The Tomb of the Giants of Sakkara
Research Report by Gregor Spörri
The discovery of the serapeum
In the first half of the 19th century, researchers had little scruples about achieving their goals. To be respected with fellow scientists, and popular with the general public, it was a must to bring home as many treasures as possible from his expeditions. How to get there was second-placed. Dynamite as a door opener was at that time part of the standard equipment of every researcher. This was no different for the French treasure hunter, excavator and Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.
A precious treasure
In 1851, Auguste Mariette discovered the entrance to a tomb near the Pyramid of Djoser, where he suspected precious treasures. For 3,000 years, grave robbers had searched in vain for this access. Mariette’s assumption seemed to be confirmed, as he was greeted by an Apis bull statue just behind the entrance. Next to it were other statues and stelae with the efficity of the bull.
The Apis bull was revered by the ancient Egyptians as the embodiment of the main creator god Ptah, who is said to have once formed man out of clay.
Mariette assumed that he was in the so-called Serapeum, a millennia-old place of worship and burial for the holy Apis bulls, which Greek scholars had already reported around the year 25 BC. The Frenchman examined the extensive complex and first came across the intact tomb of Chaemwaset – a son of Pharaoh Ramses II. Mariette had the precious treasure, consisting of about 7000 grave goods, shipped to Paris, where parts of it can still be admired in the Louvre Museum. After clearing Chaemwaset’s tomb in the so-called small gallery, Mariette devoted herself to the lower vault.
The Tomb of the Giants
In the so-called large gallery, he came across 24 bricked-up niches. In the wallwere stone tablets covered with hieroglyphics. Mariette had the walls torn down and solidified. Twenty-two of the 24 niches contained stone sarcophagi as huge as anyone had ever seen at the time. Several layers of stone piled up on the coffin lids. It looked like this, so the lids should be weighed down with it.
Two more coffins were parked in side aisles. Each container was made of a single granite block. There were coffins made of rose granite, grey granite, diorite, syenite, granodiorite, etc. All very hard and difficult to process materials. Mariette’s companion Linant de Bellefonds measured one of the sarcophagi and calculated a weight of at least 65 tons. In another container, he even calculated more than 70 tons.
The find was an absolute sensation, but something about it wounded Mariette: All the coffin lids, with more than 20 tons as heavy as the safe room doors of Fort Knox, were slightly shifted and were wide open a gap wide. A quick glance into the coffins was enough to determine that they were empty. Mariette and his companions were quite irritated, because there was no indication of looting of the facility anywhere.
Only one sarcophagus seemed untouched. Mariette and his assistants tried unsuccessfully to push the ton-heavy lid to one side. So they put dynamite on the coffin. After they had blown a hole in the container, their astonishment was great, because this container was also completely empty.
Mariette wondered if what had once been in the coffins had possibly been moved to another place. If there was an explanation for this, he would certainly find it on the stone tablets that were found in large numbers both in the vestibule of the tomb and near the bricked-up niches of the sarcophagi. Although Auguste Mariette was well versed in hieroglyphic writing, he was unable to read the stelae. It is said that Mariette puzzled over the seemingly untouched yet empty tomb until the end of his life.
Later, Mariette apparently succeeded in reading the steles he had brought to France, whose texts report on the burials of Apis bulls. BUT: Originally, several hundred of these steles were embedded in the walls. Today, only the empty niches bear witness to them. How many stelae texts have actually been translated to date, and whether the texts about bull burials actually refer to the giant sarcophagi or to other, smaller coffins that were also placed in the tomb, has yet to be clarified.
Official doctrine and my objections to it
Teaching opinion 1: The Serapeum was once used to worship the holy Apis bulls who lived in the above-ground stables. After their death, the bulls were embbalized and buried in the underground necropolis.
Objection: The Serapeum consists of two spatially separated facilities: the so-called large gallery and the small gallery. In the small gallery, mummified bodies of humans and bulls were buried and found in wood sarcophagi. From this part of the necropolis come the treasures upscaled by Mariette as well as the bull artifacts, which were offered for sale at markets in Cairo.
The large gallery is something completely different, because only here there are the stone giant sarcophagi. Because the Egyptologists do not know the actual purpose, they explain that Apis bulls were also buried in the coffins.
Teaching opinion 2: The Roman emperor Honorius closed the Serapeum. Monks of the nearby monastery of St. Jeremiah then took the bull mummies out of the sarcophagi and destroyed them in order to put an end to the then prevailing bull cult.
Objection: The bull mummies would never have fit through the narrow slits in one piece. If the monks had previously cut the mummies to pieces – e.g. with wooden sticks, there must have been remains. But the coffins were lightning-clean and Auguste Mariette had not mentioned any mummy remains.
Conclusion: There is currently no scientifically proven information on the purpose of the large gallery and the giant sarcophagi.
Questions1: Bull mummies are very simple designed packages shaped with straw and linen bandages. It makes sense to add these mummies in wooden coffins (small gallery). On the other hand, a funeral in the huge granite sarcophagi makes no sense. These were made with incredible effort and highest precision from hard, heavy granite, which had to be brought from Aswan, 1000 kilometres away. The effort was disproportionate to its purpose!
2: Why should the Egyptians have used such huge containers for the burial of bulls? The animals were mummified in a lying position. A bull’s mummy package is on average 1.7 meters long, 0.7 meters wide and 1.2 meters high. However, the sarcophagi are on average 3.8 metres long, 2.3 metres wide and 3.2 metres high. Even the size is disproportionate to the purpose!
3: The Apis bulls were sacred to the Egyptians. There was no reason to bury the animals in a way that might have been done with monsters. So why were 20 tons of flat-cut lids used to seal the coffins, even though mummies are no longer decaying at all?
4: Why were several tons of stones layered on top of the 25-tonne lids, as if something was to be prevented from climbing out of the coffins?
5: Why were the sarcophagi partially walled into the ground when this completely contradicts the burial customs of the ancient Egyptians?
6: What about the ominous stone tablets that were once in the walls of the niches and in the front room of the complex? Were they destroyed or taken to another location? What information/messages were carved into the panels?
7: Each sarcophagus is different: material, size, shape and weight. Strange: The stonemasons did not place much emphasis on the external appearance. So here and there there are slanted edges, crooked surfaces, dents, etc. The inside of the containers, on the other hand, they have worked perfectly: floors, side walls and the inside sides of the lids are absolutely flat ground. The containers can be sealed airtight. The angles of the inner corners and edges have an exact 90 degrees. And the radius of the inner corners is a maximum of 4-5 millimeters.
8: With which tools had the ancient Egyptians been able to precisely process and polish the extremely hard granite stone derat? The hardest metal they officially possessed was iron. To this day, the processing of granite is an enormous technical challenge that can only be overcome with special machines.
9: Three of the 24 sarcophagi have inscriptions. The hieroglyphics, some of which are more badly carved than quite inscribed, call kings from the 26. and 27th dynasty (400 – 500 BC). The texts are unrelated to the thesis of an Apis-Stier burial.
10: I have long considered whether there could be a connection between the huge sarcophagi in the Serapeum of Sakkara and the equally huge unfinished coffins in the rock chamber of the Great Pyramid. Both sites are causing headaches for Egyptologists and alternative researchers alike. Read: The Great Pyramid in Giza: Tomb of the Giants.
Visit to the Serapeum
Since 2011, the large gallery has been open to visitors. Unfortunately, a lot of original things have been lost in the renovation. For example, the original substrate was covered with a parquet floor and in the coffin niches massive steel scaffolding was built to protect against collapses.
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