Monday, 3 September 2012

Jane in Egypt 1979 - My first trip to Egypt

3rd Sept 1979 Memphis and Sakkara
Early start, minibus to Memphis. This was the first capital of united Egypt built by King Menes, vast area of mud brick foundations, small outside museum.

Figure 6 Fallen statue of Ramses II

Now this picture you won’t see today. In 1987 the University of Memphis undertook the restoration of this statue. After restoration it was shipped to Memphis, USA for the Ramses the Great exhibition and then shipped back and is now placed in the open air museum. This is the restored statue below.

Figure 7 Restored statue of Ramses II

Special gallery for statue of Ramses II lying on his back. On left leg an incised relief of Bint-Anat daughter of king, originally 42ft high, shows dagger tucked in waist band, attachment for Osiris beard. Another statue outside and a third has been erected outside Cairo railway station.
Figure 8 inside the museum at Memphis

Figure 9 Ramses II at Memphis

 Figure 10 Open Air Museum at Memphis

Alabaster Sphinx excavated by Petrie in 1912 unallocated but in the style of 18 dynasty.

Figure 11 Alabaster Sphinx
Went on to Sakkara.
Step pyramid and complex built by architect Imhotep for Djoser. Imhotep was probably a genius. It stands in a vast enclosure wall measuring about 1790ft N/S 912ft E/W. Exterior of wall has recessed panelling in imitation of the palace at Memphis called the White Walls. There are several false doors but only one real one which is at S/E corner, this leads to a colonnade 200ft long. This consists of attached pillars, first example of pillars. These were needed for the roof of stone. This roof let in little sunlight approximately half way is a space for two statues either side of the gangway, the theory was that one was the king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt and the other the red crown of Lower Egypt.

Figure 12 Step Pyramid Complex
The columns are "reeded" and are joined to cross walls set an angle to the main wall. When standing at the entrance it looks like a row of detached pillars. At the end of the colonnade a small court with a row of double columns.

Figure 13 Step Pyramid Complex
This leads to the great court which was surrounded by a cobra frieze wall. In the centre of the court, two B shaped constructions probably used in Heb-Seb festival. This was held at regular times during the monarch’s lifetime, different dynasties had different times. The king proved at this that he was fit, mentally & physically to rule. Various tests were put; astrological, maths also in the court target shooting, chasing a bull, running etc.

Figure 14 Heb Seb Courtyard
At the S/W enclosure wall the Southern Tomb or cenotaph of Djoser is situated 100ft below ground. Gallery with blue tiles in faience, plus stela of Djoser running or dancing at Heb Seb. The small chamber supposedly for burial was found empty.
Heb-Sed court. At east of Great Court, there is a double row of shrines for Upper and Lower Egypt. Half finished statues at east, feet of four statues at NW it seems possible these might be of the king & wife & two children as the scale is comparable however this is conjecture.

Figure 15 Dummy Door
Temple T lies between Great Court and Heb Seb court. Also southern & northern buildings the exact function of these is not known but it is thought they were to be used by the spirits for the continuation of the administration of Upper & Lower Egypt. Southern building has graffiti of 18 dynasty visitors. Northern building has elegant papyrus columns against wall of subsidiary buildings also false doors. These buildings are solid and are just for spirits. The style of all this architecture is reminiscent of the capital buildings. These were straw or reed screens joined to red or wood pillars, the characteristics were copied in to stone. The rope that was used to tie bundles of reeds is copied into stone. Also wooden supports are copied into stone.

Figure 16 me at the Northern and Southern buildings
Serdab to the west of the Northern building housed Ka statue of Djoser. Now contains replica of original which is in the Cairo museum. You could see the eyes.
Following along the side of the pyramid we come to the remains of the Mortuary Temple. These show symmetrical court and fluted columns and so called Royal bathroom. Here was the original entrance to the burial chamber & galleries under the pyramid. A slopping corridor leads to the burial shaft which is 90ft deep with a granite chamber at the bottom; neither sarcophagus nor human remains were found. The step pyramid began as a square mastaba tomb. It is thought that when surroundings were built that it looked insignificant so it was enlarged.

Figure 17 Tomb entrance

The lines of enlargement can be seen clearly. After it reached a certain height the bottom had to be extended. It was enlarged several times both vertically and horizontally. All the stones used here are very small when compared to dynasty 4 pyramids. Also included are the mastabas of family and friends & living accommodation for priests who carried out offerings to the Ka.

An enormous amount of reconstruction and assembly of original has been done and this gives a better idea of the whole. The work is being lead by Jean-Philippe Lauer. Also viewed bent & another pyramid in the distance.
Figure 18 Pyramid Text
Pyramid and Complex of Unas 5th dynasty. This is quite a small pyramid. The outside is not significant but after descending a very low slopping corridor there is a small suite of rooms. These house the pyramid texts. They are magical writings to ensure safe passage of the king through the underworld on his way to join the sun god, as a star in the sky. He then becomes an imperishable star in the sky. The ceiling is a dark blue with yellow stars. The hieroglyphs themselves are very sharp and clear, there is still a great deal of colour left in the upper parts of the walls.  

Figure 19 Causeway
The causeway down to the valley temple has been partially reconstructed using original material when available. The causeway was enclosed sides and roof with a small gap running down the centre of the roof letting in a shaft of sunlight to light the way, the inside of the walls is decorated with different reliefs showing both offerings and usual scenes of daily life. These reliefs are very patchy but it is possible to imagine how it once looked and it is very impressive. At the top of the causeway there are the boat pits of Unas. Along the causeway itself at the side, rock tombs have been dug. In one of these the well preserved mummy of Nefer was found. The Inspector took us inside and we saw the mummy which was well preserved, circumcised and with a bead collar and apron still in the original burial shaft. Discovered in 1966 there were 9 shafts and both he and his father were orchestra leaders. A little way along the causeway it has been cut into by a later mastaba or tomb either late middle kingdom or new kingdom.

Figure 20 Mastaba

The valley temple at the end of the cause way has been excavated but only 1 column can be seen, also it is impossible to proceed down the causeway as the mastaba has left a large hole.
We then made our way to an area where a number of mastabas and the Serapium are located. To visit them all it was necessary to use local transport. In my case a camel, although there were donkeys, horses & buggies.  Well you have to do it.  

Figure 21 Camel Riding at Sakkara
We went first to the Serapium; the Greeks originated the name as they identified the Apis bull of Memphis with the dead Osiris and called this god Seripus. Discovered by Mariette in 1851 it took 2 years to excavate. He found on the surface remains of a temple of Apis with beautifully worked statues of the bulls (Louvre) and also to his astonishment Greek statues of poets Homer etc. Also an avenue of sphinxes leading to the entrance of the Serapium and its underground galleries. Very little of this is visible although the entrance is still intact. The whole complex is of limestone and covers hundreds of yards. Although this definitely the entrance it is still a puzzle as to how the massive granite sarcophagi were placed into the chamber as they are much wider than the gateway. No other entrance has been found so this is another mystery.
Then on to two mastabas showing two different styles of reliefs but both very good.
I didn’t take photos inside but this is a link to EVERYTHING about this tomb including photos also for the next tomb
Mastaba of Tiyi (or Ti). He was a high official under Nererirkare and Niuseurre whose pyramids are to the south at Abu Sir. His wife was called Neferhotepes. The tomb was cleared by Mariette in 865. The mastaba measures 143 ft N/S 110ft E/W. Most of this is solid masonry. The entrance leads to a vestibule then to a court with pillars, in the middle of this court is the entrance to the actual burial shaft but it was not possible to go down as it is now in a dangerous state. Going through the court there are many well preserved reliefs, some painted, showing servants with offerings, cattle slaughtering, ships, hunting the marshes, pottery being fired in kilns, baking, brewery and scribes recording also a little picture of a frog, butterfly & hedgehog. There are a number of false doors and offering tables, there is a slit in one wall showing the serdab where the ka statue can be seen, this is now lit and is the original.
Mastaba of Merriruka called Meri 6 dynasty. His wife Watkhethor and his son Meriteti were also buried in this tomb and have their own rooms which are also decorated. Merriruka was a vizier and overseer of Memphis and an inspector of the pyramid of king Teti which is opposite the tomb but in a very ruined state. The tomb does not have any open areas like Ti but just a door. The entrance shows Meri and his wife. Just as you go in there is a portrayal of Meri as an artist before an easel. He is painting the three seasons of the Egyptian year Inundation, Winter and Summer which are represented by deities. Room 1 Meri and his wife on a papyrus boating spearing fishing and hunting in the marshes. To the left 5 rooms for his wife. To the right a shaft leading down to burial chamber. Next room craftsman at work, activities on Meri’s estate. Door to east leads to a fine hall with 4 pillars. Bedroom scene with beds & vintage scene. Then the main hall with a fine statue (ka0 of Meri in his false door and an offering table below. Reliefs of boat building, Meri in a litter, dwarfs making necklaces, Meri and his wife playing senet.
We also quickly saw two other tombs allegedly to be high priestesses and the first dynasty burials.

Figure 22 1st Dynasty Burials
Returned to hotel and changed to go to the son et lumiere at Giza. This is a bit unfortunate as it is very inaccurate, over dramatic and obviously aimed at ignorant tourists however if the words are ignored to a large extent then it is most enjoyable. Returned to hotel and had a bottle of local white wine, over heavy and not mature but better than Spanish.
Actually I was being generous there, that wine was disgusting. Egyptian wine has improved massively since then. However did you notice how much we saw at Sakkara, amazing compared to tours today. I have seen coach tours do the same site in 40 minutes while my guests have only just started. Last time I went there, the new Imhotep museum was open, this is absolutely fabulous and well worth spending time at. Fortunately you don’t have to use a camel to get around anymore; the roads extend all over the site.

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