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Gabal al-Mawta

Gabal al-Mawta

 

Other names

“Mountain of the dead”, Jabal al-Mawta; Gebel al-Musabbarin; Qaret al-Missabbarin; Karet el-Messabbareen, Gebel al-Musabbarin

Phisical setting

Gabal al-Mawta is a conical mountain, a medium height, consisted of limestone and argil a little over a kilometre north of the town of Shali in Siwa Oasis.
The site lies about 6km north west al-Takrur mountain, about 3km west Aghurmi (Oracle Temple). It is rock cut tombs. At the south part inside the site there is the museum store or (dr. Ahmed Fakhry)’s store which was opened in 2005. The site is surrounded in the north by agricultural land and governmental buildings, in the east and south by palm trees and Siwa dwellings, in the west by Siwa- Marsa Matrouh asphalt road.

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History

There are many ancient cemeteries in Siwa Oasis, but the only properly excavated is Gabel al-Mawta. Based on stylistic and archaeological finds, the oldest tombs date to the 26th Dynasty and to the Ptolemaic period. During the Roman period several tombs were robbed and reused. There are no traces of later use. Most of the tombs have suffered badly from illicit digging. When A. Fakhry visited the site in the 1940’s there were fragments of mummies and bones scattered around the mountain.
The people of Siwa used the site to hide during the First and Second World Wars. Some Libyan tribes migrated also to this site during the Italian invasion of Libya.

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Archaeological data

The site contains various tombs cut into the side of the mountain, which, due to stylistic (loculi) and archaeological evidence (surface pottery) seem to date from the Hellenistic to Roman periods, although at least one 26th Dynasty tomb exists (see below).
Tomb of Pa-Thoth (Niperpathot)
Another tomb at the site is that of Niperpathot, Prophet of Osiris and Scribe of the Divine Documents. This tomb probably dates to the 26th Dynasty, and is composed of a court with three rooms on either side, ending with a burial chamber (breadth 1.75 m and length less than 2 m) which contains inscriptions and drawings in red. A sarcophagus was cut into the floor. The tomb contains the effigy and images of Osiris and Hathor.
Tomb of the Crocodile
A further tomb is known as the ‘Tomb of the Crocodile’. The tomb dates from the 4th to the 2nd centuries BC, and is unfinished, consisting of three rooms but with only one decorated. These decorations depict Hathor, Osiris, the tomb owner and several animals (including a fox and a crocodile).
Tomb of Mesu-Isis
The looted tomb of Mesu Isis is also located at the site, about 20 m to the east of that of Si-Amen. The tomb is named after the wife of the owner – his name is illegible, although his titles (‘the foremost of the Westerners, Osiris, the great god, who is honoured in Tha-t’) are not. The tomb is unfinished, possessing decoration on one wall only. The decoration consists of twenty-one uraei painted in red and blue on the cornice of the entrance, and depictions of Osiris and Isis to its right. The tomb is Roman.
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Tomb of Si-Amun
The well-known tomb of Si-Amen, which contains painted decoration (much destroyed by intrusive loculi-like burials), is one of the tombs at the site. The tomb is Egyptian in appearance and subject matter. For example, a painted wooden beam divides the ceiling of the tomb into a mythological half (showing the sky goddess Nut, stars and the journey of the solar bark) and a second half covered by a gobelin with an intricate pattern of flying hawks and vultures as well as stars.

Si-Amen is depicted at two stages of his life: on the east wall he is shown standing in profile as a youthful man with full, curly hair and beard; on the west wall he is depicted sitting, aged, with a receding hairline and sparse beard. A small boy (son or slave) is shown touching him, perhaps an act of farewell. The composition is reminiscent of Greek funerary art, for example in the shape of Si-Amen’s beard or the chlamys-like garment of the little boy.

The tomb can be dated only vaguely, to the late Hellenistic/early Roman period. Amphorae depicted in its murals, however, compare to known wares from the 2nd to 1st centuries BC, with the latest possible date early in the 2nd century AD.
The paintings were badly damaged during the Second World War by soldiers, who cut away parts of the painted plaster.

Aside from these tombs, many further uninscribed tombs are also present.

Excavations were performed in 1997 by the SCA, 30 tombs beside and directly in front of (Si-Amun) tomb and these tombs extend to the east, they are huge, uninscribed and rock cut tombs. A limestone sarcophagus lid was discovered, as well as a complete limestone sarcophagus, a mummy with full wraps, wheat ears that were put outside the tomb’s door at the left side.
In 2003 excavations were done in front of (Si-Amun and Mesu-Isis tombs) area and 24 tombs in different size and with nearly one plan (Loculi) were found; this plan consists of descending stairs then an entrance leading to a hall then a burial chamber and sometimes side rooms exist. Most of the tombs were uninscribed and not painted with some exceptions of tombs having a plaster layer at their entrances. The tombs contained many bodies and skeletons with wraps.

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Bibliography

Fakhry, A.
1944. The Egyptian Deserts. Siwa Oasis. Its History and Antiquities. Service des Antiquites de l’Egypte. Cairo: Government Press.
1973. The Oases of Egypt. Volume I. Siwa Oasis. Cairo: AUC Press.

Kuhlmann, K.-P.
1988. Das Ammoneion. Archäologie, Geschichte und Kultpraxis des Orakels von Siwa. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
1999. “Siwa Oasis, Late period and Graeco-Roman sites.” In K. A. Bard (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. London and New York: Routledge. 738-744.

Leclant, J. and A. Minault-Gout.
2000. "Fouilles et travaux en Égypte et au Soudan, 1998-1999." Or 69: 209-329.

2001. "Fouilles et travaux en Égypte et au Soudan, 1999-2000." Or 70: 349-476.

Osing, J.
1984. “Siwa.” In W. Helck and E. Otto (eds.), LÄ V. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. 965-968.

Vivian, C.
2000. The Western Desert of Egypt: An Explorer’s Handbook. Cairo: AUC Press.
عبد العزيز الدميرى، سيوة الماضى والحاضر، مكتبة حسن ياسو الاسكندرية، 2005، ص 123.