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Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa

Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa

Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa Location

The catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa are an archaeological site located in the city of Alexandria, Egypt. This extensive complex of impressively decorated tombs dates back to Roman times and is regarded as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.” The lower levels of the complex are flooded, but the tomb walls in the accessible areas are heavily decorated. They display an unusual fusion of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian iconography given the time of their construction. Figures carved on tomb walls often combine the forms of Egyptian gods dressed in Roman or Greek fashion or creatures from Greek and Roman mythology with pharaonic symbols.

The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian catacombs that contain a large number of tombs. The site was used as a burial chamber from the 2nd to the 4th century. Only being unexpectedly rediscovered in 1900.
The architecture of the place is mixed with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian influences. The tombs are arranged around a central spiral staircase that leads down through 3 levels. The catacombs could accommodate over 300 bodies.

Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa

The catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is a historical, archaeological site located in Alexandria, Egypt.

What is the Meaning of Kom el Shoqafa?

The Arabic name “Kom el Shoqafa” means “the mound of shards,” referring to the shards of platters, plates and other clay objects found in the area before the tombs were discovered.

The Denomination of the Catacombs

This place is known as “The Catacombs”, which means underground tunnel because it resembles the design of the Christian Catacombs in Rome. It is also known as “Kom El Shokafa”,

which means fragment mountain because the remains of broken pottery were found in this place. This denomination of “Kom El Shokafa” is from ancient Greek.

Catacombs of kom el Shoqafa Facts

Three tombs and chambers have been dug into the bedrock to 35 meters at the Kom El Shoqafa catacombs. The lowest level, around 20 meters below street level, is flooded and inaccessible,

but the sections above are spectacular in their own right.

Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
The catacombs of kom El shofaqa also known as the hill of treasure

The corpses of the deceased would have been dropped on ropes down the middle of this circular shaft after entering via a spiral staircase at the top of the shaft. Following the stairs, you’ll find yourself in a circular rotunda, with a central well pierced into the murk of the flooded bottom level.

When the catacombs were first built in the 2nd century AD, most likely as a family crypt, the rotunda would have served as a gateway alone, leading to the triclinium (to your left) and the major burial chamber (straight ahead). This is still the case today.

More chambers were cut out of the tomb throughout the 300 years it was in use, and the structure eventually expanded into a complex that could contain more than 300 bodies.

The triclinium served as a banqueting hall where bereaved relatives might come together to say their last goodbyes and have a funeral feast. Mourners gathered around a low table in the middle of the chamber, where they reclined on elevated seats after 40 days and again on each anniversary to feast.

When the room was excavated, it was discovered to contain tableware and wine jars. Returning to the rotunda, descend the stairwell to the major tomb, which serves as the focal point of the catacombs.

An antechamber with columns and a pediment leads from here to the temple’s inner shrine. A strange fusion of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman burial imagery may be seen in the characteristic Alexandrian-style décor.

The entrance to the inner chamber is flanked by figures depicting Anubis, the Egyptian deity of the dead, but costumed as Roman legionaries and bearing a serpent’s tail, representing Agathos Daimon, a Greek goddess, on each side of the entryway.

Several tiny corridors lead from the antechamber to a vast U-shaped chamber lined with loculi — the holes in which the corpses were deposited – at the room’s far end.

Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
The old Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are an extremely well preserved and fascinating.

It was necessary to close the little chamber once the corpse (or bodies, since several of the loculi could hold more than one) had been deposited within it with a plaster slab.

Continuing above in the rotunda, four further corridors lead off to tiny groups of tombs. There are two of them, and one of them leads to a whole other structure known as the Hall of Caracalla.

Com ash Shuqqafa, which it precedes, is connected to this tomb by the efforts of tomb thieves who created a new corridor by hacking through the crumbling structure of the original stairway.

In addition to the hole in the wall, there is a painting depicting the mummification of Osiris and the capture of Persephone by Hades, which illustrates ancient Egyptian and Greek burial stories, respectively.

The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa Description

The Catacombs is a 30 m deep necropolis divided into 3 levels with bas-relief decorations that are considered a mixture of Egyptian and Greco-Roman arts.

After the entrance, there is a spiral staircase that leads to the first level.
On the first level: A hall with 2 niches leads to a circular room. In the center of the circular room is a well, and on its left is a chamber (dining room) with 4 pillars. A staircase leading to the second level is at the end of this circular room.
On the second level: There is the main chamber at its entrance; there are Greek decorations such as “Athena” (goddess of war, civilization, and wisdom in Greek mythology) and “Medusa” (female monster),

and in its dating there is the solar disk with two serpents, one on the right and the other on the left, bearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. Inside this chamber are 3 rock-cut niches, each containing a sarcophagus.

In the chamber, there are 4 columns and decorations of ancient Egyptian gods, such as Anubis (jackal-headed god) dressed as a Roman soldier and Sobek in military dress. On this level are most of the tombs of the Catacombs.

The low level: it is submerged in the water with bodies floating on the water’s surface.

Who built the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa?

The importance and fame of the Kom El Shoqafa tombs are because it is one of the finest examples of mixing Pharaonic art with Roman art, Macedonian art, and Greek art,

where many beautiful statues, carvings, and decorations are still evident in this day. The story of the discovery of these tombs is one of the funniest stories of archaeological excavation;

These tombs were discovered on September 28, 1900, and drilling and excavations began in the region in 1892, and nothing was discovered until that day when a donkey fell

by chance in the main hole of the tomb At a depth of 12 meters. When they started searching for the donkey, they discovered graves.

The History and Discovery of the Catacombs

The Catacombs were built in the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century. It was considered a private tomb, later enlarged, and became a public cemetery for wealthy Romans.

The site was used as a stone quarry during the time of Muhammad Ali. Its discovery was in 1892 by chance. It was said that a donkey fell into a 12 m deep hole dug in the ground.

When the Catacombs were discovered, they were submerged in water. In 1995 the lower level of the Catacombs was submerged, and to save the Catacombs and protect them from damage, 6 40 m deep wells were built.

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About the author

Magdy Fattouh (Migo) is a creative content marketer and expert in search engines for over 5 years. He manifests his passion in his role as a Creative Content Writer especially in travel where he strives to evoke a strong sense of place in his write-ups.