Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Archaeologists Find New Section of Sacred Road

The Saqqara Serapeum is a tunnel of underground tombs for sacred bulls. Archaeologist have now unearthed the portion of the sacred road on which priests carried the mummies of bulls from the mummification chamber to the place of interment in the tunnel.

New sections of the ancient roadway known as the Way of the Sphinxes were discovered last week, giving archaeologists hope that additional significant discoveries await them in the area of Saqqara, -- located in the ancient capital of Memphis -- south of present day Cairo.

The area recently yielded the so-called “lost pyramid” tomb of King Menkauhor from Egypt’s 5th dynasty, around 2450 B.C. The discovery of the tomb and new sections of the sacred road are clear indications of the importance of Saqqara.

“During the whole history of Egypt,” Ola El Aguizy said, “Memphis and Saqqara had remained very important. I’m discovering tombs in Saqqara of people of the 26th dynasty who were re-using tombs of the 19th dynasty. It’s a sacred place, and so many important people wanted to be buried here.”

The newly discovered part of the sacred road was where Egyptian priests carried the mummies of bulls en route to interment. The bulls were bred by pharaohs and, when they died, were embalmed and taken to a mummification chamber. Once mummified, the bulls’ mummies were carried along the Way of the Sphinxes to the underground burial chamber called the Serapeum.

The sacred path – which archaeologists believe originally was bordered on both sides by rows of sphinxes – was discovered by French archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1850 and became known as the Way of the Sphinxes.

“When I say we’ve discovered 30 percent of the Egyptian monuments, I take Saqarra as the first example,” said Zahi Hawass of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Saqqara is a virgin site, and it’s very important for us to do this excavation to understand more about the pyramids of the Old Kingdom.”

A settlement of workers living near the site of the Menkauhor tomb will be relocated to allow a wider search for more temples.

Here is the National Geographic article on the discoveries of the pyramid and the new section of sacred road.

A covered sarcophagus rests inside the Saqqara Serpeum, near where mummified bodies of bulls bred by pharaohs are interred.

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