سرابيوم (سقارة)

( Serapeum of Saqqara )

The Serapeum of Saqqara was the ancient Egyptian burial place for sacred bulls of the Apis cult at Memphis. It was believed that the bulls were incarnations of the god Ptah, which would become immortal after death as Osiris-Apis. a name which evolved to Serapis (Σέραπις) in the Hellenistic period, and Userhapi (ⲟⲩⲥⲉⲣϩⲁⲡⲓ) in Coptic. It is part of the Saqqara necropolis, which includes several other animal catacombs, notably the burial vaults of the mother cows of the Apis.

Over a timespan of approximately 1400 years, from the New Kingdom of Egypt to the end of the Ptolemaic Period, at least sixty Apis are attested to have been interred at the Serapeum. For the earliest burials, isolated tombs were constructed. As the cult gained importance, underground galleries were dug that connected subsequent burial...Read more

The Serapeum of Saqqara was the ancient Egyptian burial place for sacred bulls of the Apis cult at Memphis. It was believed that the bulls were incarnations of the god Ptah, which would become immortal after death as Osiris-Apis. a name which evolved to Serapis (Σέραπις) in the Hellenistic period, and Userhapi (ⲟⲩⲥⲉⲣϩⲁⲡⲓ) in Coptic. It is part of the Saqqara necropolis, which includes several other animal catacombs, notably the burial vaults of the mother cows of the Apis.

Over a timespan of approximately 1400 years, from the New Kingdom of Egypt to the end of the Ptolemaic Period, at least sixty Apis are attested to have been interred at the Serapeum. For the earliest burials, isolated tombs were constructed. As the cult gained importance, underground galleries were dug that connected subsequent burial chambers. Above ground, the main temple enclosure was supplemented by shrines, workshops, housing and administrative quarters.

The Serapeum was closed in the beginning of the Roman period, after 30 BC. In the subsequent centuries large-scale looting took place. Many of the superstructures were dismantled, the burial vaults broken into, and most of the mummified Apis and their opulent burial goods removed.

In 1850 Auguste Mariette rediscovered the Serapeum, and excavated it the following years. He found two undisturbed Apis burials, as well as thousands of objects related to centuries of cult activity. These included commemorative stela with dates relating to the life and death of the Apis and the construction of their burial vaults. This data was crucial for the establishment of an Egyptian chronology in the 19th century.

The Greater Vaults of the Serapeum, known for the large sarcophagi for the mummified bulls, are accessible to visitors.

Use

The Apis cult dates back to very early times, possibly founded by pharaoh Menes, around 3,000 BC.[1]

The most ancient burials at the Serapeum, found in isolated tombs, date back to the reign of Amenhotep III of the Eighteenth Dynasty in the 14th century BC.

Khaemweset, working as an administrator during the reign of his father Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC) in the Nineteenth Dynasty, ordered a tunnel with side chambers – now known as the "Lesser Vaults" – to be excavated, for the burial of the Apis bulls.

A second gallery of chambers, now called the "Greater Vaults", was commenced under Psamtik I (664–610 BC) of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and extended during the Ptolemaic dynasty to approximately 350 m (1,150 ft) in length, 5 m (16 ft) tall and 3 m (9.8 ft) wide, along with a parallel service tunnel. From Amasis II to the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the sarcophagi for the Apis bulls were made from hard stone, weighing as much as 62 tonnes (68 short tons) each, including the lid.[2]

A long avenue, flanked by 370-380 sphinxes,[3] likely was built under Nectanebo I, (379/8–361/0 BC) the founder of the Thirtieth Dynasty (the last native one).

Disuse  Stones piled on a sarcophagus

The Serapeum was abandoned at the beginning of the Roman Period, shortly after 30 BC.[4] Strabo (64 BC–30 AD) noted that some of the Sphinxes of the dromos had been covered in sand by the wind.[5] Apis continued to be buried elsewhere in the Saqqara-Abusir region until the 3rd century AD.[6][7] Arnobius, around 300 AD, stated that the Egyptians penalized anyone who revealed the places in which Apis lay hidden.[8]

The looting of the Serapeum started at a time when hieroglyphs could still be read, as the names of the bulls were scratched out on many of the stelae. All tombs, except two, were plundered and desecrated. The bull mummies were torn to pieces, and stones were piled on the sarcophagi as a sign of contempt.[9][10]

Rediscovery

The temple was discovered by Auguste Mariette,[11] who had gone to Egypt to collect Coptic-language manuscripts, but later grew interested in the remains of the Saqqara necropolis.[12]

In 1850, Mariette found the head of one sphinx sticking out of the shifting desert dunes, cleared the sand and followed the avenue to the site. In November the following year he entered the catacombs for the first time.[5]

Unfortunately, Mariette left most of his notes unpublished. Many of them got destroyed when the Nile flooded the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities at Boulaq in 1878,[13][14] and the original diary of the excavations was borrowed by Eugène Grébaut but never returned.[15] Gaston Maspero released one volume of Le Sérapeum de Memphis based on the surviving manuscripts in 1882, a year after Mariette's death.[16]

Tourism  Drawing of the "Greater Vaults" lit by candles, shortly after excavation.

The Serapeum was open to visitors shortly after excavations, in the second half of the 19th century, Yet sands quickly made all parts but the Greater Vaults inaccessible.[17]

For guests, prior to the installation of electric lamps, a series of candles on wooden stands lightly illuminated the vaults, and bright magnesium light was used from time to time. When the then Prince of Wales, Edward VII visited the Serapeum, he had luncheon with his party in one of the sarcophagi.[18]

The 1992 Cairo earthquake caused cracks to appear on the tunnel walls, and the Serapeum was closed to the public.[19] In 2001 conservation work started, stabilizing the roofs and walls, which lasted until 2012.[20][21]

The majority of the Greater Vaults is accessible to tourists nowadays.

Renewed excavations

Due to the collapsed ceiling of the Lesser Vaults, Mariette left several tens of meters unexplored. In the mid 1980s, Mohamed Ibrahim Ali was the first to work there again, but he also had to give up because of the danger of collapse. In 2020 a mission began to remove the sands above the Lesser Vaults and to stabilize the bedrock, so that excavation work could be finally carried out.[22][23]

^ Dodson 2005, p. 72. ^ Mariette 1882, p. 113. ^ Mariette 1882, p. 75. ^ Dodson 2005, p. 88. ^ a b Dodson 2000. ^ Boutantin 2014. ^ Marković 2018, p. 197. ^ Arnobius. Seven Books against the Heathen. Vol. VI. ^ Mariette 1856, p. 9. ^ Brugsch 1855, p. 32. ^ Málek 1983. ^ Adès 2007, p. 274. ^ Fagan, Brian (2003). Archaeologists: Explorers of the Human Past. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-802807-9. ^ "Cairo, Bulaq Museum". ^ Marković 2014, p. 137. ^ Mariette 1882. ^ Ebers 1879, p. 181. ^ Pollard 1896, pp. 152–153. ^ Marković 2014, p. 138. ^ Hamdy, Gehan (2021). "Stabilization of the Ancient Serapeum at Saqqara—Strengthening Proposals Using Advanced Composite Materials". Cities' Identity Through Architecture and Arts. Advances in Science, Technology & Innovation. pp. 15–24. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-14869-0_2. ISBN 978-3-030-14868-3. S2CID 229460576. ^ "Egypt reopens historic Serapeum of Saqqara". ^ "Louvre Museum - Resumption of excavations at Saqqara" (in French). 7 March 2022. ^ Rondot, Vincent. "Musée du Louvre: La reprise des fouilles du Louvre au Serapeum de Saqqara" [The resumption of the excavations of the Louvre at the Serapeum of Saqqara.]. YouTube (in French).
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