The Walking Dead at Saqqara. The Making of a Cultural Geography


This project analyzes the formation of the cultural geography of Saqqara, the necropolis of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. It was a center of major political and religious importance throughout Pharaonic history. Kings as well as commoners choose to be buried here from the earliest times onwards, resulting in the first monumental stone building (the Step Pyramid complex of King Djoser, ca. 2600 BCE) and a myriad of other smaller, non-royal tombs. From the New Kingdom to the Late Period (ca. 1500-332 BCE), Egyptian kings were buried elsewhere, but Saqqara remained an important cultic area and numerous monumental tombs, funerary temples and shrines were built there until the end of ancient Egyptian history. This evidence has never been studied in its broader historical context and we still know little about how people dealt with organized religion in day to day practice and how things may have changed over time. Having served as a memorial site for non-royal individuals and kings, as well as a center for the worship of gods for millennia, Saqqara not only provides chronological depth, but also the necessary thematic breadth to study the ways in which religion changed and impacted on the physical environment and contemporary society, and how, in turn, contemporary society and restrictions and possibilities offered by the environment shaped the site’s dynamic cultural geography. The proposed research project for the first time attempts to analyze this pivotal site for the study of religious agency and change in ancient Egypt in a diachronic and multi-faceted way and will provide an important heuristic tool for future studies of religion in general.


Book or monography

Chapter in book

Scientific article

Publication meant for a broad audience

  • L. Weiss(2017): Sakkara nach Maja und Merit. Neue Forschungen des Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Kooperation mit dem Museo Egizio Torino pp. 28 - 39
  • L. Weiss(2017): A brief report on the 2017 season (2): The Leiden Turin Expedition to Saqqara: excavating north of Maya’s tomb pp. 19 - 26
  • N. Staring(2018): Fotografie in Egypte: de eerste twee decennia (1839-1859) pp. 4 - 16
  • N. Staring(2018): Het fascinerende verhaal van een verloren gewaande stèle pp. 140 - 161
  • L. Weiss(2018): Opgravingscampagne Sakkara 2018 pp. 18 - 21
  • N Staring(2018): Keys to Unlocking the Identity of “Tomb X”: Introducing Horemheb’s Army Official, Ry pp. 55 - 70
  • H Twiston Davies(2019): The Walking Dead II: The Making of a Cultural Geography
  • L Weiss(2020): Leven in een dodenstad pp. 12 - 14

Publications for the general public


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. L. Weiss

Affiliated with

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leids Instituut voor Regiostudies (LIAS)

Team members

Dr. N.T.B. Staring, H.P.R. Twiston Davies, Dr. L. Weiss


01/11/2017 to 31/10/2022