Saqqara

The modern village of Saqqara, some 16 kilometres south of Giza, lends its name to the most important part of the cemetery of the ancient residence of Memphis. The name is possibly derived from the name of the funerary god Sokar who was prominent here in antiquity. The site features tombs and other monuments from nearly every period in the history of Egypt, from the Early Dynastic Period down to the end of the Pharaonic era and on through to the Coptic Period. Both the most visible and the most famous structure at Saqqara is the pyramid of king Djoser from the 3rd Dynasty, reportedly built by his architect Imhotep, who was later revered as a holy man. Also known as the Step Pyramid, it is the immediate predecessor of the later true pyramids, such as at Giza. Concerning the history of religion and epigraphy, the near-by pyramid of Unas is also important, as it was the first to have Pyramid Texts inscribed on the walls of its funerary chambers. Though Old Kingdom royal pyramids and related mastaba tombs of such officials as Kagemni, Mereruka and Ti predominate, there are also many tombs from the period when Thebes was the religious centre of Egypt. This because Memphis was the residence throughout most of Egypt's history and the vast administrative machinery was located there. Among the many New Kingdom tombs of high officials (re)discovered at Saqqara are those of general Horemheb (who would later ascend the throne after the deaths of kings Tutankhamun and Ay), treasurer to Tutankhamun Maya and his wife Merit, sister of Ramesses II, Tia and her husband Tia. Recently, another large, decorated tomb has been discovered by Leiden archaeologists dating to the Amarna Period and the succeeding reign of Tutankhamun and  belonging to the high-priest of the Aten Meryneith. From even later periods are the underground galleries intended for the burials of the sacred animals, such as baboons, ibises, hawks, cats, dogs, jackals and other animals. The most famous galleries, those of the Serapeum, were reserved for the burials of the Apis bulls.