Memphis and its Necropolis (World Heritage)

The pyramids of Saqqara, Gizeh, Abusir and Dahshur as well as the necropolis of Memphis are among the most impressive testimonies of ancient Egyptian civilization and are the only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the World. Made by the legendary builder Imhotep around 2650 BC. The step pyramid of Djoser, built in the 4th century BC, marked the beginning of a unique pyramid complex that has lost none of its fascination to this day.

Memphis and its Necropolis: Facts

Official title: Memphis and its necropolis with the pyramids of Giza, Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur
Cultural monument: Among the 9 pyramids of Giza, the largest pyramid ever erected in Egypt, the Cheops pyramid, which is still 137 m high, made of around 2.5 million cuboids, and the today 136.5 m high Pyramid of Chephren, as well as the 73, Great Sphinx, 5 m long and carved from a boulder; 60 m high step pyramid of King Djoser and two bank graves for his wives Nebet and Chenut in Saqqara; the 8 m long and 4 m high alabaster sphinx and the ruins of the Ptah Temple at Memphis; Pyramids of the kings Sahure, Neferikare and Niuserre in Abusir; the black, the white and the red pyramid of Dahshur
Continent: Africa
Country: Egypt, Middle Egypt
Location: Giza, west of Cairo; Abusir, Saqqara, Dahshur and Memphis, south of Cairo
Appointment: 1979
Meaning: one of the still preserved classic “wonders of the world”

Memphis and its Necropolis: History

2670-2600 BC Chr. Saqqara pyramids during the 3rd dynasty
2600-2475 BC Chr. during the 4th dynasty pyramids at Giza
2475-2345 BC Chr. during the 5th dynasty pyramids at Abusir
1994-1781 BC Chr. Dahshur pyramids during the 12th Dynasty
379-396 under Emperor Theodosius destruction of the temples of Memphis
1881 Opening of the pyramid of King Unas in Saqqara
1902-07 Exposure of the pyramid temple of King Sahure of Abusir
1912 Uncovering the Alabaster Sphinx from Memphis
1975 Discovered in Saqqara the tomb of the Haremhab, the co-regent Tut-anch-Amun

Where Egypt’s high culture began

“The priests told me,” Herodotus informs us, “that Menes, the first king of Egypt, secured the area of ​​Memphis with dams, and after the area became dry, he founded the city of Memphis.” the settlement its size and beauty, because even the Arab travelers of the 12th and 13th centuries were amazed at the impressive and mighty ruins of the former metropolis. The writer Abd al Latif, who lived in those days, left us with the sentence that a description of Memphis is impossible even for the most eloquent, since the testimonies of this city are beyond comprehension.

Unfortunately, not much of it remains today. Only a large alabaster sphinx and a colossal statue of Ramses II have survived. Today’s visitor, however, is still speechless at the sight of the pyramids of Giza. To this day we do not know exactly how the Great Pyramids of Chephren, those of Chephren and those of Mykerinos were built thousands of years ago. The often chosen explanation of a circumferential ramp, on which the stone blocks weighing tons were carried up, cannot be correct. Because three sides of the pyramid had to remain free for control measurements of the angle of inclination – still indispensable with today’s state of the art. Otherwise the legs of the pyramid would not have met exactly at the top.

The step pyramid of Saqqara, built by Imhotep, the vizier of King Djoser, served as the predecessor of these three wonders of the world. His achievement fascinated the people of the time to such an extent that they deified the congenial builder, and the Greeks were supposed to equate him with Asclepius, their god of healing. Originally, Imhotep had only planned an eight-meter-high mastaba, a so-called “bank grave”, for the final resting place of his king. Then, however, he designed a four-tier pyramid, changed his plans again and finally had the six-tier and 61-meter-high artificial burial mound placed over the coffin chamber.

Around this first stone monumental structure of mankind, visitors to Saqqara will find a number of other bank graves in which high officials of the state have been laid to rest. According to businesscarriers, the extremely finely crafted reliefs in these tombs are among the most beautiful works of art that the ancient Egyptians left us.

In the crypts of the pyramid of King Unas, archaeologists found “pyramid texts” written in stone that deal with life after death. These are the oldest religious scriptures we know. Probably in order to truly preserve them for eternity, Unas did not lay them down on perishable papyrus, but had them carved into hard rock.

The underground serapeum is also of typically Egyptian monumentality. This is where the Apis bulls, the sacred animals of the Memphite god Ptah, were buried. Along a 200-meter-long corridor, in niches to the right and left, are the huge coffins made from a single block for the embalmed bulls. Each of these colossi, measuring 4 by 2.3 by 3.3 meters, weighs more than 70 tons. Such a gigantic sarcophagus blocks the way in a side passage; it apparently no longer made it to its destination.

Just a stone’s throw from Saqqara, we find the red and bent pyramids of Dahshur. These two pyramids go back to the initiative of King Sneferu. The latter in particular testifies to the rapid learning success of the ancient Egyptian builders. At 55 degrees, the angle of inclination was too steep for them, and the stone layers threatened to slide off. So they quickly reduced the angle by 12 degrees. On the other hand, the ravages of time gnawed inexorably on the pyramids of Abusir, and they collapsed.

Memphis and its Necropolis

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