Saqqara is the site of the principal necropolis of the ancient city of Memphis. It lies some 17 km from Giza.
The name of the site is derived from the name of an Arab tribe once resident in the area. This Arab tribe was probably named after the ancient Egyptian deity Sokar who was worshipped in this area. The site was in use from the 1st Dynasty to the Christian period. Saqqara is packed full with tombs galleries and robber shafts.
The founder of the 1st Dynasty (King Narmer) is the earliest King whose name is known from Saqqara. His name wes found on a stone bowl discovered in one of the staterooms beneath the step pyramid of Djoser suggesting that there was probably a monument of the reign of Narmer at Saqqra. This suggestion is supported by the fact that slightly later 1st Dynasty Mastaba tombs are also attested in the site.
During the first two Dynasties an extensive cemetery of Mastaba tombs was developed at Saqqara to the extent. This may be partly why the architect Imhotep invented such a unique structure as the step pyramid in the early 3rd Dynasty to be Djoser’s funerary monument.
Among other important Old Kingdom royal funerary monuments of Saqqara is the 5th Dynasty Pyramid of Unas which was the first to be inscribed with the Pyramid texts, and the Pyramid complex of the 6th Dynasty Kino Pepi II, which was actually the last Old Kingdom major funerary monument to be constructed there.
From the First Intermediate Period we have the ruins of the small mud-brick Pyramid of the 8th Dynasty ruler Ibi.
In the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period the area around Dahshur and El-Lisht as well as the sites of El-Lahun Hawara and Thebes, became the main centers of royal funerary activities.
Although the kings of the New Kingdom chose to be buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, many of their important officials who resided in Memphis constructed elaborate temple-style tomb chapels for themselves at Saqqara.
By the late period onwards, large numbers of sacred animals were mummified and buried in the vast underground catacombs at the north end of the site. These animals and birds included baboons, hawks and Ibises. Also cows identified as the ‘mothers of Apis’.
Private tombs dating to the 26th and 27th Dynasty were also found near the Pyramid of Unas, while those of the 30th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman Period are gathered mainly on the northern side of the Step Pyramid.