By Dr Joyce Tyldesley
Last updated 2011-02-17
Egypt's highest ranking Old Kingdom civil servants were interred at Saqqara, close to Memphis and the temple of Re at Heliopolis.
Here the burial chambers were gradually cut deeper until they passed into the bedrock. Lined with wood, their ceilings were topped with a low mound and then surrounded by a low, rectangular mud-brick building known as a mastaba after the Arabic mastaba (low bench).
Most mastaba superstructures were filled with storage chambers for grave goods, but this made them vulnerable to thieves. By the end of the 1st Dynasty the superstructure was being reduced in favour of extensive subterranean storage, reached by a stairway. Eventually the mastaba would become a solid, rubble-filled block.
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