The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Egypt, is a collection of catacombs that had their origins in the first century and early second century. At the time of Roman domination, these catacombs are also called the catacombs of Alexandria. They were discovered in 1892 and got their name thanks to the similarities in their design to the Christian catacombs of Rome.
It is believed that this place was a private tomb that was later converted into a public cemetery. Due to its extension and antiquity, it is also considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the city. With respect to its decorations, they are in bas-relief and show a mixture of Greek-Roman and Egyptian artistic forms.
It should be noted that when they were discovered, the two lower levels were submerged. But when the water level dropped in 1995, the only one that remains submerged is the lower one today.
In these catacombs, you will find numerous passages, an antechamber, vestibule, a burial chamber, and niches carved into the rock. Behind the entrance, there is a circular staircase, and on the walls, there are openings that allow light to pass through. Below is a vestibule with two niches that allow passage to a circular room.
And on the left, there is a chamber with four pillars, while at the back you will find a circular room with two statues. At the entrance to the burial chamber, you will see decorations with Greek themes of Medusa or Athena. There are also decorations of the Egyptian god’s Tot and Anubis. This is a decoration based on Ancient Egypt but very influenced by Greek art.
Kom El Shoqafa means mound of shards, named for the piles of broken terracotta vases and other objects found by archaeologists during excavations of this site. It is believed that ancient visitors to the tombs brought food and wine and, due to superstition, broke the pots and left them in the catacombs instead of bringing them home.
in the subsoil of Alexandria is riddled with a vast complex of catacombs and cisterns, fortunately, discovered in the early years of the twentieth century, due to the disappearance of a donkey in a pit suddenly opened in the ground.
Situated south of Pompey’s column, the catacombs complex of Kom el-Shoqafa is the largest Greco-Roman necropolis in Egypt. It reaches a depth of over 30 m and is divided into three levels.
To visit the catacombs one descends on a staircase wrapped around a central well into which the bodies of the deceased were lowered. This leads to the tombs on the three levels dug into the rock.
On the first level, there is a central round room and a large banquet hall, where relatives and friends paid their last respects to the deceased. The considerable amount of pottery fragments found in the place derives the Arabic name of the catacombs which means “Hill of the Shards”.
To the east of the rotunda is the hall of Caracalla, an even more ancient funerary complex dedicated to Nemesis, the goddess of sport. It became accessible from the main chamber when some grave robbers broke in and knocked down the wall.
Another staircase descends to the central tomb, located on the second level. This is the fulcrum of the complex, whose singular decoration is the result of the fusion of various beliefs and funerary iconographies.
On both sides of the entrance, under Medusa’s heads, two giant snakes – which according to Greek mythology were intended to turn any bull sack into stone – hold the double crown of Egypt. The decoration of the sarcophagi and the reliefs engraved on the walls show a mixture of Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles: next to the entrance is depicted Anubis, the god of the dead, whose massive body is here encased in a Roman legionnaire’s armor.
In the middle of the central tomb, a second rotunda descends to the lower floor, made inaccessible by floods. From the funerary chamber, passages branch off in all directions leading to chambers containing over three hundred burial niches.