A short guide to The catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa Alexandria
Jean-Yves Empereur

Published by Sarapis, 1996

Jean-François Gout

On 28th September 1900 the ground on the Hill of Potsherds (Kom el Shoqafa) spontaneously opened and a donkey disappeared into the crevasse. The unfortunate beast had inadvertently discovered one of Alexandria's most important archaeological sites, the principal hypogeum of a funerary complex dating from the end of the first century of the Christian era and still in use at the beginning of the fourth. Over the past few decades this necropolis has to come to be viewed in the context of a well-documented series of Alexandrian tombs of the Pharaonic funeral cult within a Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman environment and yet there is something special about this site. The layout, decoration and very atmosphere are unique both within Egypt and the rest of the world. A visit here is most definitely to the land of the dead. Renowned archaeologist, Jean-Yves Empereur, leads us through an exploration of the otherworld that is Kom el Shoqafa neatly explaining the mixture of styles and motifs, the density of the decoration, even the very clumsiness of execution. Were it not known to be genuine all this could suggest a pastiche, the invention of a distant cinema studio. And yet it is real, the jumbled product of a synthetic city.