Project: Digital Saqqara

Modern technology enables the construction of digital models, allowing the visualisation of archaeological sites and landscapes that may no longer be wholly extant. These models are often technology driven, rather than research led. This project is applying digital technologies to generate an innovative three-dimensional model to visualise and diachronically reinterpret the complex ritual landscape of North Saqqara, the site of Egypt’s first pyramid and the necropolis of Memphis, the country’s earliest capital city. The Saqqara necropolis served not only for numerous human burials, but late in Egypt’s history (Late Period 747-332 B.C. and Ptolemaic 332-30 B.C.) was the burial place of millions of sacred animals which were being mummified and deposited in large subterranean funerary complexes, which were often themselves a focus for human burials.

Producing a comprehensive multi-layered three-dimensional depiction of the necropolis will advance our knowledge of ancient Egyptian ritual practice and provide the opportunity to critically assess the contribution and benefits of digital technologies alongside more traditional media (e.g. historic and modern hard-copy maps) in landscape studies more generally. This approach will yield not only a valuable tool for understanding a period of the history of North Saqqara, during which there were significant expansions to the animal cults present at the site as well as significant numbers of human burials (often thought to be associated with them) but will also provide the foundation for projects expanding on this technology. In so doing the effectiveness of this digitally based approach can be tested.

The main project aims can be summarised as follows:

  1. To query the digital model in order to undertake a reinterpretation of the Late Period monuments: how they relate to one-another and to monuments of earlier dynasties, their relationship to pathways of movement through the funerary landscape, and their positions within the necropolis
  2. To determine if the digital model offers innovative or enhanced understandings over and above traditional research methodologies into the complex ritual monuments, their inter-relationships, and their setting within the landscape
  3. To determine if this type of technology would be beneficial in guiding further research
  4. To understand what the limitations and benefits of this type of digital research are
  5. To determine if this type of research is practicable