|Photo 1 - Sphinxes from the front of the Sertapeum|
When Mariette cleared away the sand, he found an avenue of sphinxes which was probably built by Nectanebo I (Dynasty 30). Some of these sphinxes are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, (see photo 1).
Mariette followed these sphinxes until he came to an underground passage, which proved to be the burial place of the "Apis" bulls, which were sacred to the god Ptah.
Construction of the Serapeum seems to have started during the reign of Ramesses II. Over hundreds of years passages and side chambers were tunneled under the ground. In side chambers the remains of the Egyptian's sacred bulls were interred with all the pomp and splendor due these important animals.
|Photo 2 - An offering stela from the Serapeum|
|Photo 3 - Apis bull embalming slab, Memphis, Dynasty 26|
The Apis bulls probably lived in the temple of Ptah at Memphis. Each day the priests of Ptah would have fed and cared for the bull. When it died, it was mummified on a huge slab in that temple (photo 3 shows a slab dating to Dynasty 26). The slab slopes toward one end, so that the bull's blood and other bodily fluids could run off during the mummification process. After mummification was completed, the bull was buried in a huge sarcophagus in the the Serapeum. Since an Apis bull was required to have certain markings, when one died a new one had to be found, and the priests of Ptah would search throughout the land until one with the correct markings was found.