Alexandria’s Catacombs Salvation

In Collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Authority for Potable Water and Sewerage (NOPWAS), the Ministry of Antiquities has completed the Groundwater Lowering Project at Kom El Shoqafa archaeological site in Alexandria where the famous catacombs are.

Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, explained that the project started in November 2017 and aims to reduce the groundwater level on site and protect the tombs from any damages caused by the leakage of water. This was achieved through providing a technical system to draw down the water level.

He pointed out that the high levels of water and humidity was caused from the nearby Mahmoudiya Canal and the increase of urban development of the neighbourhood which have continued causing flaking of the bedrock that affects the relief decoration and encouraging growth of green algae. The accumulation of rain water had also its negative impacts.

To protect the tombs, said Engineer Waad Abo El-Ala, Head of the Project Sector, six 40-meter-deep wells were dug and a number of electronic pumps were installed along with drainage pipes.

He asserted that the ministry has carried out such a project in collaboration with the USAID after carrying out all required studies.

He added that Kom El-Shoqafa archaeological site has suffered from rising groundwater level since its discovery, and that the lower level of the site was submerged with water, a fact that urged the ministry to launch a project to lower the groundwater and to establish drainage wells at a depth of 20 meters as a preliminary solution until the completion of the necessary studies before starting the project.

Kom El-Shoqafa, is considered one of the important examples of Roman funerary architecture as it was dug of a series of catacombs, engraved three levels below the ground. The cemetery was used in the second half of the first century AD and continued its role as a grave until the fourth century AD.

Dr. Waziri mentioned that a development project to that aims to convert the Kom El-Shoqafa site into an open-air museum will involve the creation of a new display scheme for its artefacts.

The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult with Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman influences. 

Another feature of the catacombs is the Hall of Caracalla, which contains the bones of horses which were the tombs created for the horses of the emperor Caracalla in 215 AD.


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