Seraperion I & II (cont.)
By Antoine Gigal
Gigal and the cobras of Saqqara
As you see, being pharaoh was no easy job because they carried the responsibility for the cohesive force of the world on their shoulders - at least the earliest pharaohs did - and they absolutely had to be equal to the task.
They were the bearers of the positive force, of the harmony of life, and had to keep the upper hand at all times over the forces of chaos that threatened the positive development of events, of things and of people in the country. So Prince Khaemwaset, a great expert on the Sed rituals, with uncommon powers and knowledge, passionate about medicine, rejuvenation and resurrection, spent most of his time in the corridors of Serapeum following the example of Imhotep or of Asclepius. Why? Surely for something closely connected to his passionate research, don't you think? In 1991 a Japanese team from Waseda University discovered north of the Serapeum a building containing 2,500 items bearing the seal of Khaemwaset.
For one thing, we have Apis bulls buried in small sarcophagi, usually made of wood, that do not take up much space because the bulls are mummified in the sphinx position. Three have survived intact from the time of Khaemwaset including the Apis XIV, witness to the continuing worship of the incarnation of the god Ptah in a bull. This cult, dedicated to the metamorphosis of a god who, as the ancient Egyptians believed, took physical form on Earth, thus lasted a very long time. Then there is an underground place which was used to treat, to heal and even to restore people to life with the help of live snakes. And then we have 24 huge granite sarcophagi that look nothing like any others. Apart from their exceptional size, each receptacle has a lid that alone weighs 27 tons and fits perfectly. A careful observer will also notice notches in the walls of the narrow niches where these sarcophagi are placed. These notches allow the 4m30 wide lid to be rotated sideways on its central axis and to remain in position on the edge of the sarcophagus. This indicates that the sarcophagi were used open as often as closed.
What was kept inside them? Was there any liquid? Were the sarcophagi used in the metamorphoses of the gods, in their possible changes of frequency, in medical treatments with snakes, in a rejuvenation process? Were they the receptacles for giants or were they used for the resurrection of the dead? We are told that they date from the 18th dynasty. Guess what, this dating is based solely on bits of 18th dynasty pottery found nearby. Who are they kidding? By that time the art of stone carving was in rapid decline in Egypt. And there we have these containers of 80 tons that are found nowhere else in Egypt or in the world. Imagine the technological precision used to drill to perfection these enormous thick troughs of granite in one piece, with corners that are perfect inside and out, exactly parallel. It's just incredible, unequalled to this day, and represents an achievement way beyond the ordinary. In the words of the engineer Christopher Dunn, who went in 1995 to take measurements with properly calibrated instruments, "Nobody makes such things without having a very good reason for their design," and "the tools used to create (these objects) are so precise that they are incapable of producing anything other than perfect accuracy." We are far from the worker with a hammer trying to gouge out a lump of stone. The surfaces of these huge containers are perfectly smooth with precise and perfect edges, made from a solid block of granite of an unbelievable thickness. For many experts this perfection is the proof that a very advanced civilization lived in Egypt a very long time ago.
These containers are completely smooth and devoid of any inscription, except for two partially. But when you look at one of the two inscribed ones, you see a wobbly and very inaccurate line and poorly drawn hieroglyphs, in the design that was very common in the late period of false doors, a very clumsy effort. Now genuine inscriptions on sarcophagi are always perfectly accurate; the royal scribes and sculptors had a total mastery of writing and of their materials, even in bas-reliefs. Writing that was flawed would not have been allowed or tolerated on such objects. So at what point were these writings added - perhaps quite recently? Has someone tried to make us believe, misguidedly and without success, that these objects are not so old after all? And why try to disguise the glaring truth, namely that these objects were designed to be mysteriously smooth and without any inscription? Why would anyone want to turn them into ordinary items, when their dimensions speak for themselves?
Finally, last question: how were people in the old days able to transport these very heavy sarcophagi into these deep and narrow niches? In our time, as I described at the beginning, a serious attempt was made to carry one of them up to ground level but after a few meters, it had to be given up. The sarcophagus now sits there abandoned in a corridor. So is it not reasonable to think that these sarcophagi were actually already there long before Khaemwaset, as vestiges of a remarkable technology? They were revered for the extraordinary purposes to which they had been put in the distant past; purposes of which a few rare scholars, like Prince Khaemwaset, still jealously guarded the secret.
Text and photos copyright Antoine Gigal
Translation to English: Lisette Gagne