This documentary is a heart-warming story of life from the world of the dead, and offers viewers a ringside view into the journey of the archeologists
It’s windy, scorching hot and in the middle of the stretches of sand — is Saqqara, the ancient burial ground in Egypt. Wooden coffins with perfectly preserved mummies, bronze statues, caskets have all been excavated from the site over the years.
The area also has several pyramids, including the famous step pyramid of Djoser. In 2018, less than a kilometer away from this pyramid, archeologists discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb. In Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb, we embark on this journey of excavation with a team of Egyptian archaeologists, anthropologists, doctors, egyptologists, and an extremely hardworking bunch of diggers. They help uncover some of Egypt’s secrets which turn out to be one of the most significant archaeological finds of the century.
The main focus of the film is on deciphering the tomb: Who owned it? Who was buried in it, and why did the person need such a grand design? The ancient Egyptians wanted to have a fabulous afterlife, and believed that a spectacular tomb helped them go from a “secular creature to a sacred being”. The tomb was usually decorated with scenes from an ideal life that they wished to enjoy for eternity.
Reading the Hieroglyphs on the walls, they note that it belonged to a priest called Wahtye. The priest in that period was considered as the middleman between the king and the people, and between the king and his God. What follows is a detailed excavation of the shafts, surrounding areas searching for clues about Wahtye, his family and trying to understand how they died.
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb
- Director: James Tovell
- Producer: Charlotte Chalker
- Duration: 113 minutes
- Storyline: A documentary on decoding the tomb of a priest and unearthing some rare artefacts in the ancient archaeological site of Saqqara in Egypt
A doctor studying the bones of the Wahtye and his family noted that they could have died of malaria. If this can be proven right, it will be the first documented case of malaria in history.
More interesting and exciting than finding a mummified human is stumbling upon a mummified animal. When Saqqara yielded a mummified animal — larger than a cat, smaller than a lynx — the researchers set to work. The results of the scans and studying the fur gave another shock to the team – it was a mummified lion cub, which was confirmed to be the first of its kind in history. This find could help tell more stories about the period’s religion, culture, and economy.
It’s not just a documentary about ancient Egypt and its history, as the viewers are up close with the tiring digging, moments of anticipation, and experiencing the sheer joy the findings bring. The short explainers by the team and accompanying illustrations help lay out the information the excavations have unearthed.
“We are the people who can best give voice to our ancestors… because they are our ancestors, we are one step closer to them than the foreigner,” an archaeologist says. The people of the land telling their story, their history and their culture make Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb strike all the right chords. It is a heart-warming story of life from the world of the dead.
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is currently streaming on Netflix