Greek-Roman tombs of Alexandria: description, discovery, photo
Location of the graves
In Alexandria the tombs are located in 2 main areas east of Alexandria: the tomb of al-Shatby and Mustafa Camel; to the west is al-Anfushi and Kom el-Dekka. The eastern tombs date back to the Ptolemaic period and are older. The western tombs date back to Roman times. The Greeks were used to cremate the dead and put their ashes in a container (urn). But the Egyptians first mummified the corpses and then put the body in the coffin. In Ptolemaic times a new way of burying was found: “loculus / i” – a room dug underground, then a small room was created in the wall where an urn was placed, then the room was closed.
The tomb of Alexander the Great
The tomb of Alexander the Great was considered the nucleus of all royal tombs. It was located at the intersection (in the middle of the crossing point) of two main roads. When Ptolemy IV arrived, he removed all the tombs of his predecessors and built a new cemetery with tombs placed at the same distance from each other and parallel to the tomb of Alexander the Great. Until Ptolemy VI it was common to bury the bodies of kings. It is known that the last queen of this dynasty Cleopatra VII was mummified and it is still unknown exactly what had happened with the bodies of kings between these 2 periods of time if they had been buried or mummified. Ptolemy IX changed the coffin of Alexander the Great and used his gold to pay the salaries of Greek mercenaries.
The tomb of Alexander the Great is yet to be discovered. Some believe that Alexander the Great himself is buried in Soma. The tomb of Alexander the Great consists of an entrance hall and stairs leading to the courtyard. Consisting of 2 rooms one after the other. The backroom contains a sofa with Alexander’s huge golden coffin containing his mummy. Above the tomb, a small temple was erected to worship Alexander the Great. The Roman emperors greatly respected this tomb and so many visited it. Octavian Augustus placed a golden crown over the head of Alexander’s mummy. The conqueror never saw the capital of his dreams in life; he left its construction to Ptolemy I and went to Asia, where he was killed in a battle. Excavations near the El-Nabi Daniel Mosque have revealed ancient Greek and Roman monuments, and it is speculated that Alexander’s tomb may be hidden under the mosque.
Tomb of Mustafa Camel
The tomb of Mustafa Camel dates back to 250 B.C. and was discovered by chance in 1933 while the first level of a playground was under construction. Four tombs were found divided into 2 types: the first type tombs 3 and 4; half-buried underground but not so well preserved. The second type are graves 1 and 2 completely underground. The most important of this group of graves is tomb 1. It has a water system and some frescoes. They were buried by wet lime. The tomb consists of an entrance hall, stairs leading to the courtyard in the middle of which there is an altar. The outer walls of the courtyard are decorated with Doric columns and to the left of the entrance, there are 3 rooms. Rooms 2 and 4 contain some loculi. In-room 3 there is only one loculus. There is a water system between rooms 2 and 3, it consists of the well that is located on the ground of room 2. On the wall in front of the well, there is a swimming pool connected with the help of clay pipes to 2 small water tanks located in room 3. These two small tanks are connected to a larger one that is located in the courtyard, most of the time the last tank is empty it fills with water only in case the other two small tanks are full. On the other side of the entrance, there are 3 small rooms 5, 6 and 7.
Each room contains loculi and fortunately, the walls still retain their colors: the veined yellow is an imitation of alabaster and the dotted red is an imitation of granite. On the right side of the main entrance, there are 3 secondary entrances A, B, C leading to corridor 8. Each entrance has a limestone Sphinx-guard. The entrances are small and some are unfortunately damaged. Behind the corridor are rooms 9,10,11. Rooms 9 and 11 contain some loculi and at the end of room 10, there is a klime (sofa). There are some groups of Greek names written on the entrance wall of room 11. It is not clear whether they are names of people who were buried inside or only the names of visitors to the tomb. These graves were discovered by chance in the Karmoz area in 1900 after 12 years of research. The tomb was discovered by chance when a donkey got stuck with one leg in the wheel of a cart when workers tried to free the animal they discovered the tomb which dates back to the first or second century and consists of 4 underground floors.
The first and third floors are completely underwater. The most significant feature of this tomb is the existence of paintings on its walls that represent the overlapping of three different types of art – Egyptian, Greek, and Roman.
Catacombs of Kom al-Shukafa
Kom el-Shukafa Catacombs This tomb was discovered behind St. Mark’s School in Al-Shatby Aria in 1904. This is the oldest tomb in Alexandria dating back to 300 BC.
Tomb of Al-Shatby
There are 2 types of graves in this area. The first type called surface tomb has a sand-covered pit with an urn inside. Above the pit, we find marble stairs with a monument crowning a triangle symbol of the Greek temple. Unfortunately, the first type of tomb has completely disappeared. The 2nd type is a tomb dug underground in the style of the Greek house but with a smaller corridor than the royal house.
Tomb of Tigrane
The tomb consists of the entrance leading to the stairs and a large corridor, then a smaller one leading to a courtyard. In the garden of Kom al-Shukafa, some architectural fragments and sarcophagi from the excavations in and around Alexandria have been placed and three small tombs have been reconstructed. The most interesting one is housed in a grayish building in front of the curators’ house and is called Tomb of Tigrane.