Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. How Romans Buried Their Deads With A Mix Of Pharaonic Beliefs
One hundred twenty years since finding out the largest and the most important burial site in Egypt, you can live the same surprising that the discoverers of this largest Roman cemetery had lived. Just go to the south of Mina Al-Basal, Alexandria, then enter the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa.
You will know why the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is one of the places you have to visit at least once. Especially when you see this mix of the Roman, Greek, and Pharaonic cultures in designing this remarkable cemetery.
The vastness, the abundance of decoration, and the complexity of planning, also the intertwining of Pharaonic art with Roman art and the most wonderful examples of funerary architecture, that is how the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa – Catacombs of Alexandria will seem to you once you put your feet in this historical site; to begin your way to the surprising.
You will be amazed by the statues that were made in Egyptian styles, but with Roman clothing and hairstyle. Actually, you will be surprised by this site once listening to the way of discovering it in 1900, as it was by pure chance by a donkey that led to the most important Greco Roman necropolis in Egypt.
When a donkey-drawn cart fell and disappeared through the ground, the discovery of the Catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa that dates back to the 2nd century AD; has appeared with its unique combination of Roman, Hellenistic, and ancient Egyptian decorative art.
How Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa Look Like From Inside
The cemetery consists of three levels carved into the rock. All these levels are located under the ground level. These three tiers of tombs and chambers cut into bedrock to a depth of 35m(115 feet). From here, you will begin your way to adventure with our tour guide.
Enjoy visiting the catacombs Alexandria Egypt and get into it through an entrance above the ground to find the main cemetery, “Catacomb,” covered by a vault with a roof is carved and decorated in the form of a seashell. On either side, there are two gaps with stone seats where you can sit and take your convenience.
Then you can climb down into its spiral staircase of 99 steps that are connected to the three floors. This staircase was built of square stones with round windows working to illuminate the tomb through the paths.
It was lit with oil and was used to place incense, and its width was more than a meter, and the steps of the stairs are high at the beginning and then gradually decrease, in order to take into account the comfort of the visitors of the cemetery from the deceased’s people.
While sitting and walking through the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, enjoy seeing the complex decoration via the largest burial site dating from the Greco-Roman period.
The spiral staircase will lead you to the first floor, which consists of a corridor, then a round hall; with a deep well of 8.5 meters in diameter, and the hall has a dome based on six pillars connected by walls decorated in red on its side, a second large square-shaped hall measuring 9 meters in length and 8.5 meters in width.
In the ask of how was People of the deceased took their rest while the visit of the deceased, you will find in that place three sofas carved into the rock resembling terraces, in front of which a wooden table was used for eating. There is a vestibule that leads to a circular hall called the “rotunda.”
You can sit at these rock sofas and live as you are one of the Romans. Sure it will be a remarkable experience, especially when you look around you and find the greatness you will read here.
At the end of the staircase, you will arrive on the second floor, where you will find the main part of the burial. Watch around This staircase; you will see a shaft, which was used to lower the body of the deceased, by means of ropes, to prevent any damages to it.
The burial part consists of two parts, right and left, which represent burial chambers and small corridors around the burial chamber, and above it, there is a Roman decoration, and below it, the winged sun disk is a sign of Egyptian art and was influenced by the ancient Egyptian belief.
You will be amazed on both sides of the burial chamber, particularly with this mix of Egyptian and Roman decorations, as you will find the head Medusa “, which was completely cut into the rock, and below it the Egyptian snake” cobra “wearing the crown of the tribal and marine faces. Still you will be surprised more in this area.
Before entering the main chamber, take a look at the two corridors, the first one in the east and the other in the west, then you will walk through the hall that passes the Rotunda. There is a small hall in front. In this vestibule, you will see at the east a statue of a man inside a niche; and in the west, there is a statue of a woman inside a niche. Both statues were sculpted in the Egyptian way, with some features of Greek art.
The burial part is surrounded by a small enclosure wall called the “parapet”, on top of which is a dome, supported by six pillars. There was between these pillars statues of human heads, some of which were discovered and transferred to the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.
You will find decorated walls with flowers; these walls are where the bodies of deads put, then it was blocked after burying the body with stones, and decoration with the flowers, the head of Medusa, the god Dionysus and other mythical gods.
On the front wall above the sarcophagus, you will see a mummy lying on a funerary bed.
The god Anubis is waiting for the deads there with a jar in his left hand that is supposed to contain some liquids that were used during mummification, while his right hand is touching the mummy. Anubis is wearing a Roman dress and on top of his head is the sun disk with a cobra on each side.
Next, to the god Anubis, there is the Egyptian god of knowledge and wisdom, wearing the double crown, holding the scepter with one hand and a jar with the other hand.
You will find too the lion-shaped table where the god Horus is standing wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and then you will find a lady standing; above her head, there is a sun disk, and she is raising her hands in a prayer position.
In front of the lady is a priest wearing a long garment and giving the lotus flower and a jar to the lady.
You will find an emperor or a ruler wearing a short kilt. He is putting the double crown on his head, holding a necklace with both hands, presenting it to the sacred bull Serapis.
Behind Serapis is a Goddess stretching her wings, maybe representing the Goddess Isis, on the right recess of the burial chamber has nearly the same design. It contains a sarcophagus with the same decorations.
At the end of the second floor, there is a staircase leading to the third floor, and there is a platform tilted against the direction of the stairs. But it is submerged in groundwater.
Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is where you find 502 rare artifacts in the region, including 39 coffins, 17 statues of the Sphinx, 156 bases and column capitals, and seven gutters, in addition to nearly 300 unclassified artifacts.
So, still, there are more secrets that will surprise you when visiting the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqaf, and Whatever I describe, it is not as your eyes will see on these remarkable cemeteries.
Some Facts About Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
Greek and Roman archaeologists suggest that it was initially used as a cemetery for a wealthy family, then it was used to bury many families, as some rooms and burial openings were added to the walls in one or two rows above each other.
In addition, they confirmed that the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa were not built in one period of time due to the multiplicity of decorative arts and their differences and the difference in the architecture of the tombs.
So, it is suspected that the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa were built and used during the historical period from the second century until the fourth century AD.
Some Info About Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
- The Entrance Fee for Catacombs (Kom el Shoqafa) is 80 L.E
- The open hours for this site are from 8 a.m : to 4 p.m.