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Tomb of Ti, Saqqara The mastaba tomb of Ti is one of the most rewarding Old Kingdom tombs at Saqqara, consisting of a pillared forecourt and various chambers beyond adorned with fine low relief carvings depicting scenes of daily life, some retaining their original colouring. egyptsites.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/tomb-of-ti/ Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, is one of the most fascinating sites in Egypt, as well as one of its earliest. The major monument here is Djoser's step pyramid, the earliest stone-built architectural monument which dominates the site. Other pharaohs built pyramids here though most have not survived in such good conditions and some were never even finished. Two of the pyramids (those of Unas and Teti) contain chambers decorated with hieroglyph texts (the so called 'Pyramid Texts') that are amongst the earliest manifestations of ancient Egyptian writing. The most significant survival from an artistic point of view however are the many early mastaba tombs (built from mud-brick and adorned with fine limestone reliefs within). Most visitors will not have time to do them justice and may have to just choose a couple to focus on if making a first visit. The art is of a very high quality and quite remote stylistically from the more esoteric scenes within the much later tombs of Thebes. Saqqara can be a bewildering site to explore at first, but a little prior research will reveal the locations and best places to visit. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saqqara
Pyramid of Unas The Pyramid of Unas dates back to the end of the 5th Dynasty (24th century BC) and whilst its external appearance has been reduced to a large ruined mound its internal chambers remain intact and are decorated with hieroglyphic texts, the first used in any tomb, giving spells and incantations to assist the journey of the deceased's soul in the afterlife. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Unas Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, is one of the most fascinating sites in Egypt, as well as one of its earliest. The major monument here is Djoser's step pyramid, the earliest stone-built architectural monument which dominates the site. Other pharaohs built pyramids here though most have not survived in such good conditions and some were never even finished. Two of the pyramids (those of Unas and Teti) contain chambers decorated with hieroglyph texts (the so called 'Pyramid Texts') that are amongst the earliest manifestations of ancient Egyptian writing. The most significant survival from an artistic point of view however are the many early mastaba tombs (built from mud-brick and adorned with fine limestone reliefs within). Most visitors will not have time to do them justice and may have to just choose a couple to focus on if making a first visit. The art is of a very high quality and quite remote stylistically from the more esoteric scenes within the much later tombs of Thebes. Saqqara can be a bewildering site to explore at first, but a little prior research will reveal the locations and best places to visit. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saqqara
Tomb of Shosenq III, Tanis Getting in and out of the tomb was an interesting experience in itself! The ancient site of Tanis lies in the north east of Egypt's Delta region and dates back to the 19th Dynasty, later becoming the seat of power for later pharaohs during the 21st and 22nd Dynasties. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanis Many of the monuments here are inscribed for Ramesses II but are believed to have been transferred at a later date from his former capital 'Pi-Ramesses', modern Qantir, (one of the nearby villages we travelled through en route here) where little remains today. The cities in the Delta were built along the many branches of the Nile that bisect this region, but with the silting up of some branches over time such settlements became vulnerable and were abandoned, as happened at Pi-Ramesses and later its replacement Tanis in turn. The site today is located near the modern village of San el Hagar and the surviving ruins largely consist of isolated inscribed blocks, scattered obelisk and architectural fragments and pieces of large scale sculptures. It is nonetheless an impressive spectacle and a great site to explore, the almost caramel colour of the stone and desert adds much to the atmosphere. More complete are the tomb structures of the 21st & 22nd dynasties, the tomb of Shoshenq III being complete except for its roof and filled with reliefs and sarcophagi. The tomb of Psusennes I (along with Amenemope and Shoshenq II who were also interred there) is located nearby under a surviving section of the ruined plinth of the former temple of Amun, but the tombs themselves can only be glimpsed through openings. These tombs yielded intact treasures when they were investigated by Pierre Montet in 1940 and the contents are now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. My first encounter with Tanis was of course via one of my favourite films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which it is the setting for the stunning 'Map Room' and 'Well of Souls' where the Ark of the Covenant is found in the film. Of course none of it was filmed here (or even in Egypt itself) but I was intrigued to see broken obelisks like the one that led Indiana Jones to the target! But the film's claim that the city had been lost up to that point is pure myth, it has been investigated frequently since the early 19th century. Our trip to Tanis was slightly complicated by the security situation, it is quite remote and the closest we got to the trouble spots in the Sinai, thus we were held back at Tell Basta until an armed escort could accompany us. This didn't cause alarm, being something we had experienced already elsewhere, and a sign of how seriously Egypt takes the safety of its visitors. Nonetheless it was quite humbling having groups of guards making a special trip at short notice just for the two of us! We didn't spend more than an hour on site here (despite having a very good local guide who was willing to show us more if we'd stayed) as it was getting late and we didn't want to keep our generous escorts waiting.
Tomb of Shosenq III, Tanis The ancient site of Tanis lies in the north east of Egypt's Delta region and dates back to the 19th Dynasty, later becoming the seat of power for later pharaohs during the 21st and 22nd Dynasties. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanis Many of the monuments here are inscribed for Ramesses II but are believed to have been transferred at a later date from his former capital 'Pi-Ramesses', modern Qantir, (one of the nearby villages we travelled through en route here) where little remains today. The cities in the Delta were built along the many branches of the Nile that bisect this region, but with the silting up of some branches over time such settlements became vulnerable and were abandoned, as happened at Pi-Ramesses and later its replacement Tanis in turn. The site today is located near the modern village of San el Hagar and the surviving ruins largely consist of isolated inscribed blocks, scattered obelisk and architectural fragments and pieces of large scale sculptures. It is nonetheless an impressive spectacle and a great site to explore, the almost caramel colour of the stone and desert adds much to the atmosphere. More complete are the tomb structures of the 21st & 22nd dynasties, the tomb of Shoshenq III being complete except for its roof and filled with reliefs and sarcophagi. The tomb of Psusennes I (along with Amenemope and Shoshenq II who were also interred there) is located nearby under a surviving section of the ruined plinth of the former temple of Amun, but the tombs themselves can only be glimpsed through openings. These tombs yielded intact treasures when they were investigated by Pierre Montet in 1940 and the contents are now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. My first encounter with Tanis was of course via one of my favourite films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which it is the setting for the stunning 'Map Room' and 'Well of Souls' where the Ark of the Covenant is found in the film. Of course none of it was filmed here (or even in Egypt itself) but I was intrigued to see broken obelisks like the one that led Indiana Jones to the target! But the film's claim that the city had been lost up to that point is pure myth, it has been investigated frequently since the early 19th century. Our trip to Tanis was slightly complicated by the security situation, it is quite remote and the closest we got to the trouble spots in the Sinai, thus we were held back at Tell Basta until an armed escort could accompany us. This didn't cause alarm, being something we had experienced already elsewhere, and a sign of how seriously Egypt takes the safety of its visitors. Nonetheless it was quite humbling having groups of guards making a special trip at short notice just for the two of us! We didn't spend more than an hour on site here (despite having a very good local guide who was willing to show us more if we'd stayed) as it was getting late and we didn't want to keep our generous escorts waiting.
Pyramid of Menkaure, Giza Following a steep descent one comes across the antechamber, surprisingly decorative in finish with its sunken panels (the only such room in a Giza pyramid, all others have a plain finish). A sequence of simpler chambers follows, including the burial chamber, now sadly devoid of its sarcophagus (a particularly finely decorated piece, alas shipped off to England in the 1830s only to be lost at sea en route. There is yet hope it may one day be rediscovered). What better place to spend our final few hours in Egypt than the Giza plateau, this time exploring the site by foot and visiting mastaba tombs (there are many here but only a couple can be visited) and Menkaure's pyramid, the only one of the three large pyramids we'd not entered before (the two largest we'd been inside on our first visit in 1995, this time queues for the Great Pyramid of Khufu were discouraging, and Khafre's was closed). The Giza Pyramids need no introduction, the largest and most famous monuments of antiquity and the sole surviving of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Situated on a desert plateau to the south west of Cairo (and indeed on the very edge of the city's modern urban sprawl) the pyramids of Giza form the heart of an extensive ancient necropolis with the monumental tombs of three of Egypt's earliest Old Kingdom pharaohs marked by the vast structures. Each of the pyramids is a colossal mass of near solid masonry, without adornment and with only a few passages within each leading to burial chambers long since emptied and robbed in antiquity. The earliest is the Great Pyramid of Khufu (sometimes referred to by the Greek title 'Cheops', or by his full pharaonic name 'Khnum-Khufu'). It is also the largest; the structure is simply enormous and remained the World's tallest building until well into the Middle Ages. The following pyramid was built by Khafre (also called 'Khephren') and is similarly vast (often appearing in photos of the whole group as larger due to its more central position) but is significantly smaller than Khufu's monument. The smallest of the three (at around less than half the size) was built by his successor Menkaure. Both his and Khufu's monuments have much smaller satellite pyramids at their base (some in more ruinous condition) to house the tombs of their queens. Originally all the pyramids had a smooth outer covering of white stone but this was quarried away by later generations (much of which was used for some of Cairo's greatest Islamic monuments) leaving the rough inner blocks exposed. A small section remains at the apex of Khafre's pyramid (suggestive of a snow-capped mountain) to give a sense of the original finish and overall mass. Today the site remains the most popular in Egypt and an astonishing testament to the skill and determination of it earliest builders. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giza_pyramid_complex
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