Japanese excavations at Abusir-Saqqara

Supported by: Institute of Egyptology, Waseda University

Director: Sakuji Yoshimura and Nozomu Kawai

Area: ‘Khaemwas Hill', north-west of the Serapeum

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Following reports of archaeological finds made on a remote hilltop occupied by the Egyptian army in the 1970s, a first survey was conducted here by the Japanese expedition in 1991. So far, two major structures have been brought to light on the hilltop. The eastern end is crowned by the remains of a puzzling limestone structure inscribed for Khaemwas, crown prince of Ramesses II and very active in the Saqqara area as a priest of Ptah. The monument consisted of a columned portico, a rectangular room, and a cult chapel, all decorated with limestone reliefs of outstanding quality but now completely ruined. Further west was a mudbrick platform possibly belonging to Amenhotep II and Thutmosis IV. Excavations on the south-east slope of the hill revealed a layered stone structure datable to Dynasty 3. This was associated with a number of rock-cut chambers with votive offerings and pottery of the Early Dynastic Period, Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. It rather looks as if the hill was regarded as a sacred place, perhaps because of its similarity to a giant recumbent lioness. Work is now continued on the west slope where more blocks of the Khaemwas chapel have turned up, whereas the east slope has produced a multiple burial of Second Intermediate Period or early New Kingdom date.