The Sirius Project

The Sirius Project
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Friday, May 27, 2011

The "Underworld" of Alexandria - Part 3 Anfushi

As you can see from the photos, Anfushi necropolis, located on the Pharos Island, in the old Turkish quarter, is slightly different from the tombs on Alexandria’s eastern side. They are there about of the same age, dating to c. 250 B.C., and all tombs at Anfushi consist of an open courtyard identical to those of Shatby and Mustafa Kamal. Similarly, Anfushi tombs are cut into the limestone rock, and suffer a similar fate as those of Shatby, annually flooded by the rising water table. The main difference between the tombs is, however, the lack of kline chambers in Anfushi. Here the cemetery consists primarily of loculus burials, but some of the chambers are individual ones, with a central burial in the main chamber which is attached with a smaller back cult chamber.
Most of these chambers consist of an initial elongated room with vaulted ceiling, decorated with various degrees of geometric pattern, and walls with additional geometric patterns and sections intended to resemble marble. In the middle of the room is regularly a rectangular pit, today empty of its original content. At the end of the room is one or a couple of steps leading up to a small doorway, decorated in accordance with a mix of the architectural elements of Doric (Greek) and Egyptian temple orders, leading in to a smaller chamber, usually with an altar cut into the main wall. The amount of chambers varies from tomb to tomb. A very interesting detail with the burial chambers in Anfushi is the obvious assimilation of Egyptian and Greek/Macedonian art and architecture. When walking down the stairway to one of the tombs one can record the traditional Egyptian deities painted on the wall and in one of the chambers are a series of Egyptian crowns depicted as a part of the overall wall decoration (obviously something which caught my interest immediately). For those who have visited the necropolis of Hermopolis in Middle Egypt can recognize a similarity in wall decoration and the intended marble imitation.

Some of the wall paintings in the Anfushi chambers are preserved in an excellent state, showing each detail in clear colours. However, while some are exceptional, the majority has suffered from years of annual flooding and the deterioration is getting worse each year. We were blessed to visit the cemetery when a German archaeologist was working with the constantly flooded tomb, describing to us all the problems they dealt with on a daily basis while trying to document as much as possible while things are still preserved. In order to save this tomb from a complete destruction a stationed pump is necessary to continuously clear the area from the rising ground water. Not an easy task and unfortunately too expensive for anyone to deal with so far.

As you will see from the photos there are some very fine examples of other architectural elements on display in the Anfushi necropolis area. The sarcophagi and capitals are, of course, a few examples. Anfushi marks a remarkable example of Hellenistic funerary architecture and decoration, and we must count ourselves blessed to have had the opportunity of visiting it as many times as we have as it is in constant threat of complete deterioration. Soon, if no one steps in, these Ptolemaic tombs will be preserved only in the memory of those who visited them, and of course in the written documentation since they were found in the early 1920’s.

Well, in order not to go on too long, I will leave Alexandria’s additional cemeteries and tombs for a later date. As always, please feel free to comment either here directly, via our facebook group, or more privately to John or myself.
As for now I wish you all a pleasant day and thank you for your attention!

1 comment:

  1. Once again, thank you for the photographs!Dr Bob Bianchi