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place was excavated in 1850 by M. Mariette, who baving seen in various parts of Egypt sphinxes upon which were written the names of Asår-Hāp, or Serapis, concluded that they must have come from the Serapeum or temple of Serapis spoken of by Strabo.
Happening, by chance, to discover one day at Sakkara a sphinx having the same characteristics, he made up his mind that he had lighted upon the remains of the long sought-for building. The excavations which he immediately undertook brought to light the Avenue of Sphinxes, eleven statues of Greek philosophers, and the vaults in which the Apis bulls were buried. These vaults are of three kinds, and show that the Apis bulls were buried in different ways at different periods: the oldest Apis sarcophagus laid here belongs to the reign of Amenophis III., about B.C. 1500. The parts of the Apis Mausoleum in which the Apis bulls were buried from the XVIIIth to the XXVIth dynasty are not shewn ; but the new gallery, which contains sixty-four vaults, the oldest of which dates from the reign of Psammetichus I., and the most modern from the time of the Ptolemies, can be seen on application to the guardian of the tombs. The vaults are excavated on each side of the gallery, and each was intended to receive a granite sarcophagus. The names of Amāsis II., Cambyses, and Khabbesha are found upon three of the sarcophagi, but most of them are uninscribed. Twenty-four granite sarcophagi still remain in position, and they each measure about 13 x 8 x 11 feet. The discovery of these tombs was of the greatest importance historically, for on the walls were found thousands of dated stelæ which gave accurate chronological data for the history of Egypt. These votive tablets mention the years, months, and days of the reign of the king in which the Apis bulls, in whose honour the tablets were set up, were born and buried. The Apis tombs had been rifled in ancient times,
and only two of them contained any relics when M. Mariette opened them out..
IV. The Tomb of Thi lies to the north-east of the Apis Mausoleum, and was built during the Vth dynasty, about B.C. 3500. Thi 9 19, was a man who held the dignities of smer, royal councillor, superintendent of works, scribe of the court, confidant of the king, etc. ; he held also priestly rank as prophet, and was attached to the service of the pyramids of Abûşîr. He had sprung from a family of humble origin, but his abilities were so esteemed by one of the kings, whose faithful servant he was, that a princess called Nefer-ḥetep-s was given him to wife, and his children Thi and Tamut ranked as princes. Thi held several high offices under Kakak (UL) and User-en-Ra Control kings of the Vth dynasty. The tomb or mastaba of Thi is now nearly covered with sand, but in ancient days the whole building was above the level of the ground. The chambers of the tomb having been carefully cleared, it is possible to enter them and examine the very beautiful sculptures and paintings with which the walls are decorated. To describe these wonderful works of art adequately would require more space than can be given here; it must be sufficient to say that the scenes represent Thi superintending all the various operations connected with the management of his large agricultural estates and farmyard, together with illustrations of his hunting and fishing expeditions.
The Necropolis of Şaķķâra contains chiefly tombs of the Ancient Empire, that is to say, tombs that were built during the first eleven dynasties; many tombs of a later period are found there, but they are of less interest and importance, and in many cases small, but fine, ancient tombs have been destroyed to make them. As our knowledge of Egyptian architecture is derived principally from tombs and temples, A brief description of the most ancient tombs now known
will not be out of place here; the following observations on them are based upon the excellent articles of M. Mariette in the Revue Archéologique, S. 2ième, t. xix. p. 8 ff. The tombs of the Ancient Empire found at Şaşkâra belong to two classes, in the commoner of which the naked body was buried about three feet deep in the sand. When the yellowish-white skeletons of such bodies are found to-day, neither fragments of linen nor pieces of coffins are visible; occasionally one is found laid within four walls roughly built of yellow bricks made of sand, lime, and small stones. A vaulted brick roof covers the space between the walls ; it is hardly necessary to say that such tombs represent the last resting places of the poor, and that nothing of any value is ever found inside them. The tombs of the better sort are carefully built, and were made for the wealthy and the great; such a tomb is usually called by the Arabs mastăba* (the Arabic word for 'bench '), because its length in proportion to its height is great, and reminded them of the long, low seat common in Oriental houses, and familiar to them.
The maștaba is a heavy, massive building, of rectangular shape, the four sides of which are four walls symmetrically inclined towards their counion centre. Each course of stones, formed by blocks laid upon each other, is carried a little behind the other. The largest mastaba measures about 170 feet long x 86 feet wide, and the smallest about 26 feet x 20 feet: they vary in height from 13 to 30 feet. The ground on which the mastabas at Şakkâra are built is composed of rock covered with sand to the depth of a few feet; their foundations are always on the rock. Near the pyramids of Gîzah they are arranged in a symmetrical manner ; they are oriented astronomically to the true north, and their larger axes are always towards the north. Though they have, at first sight, the appearance of unfinished
* Pronounced mastăba, Arabic dobbelr, compare Gr, oti Bác.
pyramids, still they have nothing in common with pyramids except their orientation towards the true north. Masțăbas are built of two kinds : of stone and of bricks, and they are usually entered on the eastern side ; their tops are quite flat.
The interior of a mastaba may be divided into three parts; the chamber, the sirdâb,* or place of retreat, and the pit. The entrance is made through a door in the middle of the eastern or northern side, and though the interior may be divided into many chambers, it is usual only to find one. The walls of the interior are sometimes sculptured, and in the lower part of the chamber, usually facing the east, is a stele ; the stele alone may be inscribed and the walls unsculptured, but no case is known where the walls are sculptured and the stele blank. A table of offerings is often found on the ground at the foot of the stele. A little distance from the chamber, built into the thickness of the walls, more often to the south than the north, is a high, narrow place of retreat or habitation, called by the Arabs a sirdáb. This place was walled up, and the only communication between it and the chamber was by means of a narrow hole sufficiently large to admit of the entrance of the hand. One or more statues of the dead man buried in the mastaba were shut in here, and the small passage is said to have been made for the escape of the fumes of incense which was burnt in the chamber.
The pit was a square shaft varying in depth from 40 to 80 feet, sunk usually in the middle of the larger axis of the mastaba, rather nearer the north than the south. There was neither ladder nor staircase, either outside or inside, leading to the funereal chamber at the bottom of the pit, hence the coffin and the mummy when once there were inaccessible. This pit was sunk through the maștaba into the rock beneath.
*AU is, strictly speaking, a lofty, vaulted, subterranean cham. ber, with a large opening in the north side to admit air in the hot season.
At the bottom of the pit, on the south side, is an opening into a passage, about four feet high, which leads obliquely to the south-east; soon after the passage increases in size in all directions, and becomes the sarcophagus chamber, which is thus exactly under the upper chamber. The sarcophagus, rectangular in shape, is usually made of limestone, and rests in a corner of the chamber ; at Şaşkâra they are found uninscribed. When the mummy had been laid in the sarcophagus, and the other arrangements completed, the end of the passage near the shaft leading to the sarcophagus chamber was walled up, the shaft was filled with stones, earth, and sand, and the friends of the deceased might reasonably hope that he would rest there for ever. When M. Mariette found a mastaba without inscriptions he rarely excavated it entirely. He found three belonging to one of the first three dynasties ; fortythree of the IVth dynasty ; sixty-one of the Vth dynasty; twenty-three of the VIth dynasty; and nine of doubtful date. The Egyptians called the tomb 'the house of eternity,' T A , per tchetta.
Mariette's House.—This house was the headquarters of M. Mariette and his staff when employed in making excavations in the Necropolis of Saķkâra in 1850 and 1851. It is not easy to estimate properly the value to science of the work of this distinguished man. It is true that fortune gave him the opportunity of excavating some of the most magnificent of the buildings of the Pharaohs of all periods, and of scores of ancient towns; nevertheless it is equally true that his energy and marvellous power of work enabled him to use to the fullest extent the means for advancing the science of Egyptology which had been put in his hands. It is to be hoped that his house will be preserved on its present site as a remembrance of a great man who did a great work.