The tomb in Ancient Egypt from the Predynastic to the Pyramid Age
15 – 22 October 2018, 8-day tour
Photos by Reg Clark unless otherwise credited
Pyramid of Meidum
Bent Pyramid, Dahshur
Enclosure wall of Sekhemkhet at Saqqara
Mastaba 17 at Meidum (John Bodsworth)
Red Pyramid, Dahshur
Saqqara Hotepsekhemwy entrance (Creative commons)
It can be argued that the most formative period of development in Egyptian tomb architecture runs from the Predynastic Period up until the early Fourth Dynasty, by which time most of the architectural features that we take for granted today, had largely been introduced. However, the evolution of the Egyptian tomb and the underlying reasons behind its development are rarely discussed, and many of the key sites in the story seldom visited by Egyptophiles or tourists. This tour intends to fill that gap, by visiting a selection of important early royal and private tomb sites in Upper and Lower Egypt, and examining in detail their architecture and the influences that led to their construction.
The tour will be accompanied by our guest lecturer Dr Reg Clark, author of Tomb Security in Ancient Egypt from the Predynastic to the Pyramid Age, who is our expert on the tombs of this period, and whose particular speciality is the architecture of Egyptian tomb security.
Sites visited will include:
- Hierakonpolis – The City, Fort and the Predynastic necropolis
- Abydos – The Early Dynastic royal cemetery at Umm el-Qaab, the Shunet el-Zebib, and the temple of Seti I
- Beit Khallaf – the Third Dynasty Mastaba K1
- Saqqara – The Early Dynastic private tombs, the Second Dynasty tombs of Kings Hotepsekhemwy and Ninetjer, the Third Dynasty step pyramids of Djoser and Sekhemkhet
- Meidum – The Fourth Dynasty pyramid and tombs of the courtiers at Meidum; Dahshur, The Bent and Red pyramids, and finally, a visit to Cairo Museum.
Day 1: October 15
Afternoon departure from London Heathrow airport for Luxor on our Egyptair direct flight, arriving Monday evening; private transfer to our hotel where we will stay for two nights.
Day 2: October 16 – Ancient Nekhen, Predynastic Hierakonpolis
Today we journey by road to visit the remains of the city and early cemeteries of Hierakonpolis, the ‘City of the Hawk’, which was an important capital and centre of regional power in Upper Egypt during the Predynastic Period (special opening). After familiarising ourselves with the city, the ‘Fort’ and its important sites, we’ll then concentrate on exploring the elite or ‘royal’ cemetery HK6. Here in particular, we will seek out the remains of the Naqada II tombs 23 and 26, and the Naqada III tomb 2, whose architecture plays an important role in the story of tomb development. We will take a packed lunch. (B/L).
Evening lecture: The early Egyptian tomb from the Palaeolithic to the Predynastic.
Day 3: October 17 – The sacred landscape and cemeteries at Abydos, Umm el-Qaab
This morning we travel by road to Abydos, to visit the Early Dynastic royal cemetery at Umm el-Qaab, where we’ll orientate ourselves in the sacred landscape and try to locate the visible remains of the tombs of the kings and queens of the First and Second Dynasty (special opening). We’ll also view the massive and mysterious funerary enclosure of Khasekhemwy last king of the Second Dynasty (special opening), known nowadays as the Shunet el-Zebib. While in the city, we’ll also take the opportunity to visit (albeit outside our period) the stunning temple of Seti I as Osiris, where we can also marvel at the king’s enigmatic underground cenotaph or ‘Osireion’. Tonight we stay nearby in Abydos or Sohag and enjoy dinner in our hotel. Packed Lunch. (B/L/D).
Lecture: The royal and private tombs of Dynasty ‘0’ and the First and Second Dynasties.
Day 4: October 18 – The road to Cairo via the necropolis of Beit Khallaf
We head north by road to Cairo, taking time on the way to visit the enormous Third Dynasty Mastaba K1 at Beit Khallaf (special opening), where we will discuss the astounding security measures incorporated in the tomb to defend it against tomb robbers. A long scenic drive then brings us to Cairo and our hotel, where we shall stay for four nights. Packed Lunch (B/L).
Evening lecture: The dawn of the Pyramid Age
Day 5: October 19 – The necropolis of Saqqara: Early Dynastic and Third Dynasty tombs
We begin our visit to the Saqqara plateau by searching for the surface remains of the Archaic First, Second and Third Dynasty mastaba tombs at Saqqara North (special opening). Having discussed their development, we then make our way south to seek out the rarely visited enormous subterranean tombs of the Second Dynasty kings, Hotepsekhemwy and Ninetjer (special opening), which are located near the causeway of the Pyramid of Unas. Here we shall hear about the construction of these vast hypogea, and the effect that they had on tomb design in the dynasties that followed. We’ll then move onto the Step Pyramid of King Djoser and review in detail the many stages of construction that culminated in the world’s first pyramid tomb. Finally, we will take a short walk south to seek the enclosure wall and entrance to the pyramid of Djoser’s successor, Sekhemkhet (known as the Buried Pyramid) and discuss in detail the complex substructure that lies beneath (B/L).
Day 6: October 20 – Meidum necropolis: Sneferu’s first pyramid and the tombs of the courtiers
Today we head south to the Faiyum and to the site of King Sneferu’s ruined first pyramid at Meidum, which we enter, explore and discuss in detail. We also visit one of the enormous tombs of his courtiers, Mastaba 17, and access its interior via a robber’s tunnel. Once inside we can marvel at the defensive architecture employed to defend the tomb and discuss the fascinating implications behind its robbery. Lastly, we look at the largest private tomb built during the Old Kingdom, that Nefermaat and Atet (famed for the ‘geese of Meidum’ frieze), and discuss the complex substructure and security arrangements that lie within it (B/L).
Day 7: October 21 – The royal necropolis of Dahshur: Sneferu’s final two pyramids
A morning visit to Dahshur begins with a visit to Sneferu’s second monument, the southern Bent Pyramid, where we review the tomb’s architecture and internal arrangements; we’ll also look at the nearby satellite pyramid, whose interior was intended to be sealed by falling plug-stones, predating those in the Great Pyramid of Giza. From there we can move north to King Sneferu’s final resting place, the Red Pyramid, the first ‘true’ pyramid, which we can enter and, once inside, consider the reasons for its form and construction. We’ll then pause for lunch, and in the afternoon, finish our sojourn in Egypt with a visit to the fabulous Cairo Museum to view some related material from Saqqara and Meidum, and whatever else takes our fancy! (B/L)
Day 8: October 22 – Depart Cairo and return to London
We take a private transfer in the morning from our hotel to Cairo airport and fly Egyptair to London Heathrow arriving in the early afternoon (B).
Total price each £2,775.00 – single supplement £200.00
The price of this tour includes:
Flights Heathrow to Luxor with EgyptAir economy class and return
- All transfers
5* Hotel accommodation in Luxor
All guided tours.
The price of this tour DOES NOT include:
- Travel insurance (essential)
- Other meals, drinks and transport (other than flights and transfers)
A deposit of £400 per person will be payable, with the balance due 21 August 2017.
Egypt Archaeological Tours
Phone us on: 07909 901690 in the UK or +20 (0) 1205 793360 in Egypt
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