Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is a documentary directed by James Tovell which released on Netflix on 28 October, 2020.
When historians find a 4,400-year-old tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, archaeologists are baffled by the huge number of artefacts that they discover at the site.
Let’s face it – the pyramids and everything related to it is simply fascinating. So, it’s no unknown fact that a documentary on a never-before-seen tomb would pique everyone’s interest. That is what Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is about.
When the Egyptian pyramid age was still in full swing, there was a distinguished figure called Wahtye who made for himself a very colourful and ornamented tomb to be buried in. 4,400 years after his death, the previously untouched tomb is now being opened. The most baffling, of many baffling things, is the fact that the colours inside this tomb are almost all intact, and apart from that, the historians are astonished at the sheer number of cats that are buried there. More fascinating is, however, that it’s the first documented place to ever contain a mummified lion!
The tomb walls are ornate with statues of the priest and also contain his various titles. Along with him, archaeologists also discover the remains of his children and wife. However, their bodies are not as well preserved as his. It’s a mystery to the people there, who try to figure out how everyone died, how old the skeletons are, and why they were buried so hastily.
Apart from the tomb of Wahtye, archaeologists also find other tombs close to the site and as Ramadan nears, they try to hurry up the process. There are various things at play when it comes to excavating tombs. Firstly, they have to come up with some hard-hitting findings in order to convince the government to continue with the funding. It’s an arduous and labour-intensive process that must be done with utmost care and precision. These are, at the end of the day, very delicate things.
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb also provides a beautiful description of what the hieroglyphics depict on Wahtye’s tomb. It talks about a life that the priest envisioned for in the afterlife – it depicts his wife and mother, along with scenes from everyday life. It goes on to show that these people were nothing extraordinary – they were people, just like us.
There are a lot of other things as well that the archaeologists describe in detail. We get to know how the age and the health of the individuals were and the different phases of excavation. The narration takes place from different people’s points of view, and you get a taste of what their thoughts are regarding the findings. It’s an interesting and astonishing thing to witness – to be able to get a glimpse into the thoughts behind 5,000-year-old people’s lives is quite a feat.
We also get a tiny glimpse into the personal lives of some of the people who are closely attached to the excavation. It gives a more humane and a personal connection to the people who are toiling for days and weeks on end to find something significant for all mankind.
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is a fascinating watch that is shot very well. As is the norm with Netflix’s documentaries, its production value and direction are top-notch. We get interviews with the people associated with the work and we follow them as they dig through layers of dust and dirt to find something meaningful. It all feels such that it’s taking place right in front of you and that makes it all the more interesting. All of it is explained very well and thus you don’t feel lost at any point.
Summing up: Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb
For people who are into tombs, mummies and anything related to the Egyptians, Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is an interesting watch that provides engaging information regarding the various secrets the tomb holds. There’s a lot of excavating and a lot of talking, and neither feels arduous or boring. The 1 hour 53 minutes runtime passes by while you wonder what is up with so many cats being buried.
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is streaming on Netflix.
Liked the Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb review? Read our other reviews here.