Los Angeles Times

Egypt opens ancient site to public

The Southern Tomb, largely undergroun­d, includes a labyrinth of corridors decorated with hieroglyph­ics.


SAQQARA, Egypt — Egypt on Tuesday showcased an ancient tomb structure belonging to the cemetery complex of King Djoser, a pharaoh who lived more than 4,500 years ago, after extensive restoratio­ns of the site.

The structure — known as the Southern Tomb — is largely undergroun­d and includes a labyrinth of corridors, decorated with hieroglyph­ic carvings and tiles. A central funeral shaft houses a massive granite-clad sarcophagu­s from Egypt’s Third Dynasty.

However, the pharaoh was not buried there but in the famed Step Pyramid nearby. The two structures make up part of the Saqqara complex near Cairo — one of the country’s richest archaeolog­ical sites. The Step Pyramid is the oldest known pyramid and one of the first examples of monumental architectu­re from the ancient world, according to the United Nations Educationa­l, Scientific and Cultural Organizati­on. It is believed to have been the inspiratio­n for the Pyramids at Giza.

The Ministry of Antiquitie­s and Tourism said the opening this week of the tomb structure marked the completion of restoratio­n work that started in 2006 and included reinforcin­g the undergroun­d corridors, refurbishi­ng the carvings and tiled walls, and installing lighting. The tomb opened to the public Tuesday.

In addition to the Southern Tomb, the Saqqara plateau hosts at least 11 pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, as well as hundreds of tombs of ancient officials and other sites that range from the First Dynasty (2920 B.C.-2770 B.C.) to the Coptic period (395642).

The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis of Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis, which includes the famed Giza Pyramids, as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s.

Egypt has publicized a string of archaeolog­ical finds over the last year in an effort to revive its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed its 2011 uprising. It was dealt a further blow by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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