Egypt has officially opened the tomb of King Djoser following a 15-year, $8.2 million restoration. The opening comes at a time when Egypt is looking to revitalize its tourism industry following the coronavirus pandemic.
Restoration on the Southern Tomb involved refurbishing carvings and the tiled walls, reinforcing underground corridors, and installing lighting. It comes following the tomb’s closure in 2006 amid concerns of collapse.
The Southern Tomb was built between 2667 B.C. and 2648 B.C., and lies within the cemetery complex of King Djoser, a pharaoh who lived approximately 4,500 years ago. It is largely underground, made up of a labyrinth of corridors decorated with hieroglyphic carvings and tiles.
The central funeral shaft is home to a granite-clad sarcophagus from the Third Dynasty. “After descending the deep stairs and reaching the burial pit, one finds a coffin that is considered one of the largest made with pink granite stone, composed of 16 pink granite blocks with a total weight of 120 tons,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt.
While the pharaoh is not buried within, it’s thought it might have been built for symbolic reasons or to house Djoser’s internal organs, according to Waziri.
King Djoser is buried in the nearby Step Pyramid, which is widely considered to be the oldest known pyramid and one of the first examples of monumental architecture from the ancient world. It is thought to have provided inspiration for the Pyramids of Giza.
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The two pyramids make up part of the Saqqara complex near Cairo, which hosts at least 11 pyramids and hundreds of tombs ranging from the 1st Dynasty (2920 B.C. to 2770 B.C.) to the Coptic period (395 to 642). It was part of the necropolis of the ancient city of Memphis, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s.