Sanam To Saqqara, New Kingdom private tombs (Archaeology of Ancient Egypt)


Sanam is an ancient town site about 7km downstream from Gebel Barkal on the east bankof the Nile (18°27′ N, 31°48′ E), within the bounds of the modern town of Merowe, Sudan. First noted by Carl Richard Lepsius in 1844, it consists of a settlement (still unexcavated), an extensive cemetery, a "treasury," and a temple built by the Kushite king Taharka (circa 690-664 BC) to a local form of the god Amen. The site’s modern Arabic name means "idol," attesting to the large numbers of antiquities found here, but its ancient name was probably that of the epithet of the local Amen, "Bull of the Bow-Land [Nubia]," (Ka-ta-seti). In ancient times Sanam must have been the northern terminus of the Bayuda Desert road connecting Napata (Gebel Barkal) and Meroe, as well as the site of the primary river ferry in the district, as Merowe still is today.

The site was excavated in 1912-13 by an Oxford University expedition directed by Francis L. Griffith. The excavated remains can be dated with certainty only from the reign of Piye (circa 747-716 BC) to the reign of Aspelta (circa 600-580 BC). In the time of the latter king the town was evidently destroyed and the site remained abandoned until after the first century AD. The evidence of widespread burning and destruction appears to be the result of the well-known military raid on Kush by the 26th Dynasty Egyptian king Psamtik II in 593 BC. However, the important geographical location of this site at the northern end of the Bayuda Road belies its abandonment after the Egyptian attack. The settlement must have been rebuilt in another nearby location, as yet unidentified, and its important function as a caravan transfer point must have continued after the capital of the Kushite state moved farther south to Meroe. Later Meroitic material is indeed manifested on the Sanam site.

The major monument at Sanam is the Amen temple, which lay on the southeastern edge of the settlement. It was a near duplicate of the temples built by Taharka at Tabo and Kawa: 68.5m in length and fronted by a pylon 41.5m wide. Inside the first pylon was a colonnaded court, a second pylon, a hypostyle hall (4×4 columns), followed by a pronaos and a sanctuary of various chambers. The walls and foundation deposits were inscribed for Taharka, who added a small chapel in the northern half of the pronaos. Texts of Senkamenisken (circa 643-623 BC) were present, as was a chapel of Aspelta in the southern half of the pronaos. Shortly after the construction of the latter shrine, the temple was then damaged by fire. It does not appear to have been restored. Curiously, prior to the temple’s destruction, shawabtis (servant figurines) and other small ornaments were manufactured in shops built in the outer courts, whose mudbrick walls had been constructed between the columns.

Although the temple ruins were much denuded by wind and blowing sand, the recovered blocks of relief are of great interest. If the interior scenes depicted ritual processions involving the royal family and the bark of Amen, as well as subject rulers(?) prostrating themselves before the king, the exterior reliefs illustrated unusual four- and six-wheeled vehicles, chariots, mounted donkeys and pack animals—perhaps desert caravans from Meroe—arriving at cult buildings surrounded by gardens. Other reliefs depicted ships on the river and hilly landscapes. Large fragmentary granite statues of a cobra and vulture, undoubtedly representing the royal goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet, respectively, were recovered in a chamber to the left (northeast) of the sanctuary.

Sanam’s second important structure, termed the "treasury" by Griffith, seems actually to have been a warehouse either for the semi-permanent storage of goods or for their stockpiling prior to being shipped from Sanam by overland caravans or river craft. Located about 1km from the Nile, and 500m east of the temple, this severely denuded structure was at least 256m long and 45m wide, orientated perpendicular to the river. At its east end it was isolated in the desert, but at its west end it was separated by a road from another colonnaded mudbrick building, as yet unexcavated. It consisted of a double series of seventeen storerooms, each 13.4×20.5m in area, the roofs of each of which were supported by twelve stout sandstone columns in three rows and by seven rows of thinner columns, forming seventy-six columns in each chamber. This perhaps suggests that the structure was multi-storied. On the floors of each of these cells were found many small artifacts inscribed with royal names from Piye to Aspelta, and one contained heaps of charred elephants’ tusks. Like the temple, the "treasury" was burned.

Over 1,500 graves were excavated in the cemetery at Sanam; these provide the primary evidence for the burial customs of the commoners of the early Napatan period (eighth-early seventh centuries BC). Dug into a silt bank rather than bedrock, the graves have suffered severe erosion, and thus little evidence has survived of enclosures or superstructures. Below ground they were universally plain and exhibited no expensive or elaborate construction. Three types of burials were noted: (a) Egyptian-style interments in chamber graves, accessed by stairways, containing mummified bodies placed in wooden or cartonnage coffins, accompanied by wheel-made pottery and ornaments of Egyptian type, (b) much more simple burials, in which the dead were merely laid extended on their backs in rectangular pits, yet accompanied by the same kinds of wheel-made pottery, and (c) contracted burials of traditional Nubian type laid in rectangular or oval pits, accompanied both by wheel-made and local handmade pottery. These different burial types suggest that the population of ancient Sanam consisted of several different social classes and/ or tribal groups living together simultaneously.

Saqqara, Late period and Graeco-Roman tombs

Although the royal family of the 26th Dynasty originated in Sais and maintained its religious links with this city, the administrative, religious and economic pull of Memphis was impossible to resist. It was therefore inevitable, as in previous dynasties, that the necropolis of Saqqara (29°50-53′ N, 31°13′ E) would be the site for some of the most important burials in the land, even if the kings themselves were buried in the Delta. Unfortunately, many of the finest tombs of the period were ransacked during the early years of the nineteenth century, and detailed records of their decoration and plans, even sometimes of their very location, are missing. Similarly, the period has not attracted the attention from archaeologists that the earlier Dynasties have done, and lack of historical and art historical studies means that chronology is often subjective. Nevertheless, enough remains to give rise to a whole category of Egyptian art: neo-Memphite reliefs are increasingly recognized as an important topic in the history of that art, even if most of the surviving pieces are no longer in their architectural context. It is also possible that many of the Late period anthropoid sarcophagi in museum collections originate from Saqqara. A royal atelier somewhere in Memphis is made likely by the chance discovery in the falcon galleries at Saqqara of a canopic jar originally intended for the burial of Pharaoh Apries. It is clear that much remains to be discovered.

To the visitor, the best-known Late period monuments at Saqqara are the so-called "Persian" tombs, whose deep shafts are clearly visible to the south of the pyramid of Unas. In fact, these burials seem to date to the reign of Amasis; the Unas causeway was chosen for the site because it was readily accessible from Memphis and the Valley. The site includes the tombs of Tjannehebu, Overseer of the Royal navy, the Chief Physician Psamtik, and the Overseer of Confidential Documents Peteniese. The latter may account for the discovery of important Demotic records at the nearby pyramid of Sekhemkhet; these are unpublished, but are apparently part of the official records of the court of Amasis. The better-known Aramaic letter of Adon, ruler of one of the Philistine cities, was also found in this neighborhood, and may even be connected with these documents. The size and depth of the tomb shafts (over 20m), and the austere decoration of the burial chambers with funerary texts in hieroglyphs, are impressive features of these burials. Such tombs must have been expensive, and this may explain why so many of them are shared. There are other sizable tombs east of the Step Pyramid and south of Weserkaf’s pyramid, which may or may not be contemporary with the Unas shafts. One of these belongs to Hor-neferibre-emakhet, who was born, to judge from his name, about the time of the death of Psamtik II (589 BC), and may therefore have survived into the reign of Amasis or a little beyond.

Farther east, in the escarpment overlooking the valley and the modern road, is the important tomb of Bokenrinef (Bocchoris), vizier of Psamtik I. This tomb has been excavated and published by an Italian team led by Edda Bresciani. It is not a shaft-tomb, but is rock-cut, rather on the lines of Ramesside models, and the interior is elaborate in the extreme. The prestige of the site is further confirmed by the fact that it was later modified to include the burial of Petineith, vizier under Nectanebo I of the 30th Dynasty and possibly a descendant of Bokenrinef; this too has been published by the Italian expedition. The entire eastern bluff north of the Unas causeway, near the temple sites of the Anubieion and Bubastieion, contains deep shafts, many of which must date from the Late period; these probably yielded some of their contents, unrecorded, early in the nineteenth century, but the area would nonetheless repay exploration.

Another area of importance lies west of the later monastery of Apa Jeremias, some way south of the New Kingdom necropolis, but situated by a wadi which gave natural access to and from Memphis. Here lies the complex of the two Psamtiks, exotic characters who were respectively High Steward and Overseer of Scribes of the Royal Repast. They are in august company, since they share their tomb with Khetbeneithyerboni II, daughter of one king (either Psamtik II or Apries) and wife of another (either Apries or Amasis), and at any rate one of the principal queens of the 26th Dynasty. This tomb has yielded some notable statuary. It is most unlikely that this is the only such burial in the neighborhood, and it is clear that the area behind the monastery merits a thorough survey.

The area around the Serapeum was ransacked, probably in the 1830s, and was then dug summarily by Auguste Mariette. Much information is therefore lost, or buried under deep sand drifts, but it is probably in this area that we should locate the Ptolemaic tombs of the high priests of Memphis. These must have been discovered at some point, since we possess a whole series of hieroglyphic and demotic biographies of this family which was without doubt one of the most important in Egypt, particularly after the foundation of Alexandria had removed the Ptolemaic court from Memphis and left them in sole religious authority in the old capital. This series of inscriptions includes the famous elegiac stela of Taimhotep, now in the British Museum. One would expect that the chapels which housed these stelae would have been equally imposing, and there is a need to relocate these monuments. If they were not near the Serapeum, an alternative site is the area near Abusir, a place-name which features prominently in these inscriptions. Late period tomb shafts are now known from Abusir, including that of Udjahorresne, admiral of the fleet of Psamtik III and arch-collaborator in the Persian conquest of 525 BC.

Important burials also lined the processional way which ran through central Saqqara starting from the Anubieion in the east (this is the site termed the Greek Serapeum by Mariette). Tombs situated here would overlook, and in a sense participate in, the great processions from Memphis to the Serapeum. A satellite area of the Serapeum Way is probably the cluster of Late period tombs southwest of the pyramid of Teti, which includes an individual called Petipep, a royal scribe named Hor, and Psamtik-nebpahti, a commander of the Saite army (26th Dynasty). The Serapeum Way is also the site of the tomb of the royal statue-priest Onnofri son of Painmou, who informs us in a fragmentary inscription that he accompanied the Phoenician campaign of Teos (361-360 BC) and was falsely accused of treachery, only to be later vindicated.

Most Mediterranean and Near Eastern nationalities are attested in written sources from Memphis or its necropolis, and it is natural to expect that immigrants would increasingly be buried in Egypt and in the Egyptian fashion. Evidence for this has come from an unusual setting, the catacombs of the baboons situated in the sacred animal necropolis to the north of the Saqqara plateau. Here were found a series of funerary stelae written partially in hieroglyphs and partially in Carian, a language from southwest Turkey. The Carians came to Egypt as mercenaries, later settling in Memphis where they shared a quarter with their cousins, the Ionians. The degree to which they adopted Egyptian customs and beliefs is well illustrated in their funerary stelae. The whereabouts of their cemetery is unknown, but it must have been near the sacred animal necropolis where the stelae were found, and may have been in the wadi between Saqqara and Abusir. A few Ionian burials were found in the latter place, one of which contained the well-known dramatic papyrus of Timotheos. Memphis also had large Phoenician and Aramaic communities, and traces of their burials have been reported, in one case from Abusir, but especially from the area immediately south of the causeway of Unas. The existence of regional quarters at Memphis may well have been paralleled in the use of distinct cemeteries at Saqqara, or at least this is what the scanty evidence at present suggests.

Memphis, however, remained an Egyptian city. As in all periods, the mass of the populace were in no position to afford luxurious burials, and resorted to the usual substitutes: reused tombs, poor individual burials and mass catacombs. This aspect of Saqqara has been little studied. Some lower-class burials were discovered by Macramallah in his excavations directly north of the Serapeum proper, and others came to light at the eastern end of the Serapeum Way in the neighborhood of the mortuary temple of Teti. Other evidence has been found in the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Society at the sacred animal necropolis, and in the Anubieion complex. In addition, it is known that there were extensive catacombs in the neighborhood of the Unas causeway, and in particular in the subterranean galleries near the pyramid which have been attributed to kings of the 2nd Dynasty. In all, the necropolis at Saqqara was in use for thirty-five centuries until the arrival of Christianity, and even then its importance was not finished.

The tombs of Late period Saqqara exhibit all the variety and ingenuity known from other periods of Egyptian architecture. The depth of their sand-filled shafts, and their massive stone sarcophagi, sometimes separate, at other times carved from the bedrock, make them among the most impressive burials ever found in Egypt. However, little is known about their contents beyond some statuary and the abundant use of amulets. As these tombs come to be better studied, they will increasingly be seen as an architectural achievement, and it is certain that this is a neglected field where important discoveries are still to be made.

Saqqara, New Kingdom private tombs

Large parts of the Saqqara plateau were occupied with private tombs from the New Kingdom. Most of the original occupants of these tombs lived and worked in Memphis during the 18th and 19th Dynasties. The transferal of the royal residence and administrative center of the country from Thebes to Memphis by Tuthmose III (circa 1,475 BC) gave the city an important status until Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten founded a new capital at the modern village of Tell el-Amarna in Middle Egypt. Under Tutankhamen, however, the old situation was restored. Memphis remained the capital of Egypt until the second half of the reign of Ramesses II (circa 1,250 BC), when the government was moved to his newly founded residential city in the Delta, Pi-Ramesses ("Ramesses-City ").

The first New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara date from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty, probably shortly after Tuthmose III had moved the royal residence to Memphis. Documents on papyrus indicate that the last tombs may date from the 20th Dynasty; 20th Dynasty tombs have not yet been discovered. The three main areas or concentrations of New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara are in three areas.

Area I: tombs in and around the mortuary temple of the pyramid of Teti

The particular interest in this area may be explained by the revival which the cult of the 6th Dynasty King Teti enjoyed in the New Kingdom. The superstructures and precise locations of almost all these tombs are now practically lost, since they are covered with debris and sand. North of the pyramid of Teti the tombs of the following officials are situated: Amenemone, Overseer of Craftsmen and Head of Goldworkers of the Lord of the Two Lands; Tjay, Overseer of the Horses of the Lord of the Two Lands; Ipuia, Overseer of the Workshop and Head of Goldworkers of the Lord of the Two Lands; Huy, Scribe of the Troops of the Lord of the Two Lands, all dating from the late 18th Dynasty; and Mosi, Scribe of the Treasury of Ptah; Meryre, Head of Custodians; and Mahu, Custodian of the Treasury, from the 19th Dynasty. East of the pyramid, above the mortuary temple, the tomb of Heka-Ma’at-Re-neheh, First Royal Butler of the Lord of the Two Lands, was situated and, east of the temple, the tomb of ‘Akhpet, Chief Lector-priest in the Two Houses of Mummification, both from the 19th Dynasty.

Area II: rock-cut tombs in the escarpment above the Bubasteion

The second concentration of New Kingdom tombs is located southeast of the pyramid of Teti, where the edge of the escarpment of the Saqqara plateau turns sharply west. They are cut in the south and east sides of the limestone rock-face, above the later Cemetery of the Cats (the Bubasteion) and just below the terrace on which the resthouse of the Egyptian Antiquities Department is built. The chambers and passages are on two or three levels and the walls are partly covered with inscriptions and scenes in relief, on some of which remains of the original coloring is still partly preserved. These rock-cut tombs are among the earliest New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara. They date from the early 18th Dynasty up to (and including) the reign of Akhenaten. The oldest tomb is that of the chancellor Nehesy, a contemporary of Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmose III. Other tombs are in the names of Resh, Overseer of Ships under Tuthmose IV and Amenhotep III; Meryre, "Minister of Finance" of Amenhotep III; Merysakhmet, Overseer of the Granaries; and, last but not least, the vizier Aperia (or ‘Aper-El, a foreign name), his wife Taweret and their son, the Overseer of the Chariotry Huy. Aperia served under Amenhotep III and probably also under Akhenaten. Great parts of his rich burial equipment and that of his family as well, such as coffins, canopic jars, shawabtis, alabaster vessels and jewelry have been found in the debris of the tomb chambers. Several of the tomb owners seem to have been attached to the cult of the goddess Bastet.

Area III: south of the Unas Causeway and west of the Monastery of Apa Jeremias

The third and largest concentration of New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara can be found on the desert plateau south of the Step Pyramid of Zoser. This vast terrain is bounded on the north by the causeway of the pyramid of Unas and on the east by the Coptic monastery of Apa Jeremias, which separates it from the southern part of the escarpment mentioned above. To the west, it probably extends as far as the pyramid enclosure of Sekhemkhet and to the south, to the vast shallow stretch of desert between central Saqqara and the pyramid complexes of the 6th Dynasty in South Saqqara. Like the major tombs in the Teti pyramid area, the tombs in this largest section of the New Kingdom necropolis consist of a superstructure with one or two open courtyards with chapels, and a substructure cut into the bedrock and containing several burial chambers. The oldest tombs discovered so far are the impressive temple-like buildings with subterranean chamber complexes of General Horemheb and the Overseer of the Treasury Maya, both contemporaries of Tutankhamen. They are located in the center of the whole area. Horemheb later became pharaoh himself and was eventually buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. However, his Memphite tomb was not given up, but used for the interments of his first and second (Queen Mutnodjemet) wives, and the chapels and courtyards above ground served as a sanctuary where a mortuary cult for King Horemheb, and possibly also for his queen, was celebrated.

The clustering of tombs of many important persons—not only officials, but also people of royal blood—around the mortuary buildings of Horemheb and Maya can be explained by the fact that both men, restorers of orthodox kingship and of the traditional cults of Egypt, were worshipped as the saintly initiators of a new era, qualities which must have imbued their tombs and the adjacent area with an aura of sanctity. To date the tombs of the following officials and their families have been excavated here: Tia, Overseer of the Treasury in the Temple of User-Ma’t-Re’-Setep-en-Re’ (Ramesses II) in the Domain of Amen (Ramesseum), and his wife Princess Tia (a sister of Ramesses II); Iurudef, Scribe of the Treasury, and secretary of Tia; Ra’ia, Chief Musician of Ptah Lord of Truth; Paser, Royal Scribe and Overseer of the Buildingworks; Khay, Gold-washer of the Lord of the Two Lands; Khay’s son Pabasa, Head of the Bowmen of the Tradesmen; Ramose, Head of the Bowmen of the Army; Pay and Ra’ia, father and son, both Overseers of the Royal Apartments; and Iniuia, Chief Steward and Overseer of the Cattle of Amen, a contemporary of Tutankhamen.

The northeast sector of this huge area is covered with tombs of high officials of the Ramesside period. The most prominent examples are the tombs of Amenemone and Nefer-renpet, a vizier under Ramesses II. This sector of the necropolis undoubtedly extends farther south to where parts of the tomb of another vizier, Parahotep, have been found.

 Wall reliefs in the tomb of General Horemheb in the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara

Figure 95 Wall reliefs in the tomb of General Horemheb in the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara

Archaeological investigations: from exploitation to exploration

Like other parts of the Memphite necropolis, the New Kingdom cemeteries at Saqqara have in the past been plundered, reused by later generations for mass interments, used as stone quarries or otherwise exploited, Long before real scientific research had started, hundreds of monuments and objects from the New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara had already been brought to light and had disappeared into collections, both in Egypt and abroad. Objects belonging to the contents of the same tombs often ended up in many different museums. When the Prussian Egyptologist Carl Richard Lepsius appeared in Saqqara in 1843, the location of most of the tombs exploited by the art collectors was already known. Lepsius was the first archaeologist to make a proper map of the largest sector of New Kingdom tombs, and to relocate and investigate, albeit only partially, the tombs of Maya, Iurokhy (Royal Scribe and General), Raia and Harmin (both Overseers of the Royal Apartments of the King’s Wife). In the 1860s the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette worked in the same area and entered parts of the tombs of General Horemheb and Tjuneroy (Overseer of Works of All the Monuments of the King). From the tomb of the latter comes the famous "King List of Saqqara," now in the Cairo Museum.

It was only in the 1970s that archaeological research in the New Kingdom cemeteries of Saqqara commenced on a grand scale. In 1975 "The Memphite New Kingdom Necropolis Project" was started, a joint venture of the British Egypt Exploration Society and the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden (Netherlands) under the directorship of Geoffrey T.Martin, assisted by Hans D.Schneider. The objectives of this project are the relocation, investigation and publication of the tombs which were partly explored by Lepsius in 1843, as well as the other tombs opened or seen in the nineteenth century in the same area (Area III). Among the tomb complexes discovered so far are the tombs of Horemheb and Maya of the late 18th Dynasty, and the tomb of the Ramesside Princess Tia and her husband of the same name. Since 1977 a mission of the University of Cairo has been working in the northeast sector of the same site. Initiated by Soad Maher, this project was directed by the late Sayed Tawfik, whose team has excavated the group of Ramesside tombs of which mention has been made above. The third project of major importance is that of the Mission archeologique frangaise du Bubasteion, directed by Alain-Pierre Zivie. The objective of this expedition, which started in 1980, is the clearance and publication of the rock-tombs in the north escarpment above the Bubasteion (Cemetery of Cats), the second concentration of New Kingdom tombs listed above (Area II).

The tomb of Iniuia in the New Kingdom cemetery, Saqqara

Figure 96 The tomb of Iniuia in the New Kingdom cemetery, Saqqara

Architecture and iconography

From the architectural point of view the New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara can be divided into two main categories: rock-cut tombs and freestanding tombs with subterranean, rock-cut substructures. The rock-cut tombs consist of an entrance room or vestibule, presumably acting as a cult place or chapel, leading to a complex of passages and chambers on various levels, which are linked by one or more inner shafts. As a rule, the walls of these vestibules are decorated in relief with scenes showing the tomb owner and with inscriptions mentioning his name and titles. In some cases, such as the tomb of Meryre in the cemetery at the Bubasteion, the rough walls had a revetment of relief-decorated limestone slabs. The rock-cut tomb is the common type of New Kingdom tomb up to and including the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten.

By the time Tutankhamen came to the throne and the residence was moved again to Memphis, so that there was a considerable demand for tombs in the Memphite necropolis, there may have been little or no space left for new tombs in the cliffs of the eastern escarpment. Hence the architects were led to open up another area, the vast terrain south of the Unas causeway. They designed a new type of tomb, the free-standing tomb with rock-cut substructure. To make room for the new tombs, most of the superstructures of the Old Kingdom mastabas which were then occupying this site were removed. The shafts and burial chambers of these old buildings were partly reused and recut to create the substructures of the new tombs and limestone blocks of the mastaba chapels—many of which still covered with fine reliefs—were used as building material in the superstructures.

The standard layout of the free-standing tomb shows an open courtyard, with or without columns, in front of three chapels, the central one being the main cult room with a stela where the funerary offerings for the tomb owner could be placed. The roof of this chapel has the shape of a pyramid crowned with a pyramid-shaped capstone (pyramidion). In the court, a shaft gives access to a subterranean complex of chambers; in the bigger tombs, there are two or more levels which are linked by inner shafts. Small tombs may only have one or two rooms above ground and no courtyard. In large tombs, such as for Horemheb and Maya, the standard design is extended through the addition of a second court and three more chapels, and an impressive entrance gateway (pylon) in the east. The length of the bigger structures could be 50 m.

These large tombs are in fact mortuary temples, where not only the cult of the deceased took place but also the rites for the gods (especially Osiris) were celebrated. An inscription in the tomb of Tia and Tia says that this tomb was built under the supervision of Ramesses II (Tia’s brother-in-law) himself, who "made it as a monument for his father Osiris." All buildings were oriented east-west in accordance with the orbit of the sun. Thus, the architecture expresses the theology of Atum and Osiris, who are in fact manifestations of one and the same god.

The tombs of the late 18th and early 19th Dynasties were built of mudbrick. The walls of the cult chapel had limestone revetments decorated in relief, which in the luxurious tombs of the greatest officials was also applied on the walls of other parts of the building. In the later Ramesside period, the walls were entirely made of limestone. In the 19th Dynasty the miniature pyramid with pyramidion, which formerly crowned the main chapel, is sometimes found as a separate free-standing construction (tomb of Tia and Tia). The walls of chapels and courtyards are decorated with limestone reliefs, usually carved in sunk relief and painted. Representations painted on layers of mud plaster have also been found, such as in the tombs of Iniuia and Pay.

Late 18th Dynasty tombs have reliefs of a superb quality. The following themes and subjects can be distinguished in the decoration: events and inscriptions dealing with the life, career and family of the deceased; burial rites such as the Ritual of the Breaking of the Red Pots; funerary processions with bearers of grave goods and the carrying or leading of cattle; the tomb owner worshipping gods; inscriptions of prayers and hymns, specifically to Osiris; and scenes and texts related to the Book of the Dead, such as the Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth or the deceased in the Fields of Ialu. Typical for Saqqara is the presence of king lists, an expression of the worship bestowed on the divine ancestors of the king (tomb of Tjuneroy).

Of the freestanding tombs discovered so far at Saqqara, the tomb of Maya is the only one having tomb chambers decorated with reliefs. These chambers are located at a depth of 22m below the pavement of the courtyard; their walls have a revetment of limestone slabs decorated with reliefs painted in yellow showing large figures of Maya and his wife Meryt before Osiris and other gods as well as scenes of the burial chamber with Anubis bending over the mummy on a bier, similar to the vignette of Spell 151 of the Book of the Dead. As a rule, the central or cult chapel of the tomb contained a stela; this was standing against the west wall and showed the deceased and members of his family praying and offering to Osiris, Atum and other gods related to the afterlife or to the city of the dead. The courtyards seem to have been reserved for statues of the deceased and his family, as well for statues of gods.

In large temple tombs, such as the ones of Maya and Horemheb, special statue rooms can be found. The number of statues and the variety of types occurring were exceptionally large, which is traditionally characteristic for the Memphite region. There were statues representing the deceased seated on a chair, sometimes accompanied by his wife (in statue groups), or kneeling while supporting an offering table, or holding a naos with the image of a god (Osiris, Ptah or Hathor) in front of him. Statues of gods were common, for example of Osiris (tomb of Mose), of the Anubis jackal (tomb of Horemheb) or the Hathor cow "Lady of the Southern Sycamore" protecting the tomb owner and his wife (tomb of Pabasa). These statues were sometimes placed and hidden in special shrines erected in the courtyards.

Again typical for the Memphite New Kingdom tombs are the square pillars in the courtyards with representations in relief of the deceased supporting the djed pillar. These are an expression of the Ritual of Erecting Djed-Shepsy. During the New Kingdom this ritual was part of the Osirian rites in the mortuary temples of the kings, and the theme itself is related with the vignette of topics 15 and 16 of the Book of the Dead.

The results of modern archaeological research on the New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara are rich and abundant. Only limited parts of these sites have been investigated so far. On stylistic and other grounds, however, it is known that numerous objects in many Egyptian collections were once part of the rich contents of the Memphite cemeteries. Hence, it stands to reason that abundant information still remains hidden under the sands of Saqqara.

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