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Saqqara or Sakkara, Saqqarah is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.3 by 0.93 mi).

At Saqqara, the oldest complete stone building complex known in history was built: Djoser's step pyramid, built during the third dynasty. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.

North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir; south lies Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

Contrary to popular belief, the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary god Sokar, but from the Beni Saqqar who are a local Berber tribe. Their name means "Sons of Saqqar." Since they are not indigenous to the area it would not follow that they would fashion themselves as being born of an ancient Egyptian god whose identity was unknown until the age of archaeology.


The Step Pyramid

Step PyramidTo the south of Giza lies the immense necropolis of Saqqara, the largest of all the cemeteries linked to Memphis. Saqqara is dominated by the great step pyramid of Zoser, dating from the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty, and is the first known example of a pyramid in Egypt, preceding the Great Pyramid of Giza. Built around 2650 B.C., it was designed by the great architect Amenhotep, who was later deified as a magician and healer, and identified by the Greeks to be equal with their god of medicine, Asclepius. In the creation of this structure, Amenhotep first built a large mastaba, which he then raised by adding five superimposed levels, decreasing in size, until a pyramid of six steps was formed. In philosophical and religious terms, the step pyramid may have represented a stairway for the pharaoh to ascend to heaven.



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