Dynasty 0
and in the early First Dynasty respectively.
Herodotus (II,99) attributed to the legendary Menes the foundation
of this new Capital which substituted the Upper Egyptian center of
Thinis. Manetho labelled as 'Thinite' the first two dynasties, but
there would be much to speculate on this problem. The southern Thinis
and its necropolis, Abydos, surely retained their importance for the
whole age of the so called 'Thinite kings', but it can be assumed
that Memphis started to be de facto the main center of the
administration of the country at least with Hotepsekhemwy, but very
probably (and to a high level) already at the beginning of the First
Dynasty; there is no evidence of a royal tomb in Abydos for any ruler
of the first half of the Second Dynasty; on the other hand, the substructures
of the tombs of kings Hotepsekhemwy (A)
and Ninetjer (B) (1st and 3rd rulers of
the 2nd Dynasty respectively) were discovered south of the Step Pyramid
complex (cfr. below) and now, probably a third
gallery complex (C) has been found few to the south, in the eastern
New Kingdom tombs-field delimitated by the complex of Sekhemkhet and
the remains of the monastery of Apa Jeremias (this new found tomb
could hardly be a private one; the early 2002 dutch excavations seem
to have clarified its features and its royal character).
A royal cult estabilishment (of Den's reign) possibly consisting of
a (perishable material ?) enclosure surrounded by middle class officials'
tombs (as n. 59 of Ipka), was
reconstructed by Kaiser (M.D.A.I.K. 41, 1985 p. 47-60) on the basis
of excavations and plan of R. Macramallah (1940); the rows
of tombs are N and NW of the Serapeum.
Whether Kaiser's hypothesis of a rude Talbezirk was valid, this would
show that the royal authority, activities and presence in Saqqara,
and thus in Memphis, were already concentrated there at least since
the middle First Dynasty.
The imposing size of the First Dynasty mastabas built on the eastern
edge of the desert escarpment overlooking the capital, is a clear
sign of the importance of this urban center which was much more in
the core of the commercial circuit of interchange with the Near Eastern
peoples than the remote Thinis could ever be; this soon began to lose
its political importance and only maintained a religious and cultual
authority as the center of the archaic sovereigns' burials and, since
the late Old Kingdom, as the site of the tomb of the god Osiris (identified
in the Umm el Qa'ab tomb O, of Horus Djer; Dodson,
KMT 8:4 37-47), and consequently a frequented destination of
piligrimage until the dawn of the modern age.
The importance of the Memphite location resided in the easy control
of the riverine and desert trade; indeed this had already been a major
factor for the rise of the predynastic center of Maadi, just near
to the Wadi Hof and Wadi Digla, which open towards the Delta and Near
On the other hand the early cemetery of North Saqqara must have been
regarded as a holy place during all the Dynastic period, because as
Emery wrote in 1958 "... it is a curious fact that the archaic
necropolis is the only part of Sakkara which has not been re-used
as a burial ground for later periods" (Emery, GT III, 1958,
2); there are indeed some exceptions in the central area cleared by
Quibell in 1912-14 and near S3507 (see below).
The necropolis of Helwan,
although with less impressive tombs (private burials of middle-high/
middle-low classes) than at Saqqara, was founded some generations
earlier, as attested by certain Dynasty 0
royal names on jars (Nj-Neith, Ka, Narmer); the officials buried here
witness their kings' evident interest in controlling the trade of
various commodities to-fro the Southern Palestine and beyond.
The effect of the rise of Memphis must have been an outstanding one
when we look at the impact it had on the sites of the region: most
of them declined at the beginning, during or at the end of the First
Dynasty as the Dynasty 0-1 cemeteries from Tarkhan to Tura, Zawiyet
el Aryan and Abu Rawash demonstrate (but in the latter site to a very
slight degree, if not at all, as the 1st/2nd and 4th/5th Dyn. Tombs
Klasens excavated and the Lepsius I Mudbrick
Pyramid, Ed-Deir and Djedefra's
pyramid complex do attest).
Saqqara owes its name to the necropolis' archaic falcon-god
Sokar (not to the medieval tribe of the Beni Sokar).
Despite the name of the necropolis, the modern village of Sakkara
is situated in the shadow of the palms in front of the archaeological
site known as South Saqqara, where Shepseskaf and then Djedkara Isesi
first built their tombs.
The sole Archaic Cemetery of the élite at North Saqqara covers
an area of more than 350.000 m².
The earliest known mastaba is situated in the North Saqqara plateau
and dates to the reign of Horus Aha (S3357); more mastabas were built
north and south of it in the following reigns of the First Dynasty,
exhausting, by the reign of Qa'a, all the available space on the eastern
edge of the escarpment.
Already since Horus Djer more than one huge mastaba was built in a
single reign (S2185, S3471); the apex was during the reign of Den,
in the middle of the First Dynasty, and under Qa'a, at the end of
the same dynasty.
S3507 and S3503 respectively produced prevailing inscriptional evidence
with the names of Queen Herneith and Merneith, while no tomb has yet
been found of any individual relatable to the reign of Horus Semerkhet
(who is instead attested at Helwan).
The southernmost tombs of this kind were built in the area east of
the pyramid of Teti (one was found just beneath the house of the Office
of the Antiquities) and Lepsius XXIX (Merikara ?), while the northernmost
ones (S3041, 3043, 3038, S3111) are just at the northern end of the
North Saqqara ridge (for all the mastabas see below).
After the huge mastabas of the reign of Den (3035, 3036) the size
and wealth of the tombs began to decrease; but one of the tombs dated
to Adjib, S3038, though of medium size, reserved an unexpected surprise
to the excavator W.B. Emery: it revealed three constructional phases,
the first one of which consisting of a 8 steps brick-structure (less
than 3m high) which was considered the conceptual forerunner of the
Step Pyramid (sand mounds are known to have been included in the inner
parts of other tombs as S 3471, S3507, Bet Khallaf K1, Abydos Umm
el Qaab Z, just above the burial chamber; these mounds are thought
to be related to the mythical primeval hill of creation, thus being
religious symbols of post-mortem rebirth).
There is no doubt, after almost 70 years of debates,
that the mastabas in object belonged to the highest officials of the
'Thinite' state administration. A thorough analysis of the debate
about the site of the royal tombs and of the so called 'cenotaphs'
(Saqqara vs Abydos) is out of the aims of the present article (but
cfr. the brief summary below).
It has been synthesized and discussed several times (cfr. bibliography;
A. Tavares in K. Bard ed. 1999, 700-704; Emery, Hor Aha, 1939, 1-7;
id., GT II, 1954, 1-4; id., GT III, 1-4; Lauer, Hist. Monum., 1962,
passim); until the IV-Vth Dynasty the royal tomb remained neatly separated
from the private ones; at Saqqara only with the reign of Unas the
king's complex began to be surrounded by private tombs (but in this
we are not considering the so called tombs of the retainers around
the Abydos royal tombs and enclosures).
However the recent excavations by K. Mysliwiec west of Djoser's
complex (reports in PAM 8-13, 1997-2002) seem to point out that early
Third Dynasty tombs were already built there before the Step Pyramid
Complex underwent its latest constructional phases; if confirmed,
this would mean that it was already with Netjerykhet/ Djoser that
the trend of private cemeteries bordering the royal funerary complex
was first introduced (J. van Wetering, n.p.; id. 2002).
It is pure speculation to advance that the tradition might have begun
in honor of a worthy personage like Imhotep, like Lauer would also
think; Emery thought instead that Imhotep's burial was to be searched
for in the western part of the North Saqqara élite cemetery
(around S3518) where he found the late period animals catacombs and
many attestations of worship of the deified Imhotep (bronze statuettes)
in the second part of the 1960s (see below).
In the Second and Third Dynasty, the officials were
forced to move their site of burial westwards, in a recessed position
from the 1st Dynasty tombs line. There was no more space left on the
'panoramic' eastern border which had been completely filled up with
earlier tombs; therefore the adiacent central area of the North Saqqara
plateau was chosen for the mastabas of the Second and Third Dynasty
Few eastern archaic tombs were reused and rebuilt in the IInd and
IIIrd Dynasty (as S2171, 1st/2nd dyn).
The new Second Dynasty tomb (C),
probably a royal one (Sened? see also below),
found east of Horemheb's sepulchre in the NK necropolis, must demonstrate
that, contrarily to the Ist-IInd dynasty outcrop of the Archaic necropolis
known down towards the Abusir lake (cf. JEA 79, 1993, 25), there was
no continuation of the Early Dynastic tombs line towards Middle Saqqara;
the southern part of the cemetery was destined (since the Second Dynasty)
to the royal tombs only, and the contemporary private burials
could not have been built in this area (not before the Third Dynasty,
PART II: FIRST DYNASTY MONUMENTS
The general development of the private tombs architecture in the Early
Dynastic period follows that of the royal Upper Egyptian monuments;
indeed it has been repeatedly remarked that the constructional techniques
of the Memphite tombs of the elite appeared to be more evolute than
those applied at Umm el Qa'ab, Abydos; J.P. Lauer and W.B. Emery compared
the sheer size of the mastabas of Saqqara with those of Abydos, showing
that these latter, evidently smaller and less complex in architectural
design, had to be nothing more than cenotaphs, the true burials being
those at North Saqqara.
But since 1966 Barry J. Kemp (and few later W. Kaiser) pointed out
that the Abydos tombs could not be directly compared in size and monumental
aspect with the Saqqara mastabas: in fact almost all the Umm el Qa'ab
burials were only a part of the royal funerary complex also consisting
of the associated "forts", large mudbrick enclosures (open
courts) of possible funerary function built less than a couple of
miles to the north and surrounded, like the tombs, by the small "tombs
of the courtiers" (small rectangular tombs sometimes provided
with a raw stela).
The number of sacrificed retainers buried around the Abydene tombs
always surpasses (even without considering those around the enclosures)
those around the Saqqara mastabas. And at Abydos the custom lasted
for more reigns than at Saqqara, where it already declined in the
middle of the (Ist) Dynasty.
Finally the stelae with Horus names of 1st Dynasty kings were only
found at Abydos.
Today a good push towards the final, almost unanimously accepted conclusion
that the Abydos tombs are those of the kings (while the ones at Saqqara
belonged to their highest functionaries and eventually relatives),
has arrived after the reprise of the excavations at Abydos by the
German archaeologists directed by Kaiser and Dreyer (late '70s on);
the general opinion has returned to embrace the idea which had emerged
after the campaigns of Petrie, a century ago: the Ist Dynasty kings
(alike some of Dynasty 0 and perhaps two of late IInd Dynasty)
were buried at Abydos. Here the funerary
enclosures in the North, at Deir Sitt Damiana and Kom es Sultan,
served to the cultual and monumental aspect, while the Umm el Qaab
tombs were the place in which the kings were buried; Petrie's escavation
of tomb Z (Djet), the one where the less elusive traces of the possible
tomb-superstructure remained, suggested that a low and almost flat
mound did emerge at the surface level, supported by the wooden roof
of the central burial chamber; around and above this tumulus there
was the sand and rubble which formed the filling of the true superstructure
of the tomb; this consisted in a slightly inclined perimetral mudbrick
wall of modest height which contained the loose filling with a probable
round-topped aspect (as in some subsidiary burials which have fully
preserved their superstructure like those around the Abydos 'forts',
or around the largest mastabas at Saqqara and Tarkhan); therefore
the above-ground visible part of the tomb was nothing like the massive
and impressive building Reisner had hypothesized; the German re-excavations
have confirmed and refined this theory, finding comparable hidden
tumuli also in Qa'a's (Q) and Den's (T) tombs (Dreyer, in: MDAIK 47,
1991, 93-104; id., in: MDAIK 49, 1993, 57; Kaiser, Zu Entwicklung
und Vorformen der Fruhzeitlichen Graber..., in: BdE 97/2 =Mel. G.
E. Mokhtar, 1985, 25-38; Petrie, Royal Tombs I, 1900, 9; also see
Badawy, in: JNES 15, 1956, 180-3; also cf. above for the sand mounds
found within Saqqara S3471, S3507, Bet Khallaf K1).
The private tombs of North Saqqara underwent some structural
development which, as I ve anticipated, followed the similar transformations
in the Royal tombs. But the palace façade outer wall, the inner
tumulus and the eventual cult chapel or true temple were all incorporated
in one complex, always surrounded by a plain enclosure wall.
Contrarily to the archaeological evidence from Tarkhan and Helwan,
which has provided us with inscribed material dated to Dynasty
0 rulers and Narmer, at Saqqara only one stone vessel with Narmer's
serekh has been found (cf. PD IV.1, pl. 1.1; PD IV.2, 1-2).
S3357 is the earliest (known) mastaba of the necropolis,
the only one dated to Hor Aha: this demonstrates
that the administrative apparatus dislocated in the newly founded
city (already the capital ?) was rapidly increasing in size and complexity
during the subsequent reigns. The monumental aspect of this tomb,
despite its private ownership, indirectly emphasized the king's power.
The structure of the tomb resembles the roughly contemporary giant
mastaba at Naqada,
also dated to Aha (but surely earlier in his reign) and entirely built
on the ground level (whereas S3357 already had the burial chamber
dug in a central pit). S3357 (c. 41,5x15,5m) was discovered in 1936
and published in 1939, when more tombs had already been brought to
light (but the war delayed their publication of 10 years); it was
nearly soon understood its early date (to the reign of Aha who was
"Menes" in Emery's opinion). The mastaba was surrounded
by two plain enclosure walls (thickness: 0,75m the outer and 0,55m
the inner one, 1,2m distant from eachother); no subsidiary burial
was found around it (but scattered bones from the subterranean rooms
suggested to Emery that some (slain?) retainers must have been buried
in rooms 1,2, and 4,5 to the S and N of the burial chamber).
The enclosure walls, preserved to a height of few more than half a
meter, were both covered with mud plaster and faced with lime wash;
the niched façade was c. 2,5m thick, preserved at a maximum
height of 1,75m, coated with mud plaster and white lime stuccoed.
The superstructure consisted of a niched mastaba with 27 magazines,
the central five built above the 5 underground chambers (19m from
N to S), the central one of which, at 1,35m below the ground level,
was the burial chamber.
The roofing of the substructure was formed by long poles running E-W
under the floor of the central magazines of the mastaba; these beams
(10cm in diameter, spaced at 15cm from eachother) supported the planks
(25cm wide for 12cm thick) set perpendicularly to them.
Among the finds of the tomb there were hundreds of cylinder pottery
jars with ink inscriptions reporting the king's serekh, the contents
and its provenance (taxation sketches, 70-74, pl. 16: 460 groups of
which 208 in pl. 20-24); on the remaining pottery, mostly in fragments
for the collapse of the roof, only 6 (incised) potmarks were reported;
interesting are the cylinder seal impressions (Hor Aha, 1939, 19-33),
some of which already in use at the time of the burial of Neithhotep
at Naqada, many other ones of a new type; their variety was also greater
than that of the types recorded by Petrie at Abydos B19-10-15 and
nearby burials; n. 19 (ibid., 31, fig. 31) possibly named Djer, while
many others introduced the motif of the crouching lioness before the
UE shrine; others had only two rows with Aha's Horus name or with
this latter accompained by the private names (?) Ht and Sa-St;
the sealing n. 32-34 were perhaps older (Dynasty
0 = Naqada IIIB or even earlier) being
similar to those found in 1990s by G. Dreyer in Abydos Cemetery U
(Hartung, MDAIK 54, 1998, 187-217; id., SAK 26, 1998, 35-50; Kaiser,
MDAIK 46, 1990, 287-299, fig.2) and to that from Abusir el Meleq t.
1035 (Kaplony, IAF III, 71) dated to Naqada IIIA1-2.
Four pottery rhino horns were found in magazines X, U, V, F (ibid.,
71ff., pl. 17); furthermore also pieces of furniture, flint tools,
palettes, stone vessels (ibid., 34ff., pl. 12-15A) and, in the undergreound
chambers, human remains from different individuals' skeletons were
Contrarily to the Naqada Mastaba and to Abydos B19/16 complex, no
inscribed label was found in S3357.
Few years later, the removal of a Third Dynasty superstructure north
of the tomb led Emery to discover what he called a "Model
Estate" in three parallel alleys: at the northern end of
the outer ones there were two model granary buildings; to the north,
it had been already discovered in 1937 a funerary boat (Hor Aha, 18,
pl. 3, 8) which was 35m north of the tomb (under the south part of
the 2nd Dynasty Mastaba S3025) encased in mudbrick like those found
at Abu Rawash, Abydos and Helwan.
In the next reigns (Djer, Djet, Merneith) the chamber is dug deeper
in the gravel (as at Abydos) and the magazines number increases (QS
2185, S 3471, S 3504, S 3503), while in the reign of Den, after the
S3507 (Queen Herneith ?), there is the introduction of the stairway
as in S 3035 belonging to the chancellor Hemaka (which is paralleled
by the roughly contemporary equal innovation in the Umm el Qaab tomb
T of Abydos).
S2185 was cleared (in 1912-14) and published by Quibell
(Archaic Mastabas, 1923, 5-6, pl. 5-10; size m x ).
Its superstructure was badly destroyed and the underground chambers
contained stone vessels, copper and flint tools and clay seal impressions
with serekhs of Horus Djer.
The small pit S2171H was dated to the same reign and
found by Quibell (op. cit., 6-7, pl. 11-13) underneath the Second
Dynasty tomb S2171. It contained many stone vessels, some furniture
fragments, flint, beads, and two labels inscribed with the name of
Djer: an ivory one incised and a
wooden one painted.
S3471 (m 41,25x15,10) was found by Emery in far a worse
state of preservation than S3357; the 29 magazines of its superstructure
only contained scattered and fragmentary stone/pottery vessels, while
the substructure had been burnt (in the excavator's opinion the fire
had occurred not much later than the First Dynasty and was probably
set by the same plunderers aiming to hide their deed).
The floor of the burial chamber (O, m6,3 x 4,0) was at a lower dept
(3,5m from the ground surface) than those of the six rooms N and S
of it. These latter had been dug separately and no passage between
them existed other than that practiced by the ancient plunderers.
The fire spared only few objects of deteriorable material as mud-seal
impressions (wherein Emery read Djer's serekh) and furniture, whereas
no inscribed label was found.
Anyway one of the seven subterranean chambers (S, just south of the
burial chamber, O) contained an impressive amount of copper in form
of more than 70 vessels (beaten copper jars, ewers, bowls and dishes
of 7 distinct types; cf. Emery, Great Tombs I, 1949, 24ff., pl. 5,
8A; for a similar treasure from the Abydos tomb of Djer cf. Serpico-White,
in A.J. Spencer, Aspects, 1996, 128-139) and hundreds of copper knives,
saws, adzes, hoes, chisels, piercers, bodkins, needles and rectangular
plates originally contained in wooden boxes (GT I, 24-57, pl. 9A,
9B, 10; Emery, ASAE 39, 1939, 427-437); there were also several fragments
of wooden furniture, roughly rectangular stone palettes, (one, ibid.,
60, had been softly incised with a figure of a standing king raising
a mace in his hand towards a Libyan (?) captive at his feet; on the
right the forepart of a lion with two hearts nearby its mouth); then
copper, leather and ivory bracelets, game pieces, some flint knives
and scrapers; finally few ivory vessels and more pottery (some with
potmarks in a larger variety than in S3357) and stone vessels.
the reign of Djet (to which also belonged the Nazlet Batran,
Giza Mastaba V and probably the biggest Mastabas at Tarkhan 1060,
2038, 2050) at Saqqara the large tomb S3504 (Sekhemka-Sedj)
was built (49,45x19,95m; 56,45x 25,45m incl. the enclosure).
Emery found it on Febr, 1, 1953 and the works lasted until April 5;
it was rapidly and efficaciously published in the next year (GT II,
1954, 5-127, pl. 1-37).
The superstructure contained 45 magazines; around the niched façade,
at the base of the main wall of the mastaba, it was built a low bench
surrounding the whole superstructure; on this platform were laid several
clay modelled bull's heads provided with real horns (about 300); the
façade was completely white lime washed except for the innermost
panel of the large niches which were painted in red. The wall of the
mastaba is 2,9m thick and preserved up to the heigth of 3,35m; the
large niches are 2m wide and 1,1m deep, while the small niches are
0,45 x 0,25m.
Around the mastaba runs a continuous enclosure wall (0,95m thick,
max. height 0,73m) beyond which there is a single row of 62 subsidiary
burials dug in 2 continuous trenches compartmented by mudbrick walls:
one trench runs on the western and southern sides and the other on
the northernmost three quarters of the eastern side (on the north
side there's instead another wall); each subsidiary tomb has its own
separate superstructure, a round topped, rubble filled midbrick mini-mastaba
of 1,70 x 1,45m and less than half a meter in height. The retainers
were slain at the time of the burial of the tomb's owner; they were
servants, attendants, a dwarf (subsid.
tomb 58) and some dogs.
Interestingly enough S3504 was plundered and burnt not long after
the burial period and the terminus ante quem is provided by
the certain signs of reconstruction and repairs which were accomplished
under Qa'a: the burnt burial chamber was cleared and reinforced by
a thick (1,2m) mudbrick wall which reduced its area.
The original substructure was a 22,6 x 10,2m trench, the central part
of which was dug at 3,1m below the ground level forming the burial
chamber (originally 7,1 x 5,7m); two large rooms on the N and two
on the S of the burial chamber occupied the same pit of the latter
but at more than 1m higher in level; on this same floor eight smaller
magazines on the E and eight on the W sides were separately dug.
One curious feature Emery noticed on the south wall of the burial
chamber was a recessed niche at some cm from the floor which probably
had housed a wooden panel as those of the 11 niches of Hesyra's tomb
S2405; at the foot of the wooden panel recess, an bricked offering
cache contained the skeletons of two gazelles (GT II, 11f., pl. 14).
The superstructure magazines contained a large amount of stone and
pottery vessels (for the first time with pot- marks in a noticeable
quantity and variety, ibid., fig. 100-102), many clay seal impression
of jars, flint, furniture, game pieces (marbles, a lotus-like pawn,
an ivory dice-stick), arrow heads, a gold ring, and an wooden
Nine more labels were found in the burial chamber (OO) and few others
in the surrounding underground rooms; also an ivory (wand?) inscribed
with Djet's serekh followed by the name of Sekhemkha-Sedj came from
OO as well as human bones of an approx. 26 y.o. adult, scattered in
the burial chamber with a vast mass of broken wood furniture, pottery
and stone vessels fragments, sandals, toilet sticks, copper tools,
leather, gold inlay and objects of unknown use (see ibid., pl. 26-35).
The inscriptional material (ibid., 102-127) thus consisted of seal
impressions; incised and painted short texts on stone vessels; ink
inscriptions (oil income) of Sekhemkasedj on pottery jars (similar
to those of Aha on S3357 cylinder vessels); important ivory and wooden
labels [ibid., fig. 105 (the oldest
known example with the rnpt-year sign on the right), 108,
109, 110-112, 113,
116, 117-119, 120,
121 (115-121 name the Per-Hedj treasury), 122
(rnpt-year sign on the right), 123
(this one is of Qa'a's reign), 124
(inventory of commodities for the Per-Desher ?), 125
(perhaps arranged in five columns)]. A further label of Djet and Sekhemka,
perhaps also from this tomb and similar to the one in fig. 105, was
published five years later by Vikentiev (ASAE
The reign of Den marked an important step forward, not only
in funerary architecture development, but also in the progress of
the State and of its subsystems (administration, economy, crafts,
religion, kingship) as witnessed by the proliferation of titles of
nobles, officials and lesser aristocracy (stelae of Abydos and Abu
Rawash), the increment in the use of seals and labels,
the arts masterpieces (stone vessels fashioned
in daring shapes and materials), new attributes of the king(ship)
(the new 'Nswt-bity' royal title, canonization of king's role, attire
and attitude; cf. H. Sourouzian, in: Kunst des Alten Reich = SDAIK
28, 1995, 133-154; id., in: Grimal ed., Les Critères de datation...,
= BdE 120, 1998, 305-352).
By far most of the known First Dynasty private tombs date to Den's
reign (esp. at Saqqara and at Abu Rawash).
S3503 (42,6x16m) (GT II, 1954, 128-170; Helck, in: LÄ V, 290-1, fig. 4) Situated immediately North of S3504 and in line with the latter tomb axis, S3503 was surrounded by 20/22 subsidiary burials, the enclosure wall and, on the north side, a brickwork casing for a funerary boat was found beyond the subsidiary burials A-C, south of S3500 (it was c. 13m north of S3503, and its maximum length was 17,75m: 'unlike the boat graves of tomb 3357 and 3036 it was not sunk below ground level and the brick casing rests entirely on the surface', op. cit., 138, fig. 203).
The tomb had 9 niches (10 bastions) on the longer side and three on the short ones; some of them retained traces of painting; at the base of the niches Emery encountered post-holes, as in S3357 and S2185: these cut the pavement mud plastering (GT II, 131f., fig. 201) and Emery interpreted them as traces of the workers'/painters' supporting scaffolds.
Some boat models and other pottery broken objects were found in subs. pit F (op. cit., 147-8), while the occupant of pit T had a copper blade still at his ankle, and that of pit A kept a strange copper (surgical?) tool in a wooden box found close to his skeleton.
Most of the superstructure (21) magazines were well preserved but plundered, some were collapsed or had been set on fire (soon?) after the plundering.
The substructure pit measured 14,25 x 4,5m and was divided in 5 chambers, the central one (L) was the burial chamber (op. cit., p. 141, fig. 204): this was 4,80 x 3,50 in size and contained fragments of a wooden sarcophagus (c. 2,7 x 1,8m) on which base few small parts of human bones and gold foil remains were found scattered.
The chamber also contained remains of a funerary meal (animal bones from 6 stone bowls/jars and a pottery vessel found beside the sarcophagus), pottery vessels near the walls, traces of wooden and basketwork chests, three fragmentary wood canopy poles.
Few potmarks were found on large wine jars (fig. 223); most of the stone vessels dated to the reign of Djer, as also the seal impressions (Kaplony, IAF I, 79-80). At least 2 seal impressions were found alternating the serekh of Djer with a serekh-like device containing the name of Mer-Neith (with a topping Neith standard instead of the Horus falcon; cf. fig. 226 and pl. 55; this recalls the similar name of Neith-Hotep in the serekh); Merneith's name was also traced on two of the stone vessels forming the funerary repast in room L (cf. p. 142, fig. 205-6, with khenty).
S3507 (total size: 44,35x22,25m; only the mastaba: 37,9x15,8m)
is a pre-stairway mastaba dated to the reign of Den; perhaps
its owner was Queen Herneith, a wife of Djer died in the first
part of Den's reign (GT III, 73-97).
The tomb was found in an area where also minor 3rd Dynasty tombs had
been located; some of these had to be removed during the excavation
being built above parts of S3507. This was the last mastaba of the
1st Dynasty Emery cleared near the eastern escarpment of the cemetery
(December 31, 1955 - March 3, 1956).
The superstructure is the best preserved of all, in some points up
to c. 2,5m (F.R. photo 1; F.R.
photo 2 + plan);
it is divided into 29 magazines by crossing walls (0,65m thick). Inside
one of the magazines it was found a limestone
slab (width: 0,395m, thickness: 0,41m) which had been used to
retain the west wall of the shaft of one of the small Third Dynasty
tombs built over S3507; this slab is decorated in relief with a scene
consisting of two standing kings with long beard, red crown and Heb
Sed robe on the right and a baboon surrounded by four birds (hieroglyphs)
on the left; Emery suggested it was perhaps a trial piece and certainly
a reuse in the 3rd Dynasty tomb, dating it to the period of S3507
and however not after the end of the Second Dynasty (ibid., 78, 79,
84; cf. also A.J. Spencer, British Museum, 1980, n. 16. BM 67153);
indeed the framing band of the stela and the shape of falcon and owl
recall that of Qa-Hedjet in Louvre
(which is however far better refined and certainly somewhat later).
The tomb is surrounded by an enclosure wall which has a gateway (1,65m
wide) nearby the southern end of the east wall; 0,65m beneath this
entrance Emery excavated the tomb of a saluki dog, the guardian of
Herneith's sepulchre (ibid., pl. 91); no other subsidiary tomb was
found around the mastaba.
At the feet of the mastaba niches there is a low bench as in S3504,
which also has some clay bull's head with real horns; the corridor
(2,9m wide) between the bench and the external enclosure has a green
painted mud paving.
The substructure consists of a pit (size on ground level: 5,25x3,15m;
depth: 4,75m) with a ramp on its N side and two roofs: the first one
few cm above the ground level and the second one at 2,50m from the
bottom of the pit.
The southern part of the lower roof is occupied by two rock-cut pilasters
on which a limestone lintel had been laid; this latter is decorated
with a row of hammered out crouching lions (ibid., pl. 96; Archaic
Egypt, pl. 32); the lintel supports a stone roof covering the southern
part of the burial chamber where pottery and stone vessels were found.
In the northern part of the burial chamber there were remains of the
wooden coffin and human bones; around the sarcophagus small dishes
and food (ox bones) had been set into little brick-niches; there were
also many remains of jewelry (in faience, lapislazuli, carnelian,
gold and broken bracelets of ivory and stones) gaming pieces and flint.0.
Above the higher roof of the burial pit Emery cleared "a rectangular
tumulus of sand and rubble, cased with a single layer of bricks laid
in tile fashion" (ibid., 77, 79; size: m10,50x9,20; max height
Inscriptions (ibid., 93ff.): seal impressions of Den and Sekhka;
names and titles scratched on pottery (one with Her-Neith, another
with Sma Nebwy), serekhs of Den with indication of northern or southern
oil incomes (painted on jars), once again 'Sma Nbwy' incised on a
ivory cylinder vessel and 'Hwt-Mr-Khentyamentyw' on an ivory tile.
P. Kaplony (IAF I, 1963, 90-95) dated the tomb to the same period as Umm el-Qaab Y (Merneith).
S3035 was discovered by Firth in 1930 (Firth, ASAE 31,
1941, 47), but it was Emery to complete its clearance.
The finds from the very large tomb of Hemaka (m57,3
x 26; cf. the size of the huge mastaba at Naqada, m 52 x 26), which
was the first one at Saqqara that Emery excavated (in 1936, see below)
and published (The Tomb of Hemaka, 1938), were impressive and unexpected
at that time for a First Dynasty private burial (only few years later
Emery advanced that S3035 was a royal tomb); despite the contents
of the then already known Covington tomb at Giza (V), those of Tarkhan
1060, 2038, 2050, and Naqada, Egyptologists were nearly unprepared
to the mass of goods which the tomb of Hemaka yielded (now on exibit
in Cairo Museum): vast amounts of pottery (329 with potmarks, op.
cit., 53f., pl. 38-42) and stone vessels (ibid., 55ff., pl. 28-37;
the beautiful but fragmentary schist bowl in form of a feather: ibid.,
pl. 19C), scores of seal impressions of eight different types with
the serekh of Den and the name and titles of Hemaka (ibid., 62-64;
Kaplony, IAF I-III); flint implements (ibid., pl. 11), hard stone
top-game disks (ibid., 28ff., pl. 12-14) one of which with an inlay
hunting scene decoration (JdE 70104); wooden tools, an ebony label
of Djer (ibid., 35ff.), two small ivory labels of Hemaka (ibid.,
39, cat. 412 and 413)
and few more uninscribed wooden labels; an uninscribed roll of papyrus;
a limestone slab with a bull and a monkey painted in black ink (ibid.,
pl. 19D); fragments of wooden boxes (see ibid., pl. 23A for an inlaid
cylindrical one), bags and textiles; ivory fragments of bull leg supports
of a gaming board; some wooden sickles and adzes handles (ibid., 33f.,
pl. 15-16) and nearly 500 arrows of five different types (ibid., 45-48,
The superstructure of this tomb is divided into 45 magazines; the
substructure consists of a central pit (the burial chamber m 9,5 x
4,9 its floor at more than 9m of depth and at 11,75m from the top
of the mastaba) surrounded by three rooms separately dug in the rock
and accessible through short doorways at the N and S ends of the western
side of the central chamber, the third one at the N end of the eastern
side; at the S of the eastern side there is the lower part of the
stairway: after c. 7m from there it passes in a mudbrick gateway and
13m beyond this one, after three portcullis, the ramp reaches the
ground level, 9m east and off of the tomb niched wall.
S3036 (41x22m) was found by Firth in 1930 (ASAE 31,
1931, 47) and re-excavated by Emery in 1936 (GT I, 1949, 71-81).........
As mentioned above, the reign of Den was the apex of the constructional
'ratio' (in tombs number and in their size); but during the reign
of his successors the tombs, despite of a minor size, did not spare
In the reign of Adjib S3338 and especially the cited S 3038
were built; the stepped core of the latter resembled a micro step-pyramid
(cf. above and below).
S3338 (30,5x14m) ..........
belonged to the official Nebitka (Nebtka). (Emery, ASAE 38,
1938, 455-9; id. GT I, 82-94).
This tomb was, with S3471 (see above), the most awaited one of Emery's
It had been cleared in 1936 but the war delayed its publication (GT
I, 1949, containing 8 tombs); Firth had already worked on the superstructure
and burial chamber in 1931 but he didn't arrive to recognize the peculiar
character of this tomb (he died in the same year) which was attributed
to Den's reign by seal impressions of Den and Ankhka.
S3038 was of great importance because it displayed three constructional
phases, in the first two of which the tomb featured a stepped superstructure
which was considered a prototype of the Step Pyramid.
Emery also compared this stepped building with the representation
of Za-Ha-Hor on stone vessels of Adjib's
Heb Sed from Step Pyramid and Abydos X.
The few sealings of Den suggest that it was at the end of his reign
that the construction began, although it must have been concluded
only during the short reign (c. 10 years) of Adjib. Owing to the uniform
size, color and texture of the bricks used all through the three phases,
Emery suggested that the interval between them had to be rather short.
The tomb measured (in Period A) 22,7 x 10,55; N and S of the central
pit, but at an higher level, there were two magazines (on the northern
one there were nine bricked tubular grain bins with a pottery cap
on their top and an outlet at their base; these were blocked by a
stone and covered with Nebitka's mud seal-impressions); from E the
stairway led, after a portcullis, to the burial chamber; another shorter
stairway, just south of the first one, led to a magazine above the
burial chamber; this latter measured 7,8 x4,75 and its floor was 6,10m
from the top of the superstructure.
The eastern façade of the mastaba was vertical, while on the
other three sides there were eight steps looking like a truncated
pyramid: Emery hypothesized (ibid., 84) that perhaps an higher structure
of perishable materials was built on the top of it. The stepped structure
was 2,30m high (preserved up to the top) and faced with fine mud plaster.
An ox, probably sacrificed in this period, was found below the fourth
niche (from N) of the W wall of period C.
In the second phase (Period B) the southern half of the topping terrace
was raised and a wide brick terrace was added around the superstructure,
which thus reached the size of m12,55 x 35 (or more).
In the last phase (Period C) the tomb was provided with the usual
palace façade, and the superstructure partially filled and
subdivided into magazines; in the middle of the N and S façade
a stair gave access to the superstructure.
The two magazines and the burial chamber between them were further
subdivided with mudbrick crossing walls which thus reduced their space.
Finds: the cited seal impressions, 31 stone vessels, flint implements,
some pottery vessels with few pot-marks.
Few meters east of S3038 is S3111 (m29,20 x 12,05) which
Emery found early in 1936 (GT I, 1949, 95-106).
It was dated to Adjib by seal impressions of the official Sabu,
who, alike Nebitka, served under Den and Adjib.
This tomb had no stairway, the superstructure was completely filled
with sand and pottery jars were found in the fill (a custom typical
of Second Dynasty tombs) at the SW corner; north of them Emery found
a nearly 1m high stone platform (m3,60x2,50) of unknown purpose.
An intact subsidiary burial was found in front of the third rampart
(from N) of the western façade of the mastaba.
The substructure pit was 10,45x6m, 2,55m deep below the ground, not
in perfect axis with the external niched wall (few degree W of it);
it was divided in seven compartment, four N and two S of the burial
chamber; this latter was m3,40 (N-S) x 5,40 (W-E).
Although plundered, the burial chamber was found rather in order,
the skeleton of Sabu still in situ (ibid., 98, pl. 40 B,C) within
the remains of a wooden coffin, head to the N (NW) facing W (SW);
some bones had been broken surely by the plunderers in search of jewelry.
There were also stone and pottery vessels (50 pot-mark types), two
boxes for flint knives, arrows, few copper tools, two ox skeletons;
the schist bowl in fragments (Cairo, JdE 71295) is certainly a masterpiece
in the genere (ibid., fig. 58, pl. 40A,B; El-Khouli, Stone Vessels,
1978, n. 5586).
For the subsequent ruler, Semerkhet, no tomb has been excavated
or known at present (but some small one might have existed as Step
Pyramid Complex stone vessels and a potmark
[in: Emery, Hemaka, 54] showing this king's name(s) let us suppose;
nonetheless, given the short reign of Semerkhet, it could be that
no outstanding official died within its course and dignitaries whom
also served Semerkhet, like Henuka,
died and were buried only under Qa'a).
Kaplony (IAF I, 144) cites W.S. Smith's recovery of Firth's excavation
notes containing an hint to a seal impression of Semerkhet (Sesh
Seshat Semerkhet) from FS 3060; Helck (LÄ V, 399)
is probably right in supposing that the tomb and sealing might instead
be of Sekhemkhet's reign (3rd Dynasty).
Emery (GT III, 4) supposed that the lack of tombs dated to Semerkhet
was to be explained in view of the possible unacknowledged position
of this king in the dynastic line: the reuse of stone vessels of Adjib
by Semerkhet and the erasing
of the latter's name by Qa'a was considered a proof of the status
of usurper of Semerkhet (but see instead the series of names Den-Qa'a,
Semerkhet-Qa'a which show no trace of
To the end of the Dynasty S 3500 and S 3505 (Emery,
GT III, 1958, 5-36) are dated (reign of Qa'a): S3505
(total size: m65,20 x 40; only the mastaba: m24,15 N-S x 35,10 E-W)
revealed a true proto-funerary temple in the northern side also resembling
the later north-temple of the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser. A stela
found near a niche of the eastern façade revealed the name
and titles of the owner Merka. Other important findings from
this tomb were the bases and feet of two wooden statues found in a
niche of the northern temple; traces of mat-motifs color-paintings
on the palace façade (like those already found in other tombs
as 3506, 2405); the presence of a very simple
pattern of niches on the western wall of the tomb, whereas the other
three sides were built with the usual complex design; some clay bull's
heads with real horns laying on the base of the bench surrounding
the niched walls (like those found in Sekhemka S3504); finally, among
the stone vessels fragments and the jar mud seal impression, an incised
vessel with the name of the mysterious king Seneferka and a
sealing which could not be attributed to anyone of the rulers known
from that period (Cf. here for both these
(37,10x23,35m) This late 1st Dynasty (reign of Qa'a) was found by
Emery in May 1946 between S2185 and the escarpment edge; it already
shows further signs of the transition towards the 2nd Dynasty architectural
forms; the most evident one is the presence of only one niche on the
façade, at the south end of the eastern side; the rest of the
superstructure is plain like the enclosure wall around it; this latter
is open on the SW corner. The plan/section
of the tomb can give a good idea of its general layout, but some characteristics
must be here evidenced, namely the presence of only four subsidiary
tombs on the southern side of the superstructure (partly underneath
the S enclosure wall): their aspect differs from that of the early
and mid 1st Dynasty retainers' burials, because they have a "leaning
barrel vault", which is the earliest evidence presently known
in Egypt of brick vault roof (cf. figure; other later examples are
the archway passages of 3rd dyn. mastaba K2 at
These are the latest remains of the "barbaric custom"
of servants sacrifice at Saqqara; the later tombs didn't show similar
subsidiary burials, whereas it seems that few retainers were still
slain at Abydos in the late Second Dynasty royal tombs. Three of the
four subsidiary tombs were found intact and the westernmost ones (n.
1 and 2) still had the dead bodies (a middleaged man and an old woman;
head to the S facing W) wrapped in linen within the coffin; each one
had a foreign flask and a wood cylinder seal (one uninscribed and
another one with faint painted inscr.).
Another interesting feature is the magazine in the northern part of
the superstructure: it was divided in two parts, the W one filled
with wine jars and the E one containing model clay granaries/bins
and jars (see fig., upper-center).
More jars were found in the filling or on the floor of the burial
chamber along with stone vessels.
The burial chamber is accessed by a stepped passage from east (provided
by two small side-magazines and two portcullis) and it consists of
a E-W rectangular (8,10x5,40m) pit without any internal subdivisions.
Few objects were found apart from vessels: some flint blades and seal
impressions; these latter bore the serekhs of Horus Qa'a and the titles
of a xrp Xrj-ib and nbj; one had a possible personal name Sn-Neith
(GT III, pl. 124, 3).
SX (see above)
In 1995 M. Youssef Inspector of Antiquities at Saqqara made
some sondages on a late(?) First Dynasty mastaba only 50m NW of the
Inspectorate office (Youssef, GM 152, 1996, 105-111).
This large tomb (unnumbered) SCA 1995 (c. 51x27,5m)
was found c. 40m W of S3507 which was considered to be the southernmost
of the North Saqqara necropolis; SCA 1995 is thus not on the edge
of the escarpment but it occupies the second row of tombs (directly
at few more than 100m S of S3505) and actually it is it the southern-most
archaic tomb known at N Saqqara (its southern wall c. 20m south of
that of 3507; cf. ibid., fig. 1).
The niched wall is 4,79m thick (c. 1m deep niches) and it was surrounded
by one (?) plain enclosure wall; on the north side it seems to exist
a possible parallel with the S3505 funerary temple (ibid., 106f.)
and also the sheer size of the tomb and that of its bricks (0,23 x
0,11 x 0,07m) point to a date to the reign of Qa'a.
Contrarily to most of the North Saqqara tombs (and certainly to all
those in the 1st Dynasty easternmost rows) this tomb showed signs
of having been built over by Graeco-Roman period burials of children
in small wooden coffins and some dogs in baskets. Pottery of late
period was also found along with older stone vessels and other objects.
In 2003 a more thorough excavation was carried out, revealing interesting stone vessels fragments with the incised serekh of Sneferka/Neferkaes, which haven't been published yet.
I am inclined at least to suspect that the southernmost limit of the
archaic necropolis might also have not been that of tombs SX, S3507
and SCA 1995, and that, perhaps, the cemetery continued up to N of
the wadi c. 200m SE of Teti's pyramid (on the latitude of the pyramid
of Userkaf) where the ground looks still good for building: there
are Late period brick walls, the destroyed pyramid Lepsius XXX and
a Stone Mastaba; but indeed the same presence of these structures
could also be a sign that the Archaic cemetery didn't prosecute beyond
the Inspectorate offices: as we have seen, with very few exceptions
(i.e. SCA 1995), the First Dynasty tombs were not overbuilt in later
periods; furthermore, at the time of the construction of the Inspectorate
Office and magazines any older structure encountered would have been
signalled, as it happened in 1937-8 with tomb SX (see above).
Auguste Mariette (1821-1881) was the first one
to carry out 'scientific' excavations at North Saqqara after the explorations
of the period of Vyse and Perring and the more recent Prussian expedition
of Lepsius (1845).
In 1950 Mariette discovered the Serapeum where the Apis bulls were
buried and ten years later he made further astonishing discoveries
as the Old Kingdom mastabas of Ka-Aper (with the wooden statue of
the "Sheikh el-Balad"), Ranofer, Hesira (see below) and
Ti (among the most beautiful ones as far as decorations); Mariette
also carried out excavations to the north of the Djoser complex (where
Sheri's mastaba B3 must be located) and even
in the North Saqqara plateau; most of his posthmous 1889 publication
was devoted to Old Kingdom tombs (espec. Dyn. IV-V), but some earlier
tombs were also included like the mentioned tomb of Hesi (MM A3) and
MM A2 (= S3073, twin mastaba of Khabawsokar and Hathorneferhotep,
cf. id., Les Mastabas, 1889, 71-79; N. Cherpion, Or. Lov. Period.
11, 1980, 79-90; M. Murray, Saqqara Mastabas 1905; panels Cairo Museum,
Almost certainly Mariette worked in the North Saqqara eastern slope
as well; Emery noticed that traces of modern excavations, possibly
accomplished by Mariette or on his behalf, were found during the clearing
of S3505 early in 1954 (Emery, GT III, 11); this was the only N. Saqqara
tomb of the 15 extensively published by Emery to produce any remains
from previous archaeological activities.
In this period the interest was equally devoted onto the Step Pyramid
which had been re-explored by Lepsius and which surrounding complex
was still unknown; Mariette made an interesting discovery in one of
the galleries beneath what was later known to be Djoser's complex
North Court (western part): in the tomb MMA4 (= n. 86) (Les
Mastabas, 83-86; PM III², 415) he found two alabaster tables
with lions heads, probably used to embalm single organs as viscera
(Cairo Mus. CG 1321; for the galleries see also Firth, ASAE 28, 1928,
82-83, pl. 3; Lauer, PD I, 1926, 185-186; id. PD III, 1939, pl.
22, shaft c). A4 dates to the latter part of the Second Dynasty.
A similar gallery, but with E-W orientation, was found in the same
court some meters north of A4 entrance (Firth, ASAE 27, 1927, 107f.;
Lauer, PD I, 183ff., fig. 208; Lauer, PD III, pl.
22, shafts P8-P9; PM III², 415): seal impressions of Khasekhemwy
and Netjerykhet and large amounts of bread and fruits were found in
Almost fifty years after the work by Mariette, James Edward Quibell
[photo](1867-1935), who had made
experience working in 1895-1900 at Naqada and Ballas and at Hierakonpolis
and El Kab, became the Chief Inspector of Saqqara (1911).
In the first part of the Second Dynasty we find some of the largest
tombs of the Northern necropolis (reign of Njnetjer) as S 2302 and
S 2407: many of these mastabas were excavated by Quibell in 1911-1914
but published (all except Hesyra's 2405, see below) only ten years
later, after the war (Excavations at Saqqara 1912-14. Archaic Mastabas,
1923; Quibell cleared the tombs in sectors D1 to F2 and G2-G3 of this
The archaeological standards (both in excavation as in publication)
were indeed somewhat far from those of the next generation of Egyptologists
like Lauer and Emery (and also from those of his old master Petrie
and from those of F.W. Green); furthermore, despite the notes Quibell
took at the time of the works, the long forced delay in the publication
certainly didn't play in favour of his memory.
The 1st World War stopped the excavation at Saqqara for 15 years,
until Cecil Mallaby Firth [photo]
(1878-1931) was entrusted to reopen them; in 1927 he was appointed
Chief Inspector of Saqqara. Firth had already acquired many years
of experience during the First Archaeological Survey in Nubia 1907-1911
(he published with G. Reisner several very important A-group cemeteries)
and he later began the clearing and exploration of the Step Pyramid
complex (published with Quibell after his death: Step Pyramid, 1935;
also cf. his reports in ASAE 1926-1927 in bibl. below); early in 1930
Firth had begun to clear some Archaic tombs of the North Saqqara plateau
(ASAE 31), in view of the masterpiece on the OK tombs development
which G. A. Reisner was preparing (Reisner, Tomb Development, 1936);
but Firth died in 1931 and only a small part of his notes were recovered
by Reisner, W.S. Smith (who planned for Reisner in 1933 the most imposing
tombs known) and W.B. Emery (FS 3035, FS3036, FS 3038, FS3041 had
been discovered by Firth); but most of Firth's work results unfortunately
The same fate attended Quibell who had moved to the Step Pyramid Complex
after the war: he died in 1935.
In 1935 Lacau's, Firth's and Quibell's inheritance of the excavation
of the Step Pyramid Complex was definitively handed down to J.P. Lauer
(whom had started working there, still a young boy, since the 2nd
excavation campaign in 1926; see below), while Quibell's and Firth's
task at North Saqqara passed into the hands of Walter B. Emery.
WALTER BRYAN EMERY
[Click here for the page
of W.B. Emery
Egyptologist Walter Bryan Emery was born in Liverpool
on July 2, 1903. Before his career in Egyptology started he had
been addressed by his parents to the Marine Engineering, where
he learnt the principles of draughtsmanship which will be brilliantly
exploited into the line drawings illustrations of his books plates.
In 1923 he participated to the EES excavation campaign at Amarna
as student assistant thanks to a recommendation by T.E. Peet.
In 1924 he was already Field Director of sir Robert Mond's Excavations
at Thebes for the Liverpool University.
He made several clearings, restorations and protective operations
into a score of tombs at Sheikh Abd el-Gurnah and in the following
years, a 22 years old boy, he was directing four hundred men for
the clearance and restoration of the wonderful tomb of the Town
Governor and Visir Ramose (TT 55); few years later he also drew
the fac-simile of Ramose's tomb reliefs which easied the task
for Davies' publication.
In 1927-28 he worked, still for R. Mond, at Armant where he discovered
the Buchis bulls catacombs: it was Emery's first animal necropolis
before the long series he'll excavate at Saqqara in the last ten
years of his life.
The following season he joined H. Frankfort in the excavations
at Armant where Emery was accompained by his wife Molly, married
in 1928. In the six following years they were together in Nubia
for five campaigns of rescue of sites and monuments after the
construction of the new Aswan dam. The most amazing and difficult
task proved to be the research (1931) on the Tumuli of Ballana
and Qustul, which it was still doubt whether they were natural
formations or artificial mounds. The IV-VIth century A.D. X-Group
kings who ruled Lower Nubia after the fall of Meroe had been buried
beneath those mounds with their wooden chests, weapons, glass
vessels, furniture, silver harnessed horses and camels, sacrificed
servants and wives (The Royal Tombs of Ballana and Qustul, 1938).
The Nubian survey ended up in 1934 and in the following year his
presence was requested at Saqqara where he was asked to continue
the excavation of the archaic cemetery interrupted four years
before on C.M. Firth's demise.
At Saqqara Emery started in 1935 from tomb FS 3035, which Firth
had only partially cleared (cf. the plan in Reisner, Tomb Development);
for the first time it was shown that, unlike most of the 2nd and
3rd Dynasty mastabas dug by J. E. Quibell before the war, the
First Dynasty tombs contained magazines even in their superstructure:
FS3035 had 45, and many still contained part of their original
provisions (cf. above).
Emery estabilished with P. Lacau that, after the recording of
the loose tombs which Firth had commenced to dig, "only the
systematic clearance of the whole site square by square"
could do justice to such an important cemetery.
More tombs excavated or re-excavated in 1937-39 were published
by Emery only after the Second World war (GT I, 1949): S3036,
3111, 3038, 3120, 3121, 3338, X (also cf. GT III, 1958, 1-2).
In 1938 he had also discovered S3357, the oldest tomb known at
Saqqara, which was soon published in the next year (Hor Aha, 1939);
this publication opened the famous dispute between those who thought
that the Early Dynastic kings were buried just in those tombs
at Saqqara (the Abydos tombs being regarded as mere cenotaphs)
and those who instead still shared Petrie's view maintaining that
Abydos was the royal cemetery (see above).
The last find/excavation before the war was S3471, which contained
an incredible quantity of copper (cf. above).
After the war, Emery found (in 1946) the mastabas S3500 and 3503;
in the following 7 years the works were stopped.
For a short period Emery dedicated to the diplomatic career; then
he obtained the Chair of Egyptology at University College, London
in 1951 and he was appointed Field Director of the EES in 1952;
in 1953 the fieldwork at Saqqara were started once again.
In this period he excavated S3503 (discovered in 1946), and found
four new tombs: S3504, S3505, S3506 and S3507 (published in GT
II/III, 1954, 1958). S3507 was the last mastaba of the 1st Dynasty
excavated on the eastern ridge of the North Saqqara plateau; in
the last 7 years of his life Emery worked on the other side of
the plateau (see below).
Unfortunately the whole complex of 'minor' tombs, e.g. the smaller
ones of First Dynasty date and those of the Second and Third Dynasty,
which Emery had worked at during the 1933-1939 / 1945-1947 seasons,
have never been published at all (see Archaic Egypt, 158-164,
From 1956 to 1964 he was in Nubia for the salvage campaigns (7
seasons) of the sites and monuments threatened by the High Dam
of Aswan. It was in these years that he published two divulgative
and interpretative books: Archaic Egypt (1961) and Egypt in Nubia
(1965); in 1962 he published a small report on the Second Dynasty
tomb 3477 in which an intact funerary repast had been found (A
Funerary repast, 1962).
He was finally back to North Saqqara in October 1964; he found
some Third Dynasty mastabas on the western part of the Northern
plateau, where he discovered the tomb of Hetepka (published by
Martin in 1979) and the Ibis galleries; in these years he began
to think that there could have been a relation between these animals
necropoleis and the Third Dynasty mastabas, perhaps a possible
indication that the seat of the tomb of Imhotep should
have been very near; in 1967 Emery was operated but forty days
later he was already beginning a new work season; in 1968/9 he
cleared and planned a large (m 52x19) 3rd Dynasty twin Mastaba
(S3518, Djoser's reign) and the Baboons necropolis; next year
the catacombs of the falcons and those of the cows, the Mothers
of Apis bulls, together with large amounts of late period objects
were brought to light; in 1970-71 it was the turn of a new Ibis
catacomb and more nearby tombs of the Third Dynasty: S3050, S3519
(cf. Emery's reports in JEA 51-57; Martin, Smith, Jeffreys in
JEA 60, 63); but in the last five years his health conditions
had often been difficult and only his character strength allowed
him to pursue day by day in the work which he had loved for all
his life. Few days before the end of the 1970-71 season he lost
consciousness after the morning work and died four days later
in the night of March 11, 1971 (H.S. Smith, in: JEA 57, 1971,
190-201); Emery was the most important figure working and
walking through the North Saqqara plateau in the middle of the
last century, his contribute to the knowledge of the Early Dynastic
period was perhaps second only to J.P. Lauer's, whose name was
still more indissolubly tied to the necropolis of Saqqara; both
these men shared a profound affective attachment to this site,
an indefatigable will to tear the past out of the its sands and
an undoubt professionality in undertaking their work and documenting
it with very high standards of publication.
The EES works at North Saqqara were prosecuted for some years
by G.T. Martin and H.S. Smith; in 1976, when the excavations were
definitively closed, the EES declared that (apud J. D. Ray, WA
10:2, 1978, 151) the "mummified zoo" which Emery and
co. had discovered amounted to 4 million mummified ibises, 500.000
hawks, 500 baboons, 20 cows, 4000 dedicatory statues, about 1000
documents in demotic and other texts in Greek, Aramaic, Coptic,
Carian, Arabic and an unknown language using the Greek alphabet;
not to count the terraced temples and the tombs.
But for us the most precious inheritance he's left is certainly
the series of sixteen First Dynasty tombs wonderfully published
in five books, twenty years of professional excavations at North
Saqqara East (1936-1956), a number of articles and reports (esp.
in JEA, ASAE and The Illustrated London News), the first synthesis
of the Archaic Egypt culture and a clear example of full dedition
to the passion of a life by one of the greatest names of Egyptology
PART III: SECOND DYNASTY MONUMENTS
The Second Dynasty private tombs development initiated with
the end of the previous Dynasty; under Qa'a the pattern of niches
gradually simplified and the superstructure began to lack magazines
(cf. S3024, in GT I).
The main characteristic of the tombs of this period were thus the
plain façade with only two niches on the east (the southern
one being the larger which will increase in size and complexity),
the lack of enclosure wall, lack of rooms in the superstructure (although
some tombs had small rectangular tank-like compartments of mudbrick
or large quantities of pottery loosely deposited in the gravel and
rubble filling of the mastaba, cf. Archaic Egypt, pl. 12-13; Quibell,
Archaic Mastabas: pl. 15, S2171; pl. 16, S2105; pl. 20, S2322); the
ramp's side-storerooms were moved down becoming true rooms and the
whole substructure was now carved in the rock. It generally had a
stairway to the east (starting from within the floor of the filled
mastaba) which after some meters curved of 90° southwards; heavy
limestone portcullis lowered from above blocked the main corridor
which branched off with storerooms; at the southern end of the gallery
there was the latrine and lavatory on the left (the relationship between
tombs and houses is still more stressed) while the burial chamber
was generally on the western part of the main axis extremity.
In this period the wooden coffins (Archaic Egypt, pl. 24-25) still
retain the niched aspect and the earliest traces of mummification
practices appear: the bodies are not only wrapped in lined bandages
(as the forearm with bracelets found by Petrie in Umm el-Qaab O) but
the characteristical parts of the body are modelled over and beneath
the wrappings by soaked substances (ibid., 162f.).
Most of the dated tombs of this period were built during the long
reign of Ninetjer as the large S2302 (Nirwab),
2307, 2337 and several smaller mastabas like S2171,
2498, 3009, 2429 (Khnwmenii) (cf. plans
and discussion of these tombs in the page of Ninetjer);
these tombs were cleared in 1912-1914 by Quibell and published in
form of a summary report ten years later (Quibell, Archaic Mastabas,
S3014 was dated to Wneg by three
stone vessels found in it by Firth (PD IV.2, 53, fig. 5).
S3477 of a (late?) Second Dynasty princess Shepsesipet
(CdE 27, 1939, 263-265; Emery, A Funerary Repast, 1962; id., Archaic
Egypt, 1961, 243-246, pl. 28-29; Helck, LA V, 391, 399; PM III²,
444) contained a complete funerary repast and a stela (Emery, op.
cit., 1961, pl. 32a; Kaplony, KBIAF, 1966, 104, Stela 35).
The same characters of the largest tombs of this period
(Ninetjer's reign) were noticed, but at a higher size and degree of
complexity, in the explorations of the early Second Dynasty Royal
tombs of Hotepsekhemwy and Ninetjer, located in the first part
of the XXth century; tomb
A was first discovered by A. Barsanti in 1900,
while S. Hassan (1938) was the first to enter Ninetjer's tomb
B; they are located south of the Step Pyramid complex
southern wall; recently one more (tomb
C) has been discovered further south near Horemheb's one,
probably to be dated into the middle of the Dynasty; it was reused
for Meryneith burial in the NK (excavations in 2001-2002 by R.
van Walsem and M. Raven; see the link below); the possibility
of the presence of more royal tombs of the Second Dynasty in this
area had already been suspected; in recent years the area between
tombs B and C has been the site of interesting finds, like the brick
inscribed with Nefer-Senedj-Ra cartouche name
and an alabaster vessel with Hwt-Ka Hrw Za (alike other found in the
Step Pyramid; see Wneg).
J.P. Lauer published a plan of tomb A in 1936 (PD I, fig. 2),
while only the 1990s explorations by P. Munro have produced
the first (partial) plan of tomb B (Kaiser, in FS Brunner-Traut, 1992,
167-190, fig. 4d).
Seal impressions of Nebra were found
by Barsanti in tomb A (Maspero, ASAE 3, 1902); the famous stela now
in Metropolitan Museum was discovered in Mit Rahina where it was used
as threshold of a house and published by H. G. Fischer (Artibus Asiae
24, 1961; cf. Lauer, Orientalia 35, 1966).
For details and figures of tomb A: Hotepsekhemwy;
for tomb B: Ninetjer; for tomb C: New
Royal Tomb; cf. the discussion in the Second
Dynasty introduction. (See also bibl. W. Kaiser, 1994).
The remaining part of the Second Dynasty has left but
few traces at Saqqara; this obviously reflected the difficult period
the state was undergoing; there seems to have been an important reprise
of building activity in the reign of Khasekhemwy,
although only few minor private (unpublished) tombs can be dated to
his reign (S3034, S3043).
I have already hinted above to the two main galleries found within
the NW part of Djoser's complex; the
material from these underground structures, both that found by Mariette
in MM A4 as well as the seal impressions from the northern one, dated
to the reigns of Khasekhemwy and Netjerykhet.
The vast NS tunnels and side chambers beneath the Step Pyramid Complex
Western Massif were explored by Firth and (perhaps too) accurately
planned by Lauer (PD I, fig. 206; PD III, pl. 22); R. Stadelmann (1985)
voiced the possibility of these being the underground parts of previous
rulers' tombs, noting the similarities with Hotepsekhemwy's tomb.
These dug out substructures were related by Stadelman (ibid.) to the
fainted stone constructions in West Saqqara, the best known of which
is the Gisr el Mudir (see pictures on
top of this page).
THE ROYAL ENCLOSURES IN WEST SAQQARA
Gisr el Mudir (Enclosure of
the Boss), (650x400m) is the oldest construction presently known
to have been built with such a massive use of stone masonry (Maragioglio-Rinaldi,
APM II, 53; Spencer, Orientalia 43, 1974, 3; Swelim, Some Problems,
1983, 33ff.; JEA 79, 1993 cit. below; Mathieson et. al., JEA 83, 1997,
17-53; JEA 85, 1999, 36-43).
The walls size is enormous for extension and thickness (more than
15-17m thick, covered by two parallel stone masonry embankments filled
with rubble and sand; such a wall, now preserved up to the 15th course
of stone in the NW corner 4,5/ 5 m high, had to be originally -or
in the builders' aim- at least 10m high); the enclosure total size
is about 650 x 400m (cf. Djoser's Step Pyramid Complex which measures
"only" 544,9 x 277,6m , thus being few more than half the
area of Gisr; this latter is also 4 times the area of Sekhemkhet's
The perimetral course of the Gisr el Mudir was first noticed by Perring
and later recorded by Lepsius. It was then also marked on De Morgan's
Carte de la Necropolis Memphite (1897) but for many years it
remained a riddle;
it was thought to be a further unfinished 3rd dynasty Step Pyramid
complex, a funerary enclosure like those at HK and Abydos, a cattle
precinct, or a military fort (barracks) for the guarding and patrolling
of the necropolis.
The first excavation was carried out by A. Salam Hussein (the Boss,
because then Director of the E.A. Service) in 1947-48; these remained
unpublished (but cf. Swelim, loc. cit.). W. Kaiser pointed the attention
onto the Abydos Talbezirke which became object of further researches
(Kemp, JEA 52, 1966; Kaiser, MDAIK 25, 1969; Kaiser-Dreyer, MDAIK
38, 1982; Stadelmann, op. cit., 1985; O' Connor, JARCE 26, 1989) while
a study by Swelim (MDAIK 47, 1991, 389ff.) and the resistivity/ magnetometry
based surveys by the National Museum of Scotland (directed by Ian
Mathieson, D. Jeffreys, Ana Tavares, H.S. Smith: JEA 79, 1993, 17-31,
esp. 28ff., n. 36; JEA 83, 1997) have shed in 1990s more light on
the huge enclosure of Western Saqqara.
Swelim has pointed out, on the basis of Cairo Map H22, various reciprocal
alignments between the Gisr el Mudir and significant parts (corners,
central axis, top of pyramids, prolongments of walls axis) of other
archaic monuments, like the two Step Pyramid complex, the Ptahhotep
Enclosure and perhaps even S3504 and tomb B (loc. cit., 402).
The NMS Survey used sub-surface remote sensing techniques (resistivity,
protonmagnetometer, sonic profiling, ground penetrating radar, thermal
imaging) have revealed many new aspects of this construction; first
of all the remote sensing techniques have reported anomalies which
have been subsequently sondaged in later campaigns:
at Abydos the Shunet ez Zebib and the Middle Fort bore traces of a
collapsed flat central mound which O'Connor correctly interpreted,
by the place it occupied, as a forerunner of the Mastaba M1 in the
Saqqara complex of Netjerykhet; but there doesn't seem to have ever
existed a central pyramid or mound within the Gisr el Mudir (JEA 85,
1999, 36ff.), a flat mound in the centre of it being the result of
De Morgan's clearence of a Greek period tomb.
The south wall of the enclosure seems to have been at least partly
unfinished; but it is hard to estabilish how much this fact owes to
the later use of this monument as a stone quarry; anyway no sign of
reuse for or from other roughly contemporary monuments of the area
has been recognized in relation to the Gisr el Mudir's poor quality
Moreover the apparent unfinished state of the southern wall might
be, in my opinion, otherwise explained: it seems that the western
half of this wall has a more northern course than the eastern part
(infact the west wall is c. 30m shorter than the opposite one); this
feature recalls the hieroglyph Wsekh (court) and the reconstructed
feature of the Dry Moat (cf. below) around the Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser
(Swelim, 1988), thus possibly being the access to the monument.
Unlike the Abydos enclosures, which were surrounded by subsidiary
tombs producing seal impressions and other inscriptional evidence
allowing a clear datation, only uninscribed pots and vessels have
been found in their West Saqqara counterpart: part of the beer jar
from some trenches opened beside the N and W walls of Gisr el Mudir
are certainly of late Second Dynasty type/date (JEA 83, 1997, 38-46)
but also much later pottery emerged.
Ptahhotep Enclosure: (Maragioglio e Rinaldi, APM II, 1963,
53, pl. 7; JEA 79, 1993, 27-28) alike Gisr el- Mudir, P. E. is sometimes
also called Great Enclosure; it is directly west of Djoser's temenos,
in the area recently cleared by Mysliwiec (cf. Stadelmann, Die Ägyptische
Pyramiden, 1997, 30, fig. 9; Lauer, BdE 97:2, 66).
Ptahhotep enclosure seems to have had at least some parts of the walls
(N, W) never completed, therefore we must expect that it might be
an unfinished construction (cf. below for Mysliwiec excavations within
The datation of Gisr el Mudir has been uncertain for nearly one century.
Swelim (Some Problems, 1983) was more inclined for a datation to the
reigns before Netjerykhet (to Khaba, Sa and Ba whom he had placed
in a disputable chronological phase between Khasekhemwy and Netjerykhet);
most of the other scholars dated them to Dyn. 3.
Rainer Stadelmann (op. cit., 1985, 304ff., fig. 3) and more recently
Ian Mathieson, propend for an earlier date.
Stadelmann also pointed out a possible third (stone-) wall course
between Gisr el Mudir and Sekhemkhet's one, but this wasn't confirmed
by the Saqqara Survey Project analysis: see JEA 79, 1993, 27.
The attributions to Second Dynasty kings that Stadelmann proposed
in 1985 and the link with tomb A, B and SPC Western Massif galleries
remain however purely hypothetical.
After the recent excavations by Mathieson we are inclined to credit
Gisr el Mudir as the royal enclosure of king Khasekhemwy
(JEA 83, 1997, 36, 38ff., 53), who is reported to have built the stone
building Mn-Ntrt in line V, 2
of the (recto of) Palermo Stone Annals.
No constructional succession in distinct building phases (like in
the two Step Pyramid Complex) has emerged in the Gisr el-Mudir; therefore,
whether unfinished or not, it must have been built during a short
reign or rather at the end of a king's reign: this is just what the
quoted Annals year-case seem to suggest; if Gisr el Mudir was was
really the Men-Neteret, this latter is indicated to have been
built only five years before the end of Khasekhemwy's reign.
PART IV.1: THIRD DYNASTY ROYAL MONUMENTS
THE STEP PYRAMID COMPLEX OF NETJERYKHET (DJOSER)
THE "DRY MOAT"
ROCK CUT TRENCH AROUND THE STEP PYRAMID COMPLEX (upd. 9/2006)
The so called "Dry Moat" around Netjerykhet's complex was evidenced in a study by Nabil Swelim after other Egyptologists' excavations in the area immediately south of Djoser's complex.
The clearance carried out in the 1940s by Z. Saad (ASAE 40, 1940, 692-93; CASAE 3, 1947, 55, 66, pl. 33-35) and by S. Hassan, made that area quite more 'defined' and the aerial photographs which were taken for the publications of Goneim and Lauer showed up some characters which had escaped to the mapping of Lepsius and Capart and in the earlier RAF photos (1920s). [The aerial photo atop this page (right) already clearly shows the west, north and east wide trenches; the width of the N one, just N and NE of Userkaf's Pyramid, is nearly as large as the pyramid side itself).
In Swelim's reconstruction [id., The Dry Moat of the Netjerykhet Complex, in: J. Baines ed., Pyramid Studies and other Essays presented to I.E.S. Edwards, 1988, 12-22; also cf. A. Dodson, The Mysterious Second Dynasty, KMT 7/2, 1996, 19-31; J. Leclant et al., Orientalia 63, 1994, 381] the Dry Moat would cover an area about 750x600m (!), and the shape would be that of an Usekhet-court (hieroglyph Gardiner O4 / O13) with the aperture on the south. The eastern course (which includes Userkaf's complex, the unusual orientation of which might be due to the presence of the trench) is clearly visible in the JEA 51, 1965 aerial photo (in Emery's paper pl. I, where also the northern course is clearly detectable).
The average width of the trench once cleared of sand would be between 30 and 40 m (!) and the depth varying according to the topography (26m in the southern part where also masonry paving was found by Saad). After the bend in the SE corner, the southern branch would continue straight westward up to the boat pit south of Unas Causeway. The other branch in this area of the opening of the Usekhet shape, would start 20m to the north of the outer one and c. 60 m east, in the area of the tombs of Bebi and Hotep, some meters more to the east of Djoser's complex east wall longitude. There might have been however other passages in the E and W trenches (as Swelim himself suggested basing on R. Lepsius' publication drawings).
Excavations in the 1970s (Moussa et al.) and 1990s (Munro) have not much helped in defining the extent, purpose and stratigraphy of the trench.
It seems very likely that Djoser aimed to exploit this feature and, except for the south side, there seems to be no reason to deny that the digging was of early IIIrd dynasty date.
This is hinted to by the Polish excavations in the western course, where C. Mysliwiec did find out that the slope of the trench was terraced and some features (subterranean W-E gallery, tombs of contemporary date?) were cut into it.
The excavated sector, revealed that these terraces between the W wall of Djoser's complex and the trench, were rock cut monumental stairs (1,5-2m tall and 20m large) of unknown purpose.
In the southern part of the great trench (on the south side of the southern, outer branch of the moat) rock cut niches were found by Z. Saad.
On the southern side, the inner trench (N of Unas pyr.) overlaps with the area of the entrance to the galleries of Hotepsekhemwy and Ninetjer tombs (A and B). Munro supposed that these tombs could not have had a mastaba as superstructure (all over the area covered by the underground apartments), which would have been too huge a task for IInd Dynasty builders.
It seems that there was covered by a stepped paving which divided the N area (with open court for celebrations of the rites) from the southern one (corresponding to the burial chamber in the southernmost west part of the gallery set) devoted to the burial rites (and maybe only this part might have been overbuilt with a massive mastaba structure).
The area was exploited in Vth Dyn and later, so it is hard to understand if any feature here originated in IInd Dyn or in IIIrd.
It is however possible that both Djoser and already the early 2nd Dyn kings aimed at using what might have been a natural depression or an ancient wadi and integrate in into their complex someway. A monumental feature which only necessitated some adjustment in the case of the 2nd Dyn courts (whereas in Djoser's case it would lead to dig more trenches on the other sides of the complex).
The dry moat feature has never received a proper archaeological investigation by itself (except maybe in part by Munro's, but sadly compromised by the aggravation of his health conditions which prevented conclusive publications of the surveys in the 2nd Dyn tombs and the trench), so only hypotheses can be attempted.
Swelim proposed that the moat would be place where the souls of the nobles came to serve their king, as B. Kemp had hypothesised for the Thinite funerary enclosures (Abydos 'Forts').
In my opinion the "megalomanic" project could have consisted in creating a sort of "island" in which the wall and step Pyramid would be the primeval hill of (re-)creation in the Nun-chaos as the later cosmogonies/myths illustrate.
In the area of the southern channels, tomb owners' names as NiankhBa and NjannkhNebka may witness the existence of cult areas of Ba (?) and Nebka of the 3rd Dynasty (Swelim).
Certainly the Polish excavations in the W (mostly published in P.A.M.) area and also some indication from the N, would suggest that contrarily to what was once thought, the post IIIrd Dyn. occupation of the area did not start only with dyn. IV (Lepsius/Mariette tombs like Shery's MM B3 in the cemetery N of the SPC and others: cf. M. Baud, in: Or. Monsp IX, 1997, 69-87; id., Djéser et la IIIe dynastie, 2002, 214f.): Djoser was the firts king whose complex must have been surrounded by contemporary non royal structures (perhaps Imhotep's own tomb was located there) after the radical isolation of Thinite tombs from nobles' ones (except for the retainers' ones).
However it seems that many important tombs of that age were much N of the complex (Hesyra and other ones, cf. below), and the same isolation of the royal complex (by the trench and wall) still stressed the division between royal and non royal structures.
We have also to consider that the probable access of the cemetery was from the N, through the Abusir Wadi (cf. D. Jeffrey - A. Tavares, MDAIK 50, 1994, 143-73; C. Reader, JEA 90, 2004, 63-71; J. Van Wetering, n.p.): thus early in the IIIrd Dynasty people moved soutwards and had on their right the Gisr el-Mudir and, closer on the left the western wall of the Step Pyramid complex, with associated huge stairs/ trench. Then they would turn on the left (area of Unas complex and 2nd Dyn. royal tombs A and B, south of Djoser's complex) and walk through a 20m passage (between the two branches of the Usekhet-shaped great trench) and finally turning left to face the entrance gallery monumental niche (cf. M. Baud, op. cit. 2002, 116-119, p. 215, fig. 54). Baud has suggested that the monumental carvings found by Z. Hawass (JEA 80, 1994, 45ff.) in the area of Teti cemetery did originally belong to the area of the passage (left undug or filled up) over the Dry Moat (the 'opening' of the Usekhet court, some 60m south of the SP complex SE corner).
Netjerykhet might not have been the ideator of the first form of mortuary complex layout including an open court and the funerary place as thought before. The original project (for which cf. the reconstructions by Kaiser, Altenmuller, Stadelmann) might have been inspired by similar constructions inaugurated by the Early Second Dynasty kings in their Saqqara royal cemetery (cf. above) joining the tomb (mastaba and burial shaft) with the funerary court ('royal enclosure') into one complex, unlike it occurred at Abydos where Umm el Qaab and Kom es-Sultan structures are more than 1km apart.
It should be thought about the reason which led to this change, possibly reflecting parallel major transformations in the society and in the sphere of religious beliefs.
THE STEP PYRAMID COMPLEX OF SEKHEMKHET (DJOSERTY)
PART IV.2: THIRD DYNASTY PRIVATE MONUMENTS
In 1911-14 Quibell cleared two main areas of the central part of the
North Saqqara plateau, where the density of tombs was astonishing,
being them built literally one beside another (cf. this plan
sectors D1 to F2 and G2-G3).
The Second and Third Dynasty tombs were published only in 1923, after
the war, and in a rather summary manner, but a wider publication had
been reserved instead to the important Third Dynasty tomb S2405
(PM III² pt. 2, 437-439) which Quibell had excavated in 1911-1912
and readily published in 1913: this was the tomb of Hesi (Hesyra)
from which Mariette (MM A3, Les Mastabas, 80-83) had already
taken five wooden panels (Cairo, CG 1426-1430)
occupying the first five of the eleven eastern niches of the tomb
(cf. Wood, JARCE 15, 1978, 9-24); in the last northernmost niche Quibell
found in situ a sixth panel (which, contrarily to the 6th-10th niches'
badly decayed panels, could be brought to the Museum) and also traces
of the earliest known scenes of Daily Life (outer corridor) and the
lower part of a long painted row of funerary implements, offerings,
instruments and tools (depicted in "X-ray" within wooden
boxes) and games (inner corridor, east wall); all these gravegoods
had been painted under what would look to be a long tent. The niches
in front were painted with colorful mat patterns as those later find
by Emery (see above); the tomb also contained several fragments of
stone vessels. In the burial chamber were discovered seal impressions
of Netjerykhet which thus dated the tomb to the reign of Djoser; at
the end of the works a swarm of fleas prevented a man sent by Quibell
to recover the human bones found therein which they had temporarily
stored in this chamber; so they are still there and it can't be ascertained
the date and if they belonged to two persons as Quibell advanced.
S3073 (MM A2) Khabawsokar / Hathorneferhotep
THE SEARCH FOR IMHOTEP
RECENT EXCAVATIONS IN WEST SAQQARA
PART V: CONCLUSIONS
© Francesco Raffaele, 2002