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The Catacombs Of Kom El-Shoqafa

To access the Catacombs of Kom El-Shoqafa, you must travel down, through a spiral staircase, to where the bodies of the deceased were once lowered.  This staircase leads to a large central shaft that primarily functioned both for transporting the dead bodies to their graves and ensuring there was good ventilation in the burial chambers.

The central shaft links, through a passageway, to a circular courtyard that leads in turn to another important hall of the catacombs. This hall was used for the funerary rituals carried out in the honor of the deceased on special days sacred to the cult.

This hall also hosts three benches in a letter “U” shape which were cut out of rock and positioned in the middle of the hall where a wooden table must have stood during the Greco Roman period. Unfortunately, it was never found.

Situated to the west of the rotunda is a complex of galleries where the bodies of the deceased used to be buried in different locations around the catacombs.

To the East of the rotunda is a tomb that is completely isolated and independent from the rest of the tombs located inside the catacombs of Kom El-Shoukafa.

This same section has the Hall of Caracalla, which is named, according to the traditions, after the remains of the young Alexandrian Copts who were killed by order of the Roman Emperor in 215 AD and buried here in the catacombs.

It is worth mentioning here that the traditions concerning this tomb have no historical basis because the bones that were found here belonged to some horses that were buried in the same location, probably intentionally. Were they covering something up?

 

 

The Tombs of the Catacombs of Kom El-Shoukafa

 

Afterward, a staircase leads to the main tomb of the catacombs of Kom El-Shoukafa and the most interesting section of this remarkable historical necropolis.

The tomb dates back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD when the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan ruled over Egypt as well as a large section of the expanding Roman Empire at this period of time.  This section features distinctive ancient Egyptian Pharaonic bas-reliefs and statues that were modified to suit the Greco Roman style of decoration and design.

Some characteristics of the ancient Egyptian design, like the winged sun disk of the god Horus or the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, are combined with Greek symbols like the thyrsus of the Dionysian cult.  This tomb has a wide antechamber with a tunnel in the middle. Through it, guests descend to the third level of the catacombs of Kom El-Shoukafa, which have been inaccessible lately due to the flooding of the underground water.  At the end of this tomb are two large pillars featuring capitals decorated with lotus and papyrus motifs. Above these pillars is the scene of the sun god, Horus, who guards the tomb against any threats, based on ancient Egyptian traditions.

The door to the burial chamber has, to the left and to the right of it, some bas-reliefs of the holy cobras who also protected the tombs as a sign of divine power. The antechamber's side walls have two niches with no inscriptions or records. To the right are two statues of a man, and to the left, a woman. These figures may represent the couple, for whom this tomb was originally dug, or maybe their children or relatives.

 

Afterward, as you move towards the center of the second floor, you will find a burial chamber with a central sarcophagus and two other sarcophagi. This likely belonged to a woman who lived in the 2nd century AD during the Roman reign of Egypt.   The three sarcophagi are ornamented with floral shapes and located above them is a relief demonstrating the common mixture in the catacombs between the Greco Roman and the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic styles of design and decorations.

Another example of this pairing lies inside the door of the tomb, which features the god Anubis, who was mainly associated with the burial traditions in ancient Egypt. In this relief, Anubis is dressed like a Roman legionary.

 

 

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