Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb

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A scene from Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb. (Photo: Netflix)
A scene from Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb. (Photo: Netflix)


4/5 Stars


The documentary follows the decoding of the tomb of an Old Kingdom priest Wahtye, unopened for 4 400 years, and the excavation of five shafts to uncover an astonishing ancient mystery.


Since my childhood I've always been instinctively curious.

Never satisfied with a simple "yes" or "no", I'd relentlessly question my parents about everything. I needed in-depth explanations as to why church took place every week on a Sunday specifically, or why an ostrich can't fly when it's clearly a bird.

My mother later affectionately called me "professor", believing my natural inquisitiveness would surely see me becoming some kind of academic. My father, on the other hand, gave up altogether on answering every curious question I conjured up. Or perhaps, he just didn't have all the answers to my sometimes-absurd pondering - "Why is it called a banana?"

Then there was another phase in which I frequently buried treasures in my mother's neatly kept backyard. I lost many an action figure and toy car between the perfectly pruned, but thorny, rose bushes. The archaeologist in me was constantly disappointed in my lack of keeping track of where I buried what.

Perhaps the strangest of my burial expeditions happened a day after I turned 13 years old. Princess Diana had just died in a tragic car crash and I remember walking in on my mother sobbing in bed like she had lost a best friend. Determined to pay tribute to the princess, I filled an empty mayonnaise jar with magazine clippings of Lady Di and a handwritten note that I buried in the ground near the pool with so much melodrama you'd have been excused for thinking it was a scene from a Hallmark card inspired film.

There was also the time my grandmother helped me throw a glass bottle, with a note inside it, into the ocean. I had drawn a map to a treasure which wasn't a treasure at all, but rather just a drawing of how to get to my grandmother's house. As far as I know, she never got any strangers knocking on her door to collect their loot.

When Netflix suggested I watch Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb it was this childhood curiosity and archaeological spirit that made me click. I was not disappointed.

The hour-and-53-minute documentary is a treasure trove of surprises, shocking reveals, and hidden secrets. Directed by James Tovell, known for Cradle to Grave (2017); Size Matters (2018); and The Lizard Boy (2010), the well-made film slowly reveals information while working against a ticking clock. Will they find more treasures in time to secure government funding in order to continue digging? What is hidden in the 4 400-year-old tomb of Wahtye that they are slowly excavating from its sandy resting place?

The local team working to unearth bits and pieces of Egypt's ancient history are masters at what they do and it's fascinating to watch them slowly and ever so delicately put the pieces of the puzzle together. Imagine a ceramic jar falling on a concrete floor shattering into hundreds of piece and then being covered in a giant heap of desert sand. Now imagine having to find every part of that jar using a brush.

I shared in Prof. Salima Ikram's childlike excitement when a large cat mummy is found in a grave. With it being much larger than any of the cats they've found before, the mummy could possibly be a never-before-seen discovery. What is it they have found?

As a viewer you quickly become engrossed in the search for answers and root for site director Mohammad Mohammad Yousef as he leads the team together with other experts and foreman Mustafa Also Sadek Mahmoud and Ghareeb Ali Mohammed Abushousha, who is tasked with safely collecting the treasures from the past. The time is running out. Surely there must be more secrets hidden near the foot of the towering pyramids that stand strong in the desert sun. What clues do the hieroglyphics in Wahtye’s tomb reveal or was he trying to cover up a lie that would put an unexpected twist on the historical discovery?

After watching the film, I find myself thinking back to my days of burying treasures in our backyard and then laughing at the thought of a future archaeologist or unsuspecting gardener digging up my Diana jar or finding what's left of my He-Man figurine. Time capsules of my childhood left for someone else to find. What was Wahtye leaving behind for us to uncover?



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