After fifteen years of work, the "southern tomb" of the funeral complex of Egyptian King Djoser (Third Dynasty) reopened its doors to the public on Monday, in the presence of the highest officials of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and archaeologists in charge of Saqqara.
Contemporary of the famous pyramid of Djoser, this tomb more than 4,600 years old is well known to Egyptologists for its burial chamber decorated with blue earthenware.
Very degraded, looted several millennia ago, it now delivers its freshly restored galleries to the eyes of tourists and curious people.
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Accessible by a long and fine stone staircase undulating several meters below the level of the sand, then by a large and impressive shaft of about 7.5 meters on the side, the underground complex has been conscientiously reinforced, secured, cleaned and put into operation. light for years by Egyptian workers. Gone is the period when archaeologists scrambled, torch or torch in hand, in the middle of enigmatic alleys plunged into the twilight of millennia. Located some 28 meters from the surface, the corridors and chambers of the southern tomb of Djoser today feature bright and modern rows. Without a doubt, clarity wins out over mystery: the blue earthenware walls can be admired between two metal pillars supporting the fragile ceiling of the tomb. Broken,the granite vault that lies at the bottom of the monumental well has also been reassembled elsewhere, for good measure.
The South tomb of Djoser, in Saqqara, reopens to the public
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A stone's throw from the step pyramid of Djoser, where the king who reigned over Egypt between 2667 and 2648 BC was supposed to rest, the South tomb, could have been a cenotaph, a symbolic tomb.
Owning two tombs, one high and one low, could thus have been a way of reproducing the double power of the king, at the same time ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Another track put forward by archaeologists would be to see there the burial place of the royal entrails, collected from Djoser's remains at the time of his mummification.
The two hypotheses are not, moreover, mutually exclusive.
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About fifteen kilometers from the Giza plateau, this tomb of the Old Egyptian Empire was discovered in 1928 south of the royal necropolis, by a team led by the British archaeologist Cecil Mallaby Firth (1878 - 1931), assisted by the French Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer (1902-2001).
"One can imagine the emotion that gripped us then Firth and me, thinking that no one had entered this apartment located 28 meters underground since the exploration of the violators, who had reached it by another route, directly at from the bottom of the well, under the First Intermediate Period, more than 4000 years ago! ”,
testified Jean-Philippe Lauer for the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, in 1980.
The reopening of the South tomb of Djoser comes almost a year and a half after the return of tourists to the site of the Step Pyramid, which had also reopened after several years of work. 60 meters high, the monumental tomb of King Djoser was not - far from it - the only building in the Saqqara complex, which also housed a string of various structures as well as a temple. This vast enclosed necropolis is said to be the work of the minister and chief architect of King Djoser, Imhotep, who is said to be the first
. Built in limestone, these funerary structures mark a break with the brick mastabas that hitherto housed prestigious burials. Their most perfect form will be reached a few years later, with the great smooth-faced pyramids built at Giza by the kings of the Fourth Dynasty.