My colleague Tess Baber and I will be presenting a joint paper at the WMES Conference in November this year. The conference will take place between 17-18th November 2018 at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham. More conference details can be found here

Title: Tourism of the Dead: Ancient Tourists, Pilgrims & Early Travellers in the Memphite Necropolis of Saqqara


The ancient Memphite necropolis of Saqqara has long captivated the interest of visitors, both in ancient times, when the Egyptians undertook pilgrimages to visit monuments of spiritual significance, and during the period of early travel (16th – early 20th centuries) when tourists went in search of highly prized souvenirs of Egypt’s ancient culture: the embalmed dead.

Evidence of visitation by casual tourists to the necropolis during ancient times survives through visitor’s graffiti etched into the stone monuments. The nature of these visits remains open to debate, but that they occurred is testament to the popular interest conferred to the site. The question of access afforded to sightseers requires consideration, where limitations may have constructed a dictated experience of the necropolis. An attempt to understand the sacred landscape from the perspective of a visitor has gained new insights into the sacred monuments.

Saqqara’s prolonged popularity with tourists often means that current understanding of the site’s archaeology is adversely affected by the activities of early explorers and excavators. Though significant data has been lost over the centuries, reconstruction of important features may be achieved by studying the accounts left by early travellers and Egyptologists. Research into the nature of the site and the preservation of its monuments during the period of early travel, may yet provide greater detail on the nature of the discovery and exploration of important archaeological features; via comparison with more modern archaeological investigation of the site, it may also be possible to determine when, why and how these were lost.

This paper presents findings from research projects which investigate the nature of how Egypt’s ancient necropoleis were explored and experienced by both early pilgrims and travellers. Consideration will be given to the significance of Saqqara’s sacred landscape and how this may have been experienced by visitors to the site in ancient times, as well as to how the accounts of early travellers can reveal greater detail about the funerary archaeology of the site, much of which has been lost to us.