View Full Version : An Extremely Obscure Egyptology Question

07-11-2008, 05:39 AM
Hi All,

This is an extremely obscure question concerning ancient Egypt, and one that has so far defeated my Google-fu: what would the ancient Egyptians have called the necropolis complex at Saqqara?

Saqqara is a couple hundred year-old village that lent the area its name; the necropolis served the administrative capital of Memphis (south of Cairo) for much, if not all, of its history. In Upper Egypt, at Thebes, the necropolis that contained the Valley of the Kings was known as Ta-sekhet-ma'at in Egyptian. If the name of the northern Memphite necropolis has survived it remains elusive.

Any Egyptologists out there?

Many thanks, in advance!

Scott (who wrote a frickin' book set in ancient Egypt and still can't find this nugget o' info).

07-12-2008, 04:04 PM
Hi Mennon - Since no one has offered any help on this yet - you mentioned Google, but have you looked in library books? There are a lot of good archaeology/mythology/etc books that have been published. I'd have to think that if there is a name, it would show up in one of those. Another possibility (and I feel bad suggesting it, but I do it sometimes), our local large library has a reference/research service and I can call and tell them what I'm trying to find and they'll dig it up for me and tell me what the best book is to read it in - and then I can get the book from them or on inter-library loan if they don't have it. Another possibility is contacting the antiquities department at a large university. So there are three thoughts on the subject. Puma

Robert Toy
07-12-2008, 04:09 PM
I would recommend looking at the following link and do a search or contact them for info, I am sure they would more than happy to respond.


Ol' Fashioned Girl
07-12-2008, 04:24 PM
This probably won't help at all... but it's all I could find:

"The find-spot of Mit Rahina might suggest that it was placed within the West
Hall of the Ptah Temple,47 although the text itself might suggest a location in Ro-Setjau, a toponym which seems to refer to an area of the northern Memphite necropolis running south from Giza to Zawiyet el-Aryan."

Comes from this. (http://www.rutherfordpress.co.uk/Snape%20-%20Khaemwese%20and%20the%20Present%20Past.pdf)

07-12-2008, 05:29 PM
Ma'at was the combined name for the twin sisters of fate/universal balance. I would think that their name would be part of the northern Memphite necropolis too.

07-12-2008, 06:14 PM
I don't have a reference at hand (though I'll look for it amidst the library of reference books I have on AE), but my understanding is that the area was known as sKr (Saqqara) they started building tombs there and the town took the name from the area, not the other way around.

When I find the reference, I'll post the notation.

07-12-2008, 07:18 PM
Thanks, all!

An Egyptologist I emailed yesterday suggested Ro-Setjau, too (you go, Old Fashioned Girl!), so I'll likely go with that. She also went on for some length on the name Saqqara. To wit: it hearkens back to the name of the Memphite god of the necropolis, Sokar (DeleyanLee's sKr reference). It still likely had a longer poetic name involving the word ma'at, but that either hasn't survived or hasn't been identified yet.

Puma, I actually own a better Egyptian reference section than what my local university library has (I'm in an engineering town; history gets the short shrift). They're good about keeping their Cambridge Ancient History updated, though. ;)

Thanks, again, for the help!


07-12-2008, 11:48 PM
Okay, I just had a long discussion with my housemate about this naming business in Ancient Egypt. What she had to say might shed some light on why this is so blasted hard to find.

The concept of naming an overall place (such as a necropolis) was completely foreign to the ancient Egyptian way of thinking. They wouldn't refer to a place as Saqqara because everything and every place had its own life and reality across the various worlds/realms, so something's name was connecting part of its existance. This went for places and things as well as people. It's part of why saying someone's name (or not) keeps them alive.

So while modern thinking and language says that we have a cementary with individual graves belonging to the people (ie: He's buried in Heavenly Arms Cementary), to the Ancient Egyptians all the land to the West of the Nile was where you buried your loved ones and what got named was the complex involved in their burial. Thus, Egyptians in the Old Kingdom wouldn't think of the area as Saqqara, but as the names of the individual places where libations and rituals were performed to assist their loved ones in the Afterlife.

What's most likely is that the name Saqqara actually belonged to one of the older complexes that, in more recent times, got applied to the entire area rather that its proper location.

Hope that helps.

07-12-2008, 11:58 PM
Found an example, thanks to Treasures of the Pyramids edited by Dr. Zahi Hawass

King Niuserre (5th Dynasty): "The places of Niuserre are enduring" is the name of his pyramid and complex. He also has a sun temple named "Ra's delight".

Unas (Last of the 5th Dynasty): "Beautiful of the places of Unas" is the name of his pyramid and complex.

Tety's pyramid: "Long standing are the places of Tety"

Implicit in the use of the word "places" is cult or sacred places, or the places for ritual and libation.