Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1


Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • An exclusive article in Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1, which was One Of The Seven Wonders In the Middle Ages.


  • It's location in one of the most popular areas in Alexandria called Karmouz, it's close to the ancient Serapeum temple, and pompey pillaron the borders of the western cemetery in ancient Alexandria, In the ancient time, Alexandria was divided into 3 parts, part which was dedicated to the Greeks, part for the Egyptians, and part for the Jews, the part in which the Egyptians lived was the village of Raqouda, which is now Kom el Shoqafa.

Importance of  Catacomb

  • It had a great importance due to its vastness, abundance of its decoration and the complexity of its planning, it considered to be one of the finest and clearest examples of the intermingling of ancient Egyptian art and Roman art, and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of funerary architecture in Alexandria, in addition to it is the oldest unique Roman, and the largest general Roman cemetery that was found in Alexandria, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

why this site called Kom el Shoqafa 

  • The word (Kom-El-Shoqafa) it's an Arabic word, which means (Mount of the Shards), in this area there were many cemeteries, and the ancient Egyptians had a Pharaonic habit which was holding a banquet for the visitors of the deceased in the cemetery after the burial of the deceased, but there was a custom they took it from the Romans, that they did not take the pottery vessels in which they used in the cemeteries to their homes, as they believed that this was bringing evil spirits to their homes, and it would change their lives into worse, So they were broken these pottery vessels in this site, due to the large number of funeral banquets in this place, there were large number of broken vessels, so cleaning these place from shards took about three years, therefore this area was called Kom Al-Shuqafa which mean  the mount of the broken shards.

why this site called Catacomb

  • The name of catacomb  is a term used for graves excavated under the earth's surface, as the word Catacomb (cta meaning below, comb meaning cavity), due to the similarity in planning between it, and the Christian catacomb tombs in Rome it was called catacomb, it was a private tomb, but later it converted to public cemetery.

The Discovery  story

  • These site was discovered by chance on September 28, 1900, this coincidence was made by a donkey, as it was fallen into the main hole of the tomb at a depth of 12 meters, while they were looking for the cause of the donkey's fall, they have known that there were monuments in this site, the excavation had begun in this area since 1892, and it was opened to the public in 1995, after groundwater was withdrawn from the second floor.

History of the place 

  • It was designated for an aristocratic Roman family living in Alexandria in the middle of the second century AD, not designated for a royal family, and because it was a wealthy family, they spent lavishly on designing the cemetery in the Pharaonic style, so, they used engineers to dig the tomb, and build the well, and professional painters to paint in i's walls with Pharaonic and Roman drawings, the cemetery continued to be used later until fourth century AD, by adding many corridors and halls to it, until it became one of the largest mass graves in Alexandria.

Description of Catacomb

  • Its dug into the solid rock to a depth of about 35 m (about 115 ft), the cemetery consists of three floors including the first and second floors are opened to visit, while the third  are flooded with ground water.

The entrance

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1
  • The entrance consists of a spiral staircase with 91 steps, lead to three floors, the steps of the lower staircase are higher than the steps of the upper staircase, as the height of the steps gradually decreases until they almost disappear when approaching the surface of the earth, this was a genius design from the engineer  to make the visitors of the deceased not feel tired while climbing the stairs, as for lighting the stairs, it came through small rectangular openings in the wall on the sides of the stairs.
  • From these rectangular openings, the family and friends of the deceased stand to see the process of farewell to the deceased, the spiral staircase revolves around a well, it is about 30 meters deep with a vaulted ceiling, the well was used to lower the mummy, to prevent any damage to it, as the stairs were too narrow, to allow  for the mummy to pass through it.

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • The staircase leads to a vestibule with two niches on both sides, the top of each niche take the shape of a seashell, as it symbolizes to the beauty god Aphrodite, as it is believed that she was created in a seashell, while the inferior part contains a half round bench, cut into the rock which was used by the visitors to take some rest after descending the stairs of the tomb. 

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

                 《To be CONTINUED part 2

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