Author of the Month

Seraperion I & II (cont.)
By Antoine Gigal

Part 2

So, I've just been telling you about the incredible discovery made by Mariette (1846-1930) on November 1, 1850 of the entrance to the Serapeum, this mysterious place at Saqqara on the Giza Plateau, with its complex network of underground tunnels containing a number of sarcophagi. There are 24 enormous ones, measuring 4m long, 2.30m wide, 3m30 high and each weighing over 80 tons, made of granite, and found empty. These sarcophagi raise many questions, as their existence represents a technological feat that cannot be explained in today's terms. I have also talked about the religious rituals that were carried out around this place devoted to the Apis bull, which according to the ancient Egyptians represented the form in which the manifestation of the god Ptah/Osiris chose to incarnate, and which symbolised resurrection, the link with heaven, a pathway to eternity.

Before returning to the challenge of the sarcophagi, I will focus on an essential topic that usually fails to be addressed in discussions about the Serapeum: Imhotep/Asclepius. Remember the statue of Bes that Auguste Mariette found at the beginning of his exploration of the entrance to the Serapeum? Note that this being, revered for its oracles at Abydos, was also known to be a magician of dreams - that's to say he inspired dreams that could then be interpreted. Egyptians often placed a statue of Bes in their bedroom. At the time dreams were seen as an important means of therapy, a fact that is essential for understanding the meaning of the Serapeum. In ancient times dreams were associated with healing and medicine.

Left: One of the huge granite sarcophagi in the Serapeum, Right: One of the long corridors in the Serapeum

Remember that we are near the Saqqara pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser, built by the legendary Imhotep some time before 2660 AD. Imhotep, whose name means " the one who comes in peace", was not only chief minister of Djoser, the architect of the kingdom (the first in Egypt according to many scholars), high priest of Heliopolis and grand magus, chief of all the priests in Northern Egypt, but also a great doctor (probably the first also) with his school of medicine and his temple next to the Serapeum. More than 2200 years before the birth of Hippocrates in Greece, still known as the father of our medicine, Imhotep in Egypt knew how to diagnose and treat over 200 diseases, using terms of anatomical divisions and practising surgery.

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