Netflix to premiere docu-feature Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb on October 28

Originals OTT

Netflix has announced the global release of docu-feature Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb on October 28. It documents the discovery of a “one of a kind” tomb that came to life beneath the sand at the archaeological site Saqqara in Egypt.

Directed by James Tovell, executive produced by Richard Bradley and Caterina Turroni, and produced by Lion Television and At Land Productions, the documentary films a team of local archaeologists excavating never-before-explored passageways, shafts, and tombs, piecing together the secrets of Egypt’s most significant find in almost 50 years.

The documentary will be released globally in 190 countries with over 30 subs and dubbed into English.

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb follows the decoding of the tomb of an old kingdom priest Wahtye, unopened for 4500 years, and the excavation of five shafts to uncover an astonishing ancient mystery. Transporting the audience back through the millennia, the film provides a unique and unprecedented window into the lives – and deaths – of one man and his family.

Described as a ‘once in a generation’ find, Wahtye’s tomb was discovered in a remarkable state of preservation – with 55 statues carved into the walls – making it the most decorated tomb ever found in this royal cemetery. During the journey of discovery, they have found over three-thousand artefacts. Within the boundaries of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, the team discovered a mummified lion cub – the first lion cub discovered in Egypt.  It signals a thrilling first in Egyptology.

“This has been an exciting moment for the whole world. Shooting this film has been an experience full of thrilling surprises. Working with an Egyptian team that has a deep connection with their ancestors has made the project even more unique,” commented Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb Director James Tovell. “This mission wasn’t like any other. Normally in archaeology, you labour for weeks to find anything.  Here every 30 seconds there was a new jaw-dropping discovery. Such as, capturing on film the discovery of the first complete mummified lion cub in Egypt was a great moment for everyone. And then being privileged to excavate the burial shafts of the Old Kingdom priest Wahtye. The chance to excavate an Old Kingdom burial is a golden opportunity for any filmmaker,” added Tovell.

The documentary was filmed in Saqqara near Cairo, and less than a mile from the site of the Step Pyramid, one of the oldest and most iconic stone structures on earth.

  • Release date: October 28, 2020
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Directed by: James Tovell
  • Producer: Charlotte Chalker
  • Executive Producer: Richard Bradley, Caterina Turroni
  • Produced by: Lion Television and At Land Productions

More secrets from the Saqqara Tomb

Lion Cub mummy

Found within the boundaries of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, the discovery of the lion signals a fresh direction for Egyptology. ‘This first example of a mummified lion cub to be found in Egypt is one of the most exciting finds in the history of animal mummification,’ said Professor Salima Ikram. ‘It opens the door to asking questions about the types of wild animals that the Egyptians kept and how they managed them, both in terms of upkeep and breeding.’

First-ever Malaria case theory

Inside the tomb of Wahtye, there were the bones of a full family, Dr. Amira Shaheen Professor of Rheumatology, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, found that those bones were distended which can be an indication that the whole family died from an epidemic most probably malaria.

If this theory can be proven it will be the first documented case of malaria in history by more than 1000 years.

Additional discoveries

The film also features the exploration of the wider ancient necropolis were Egyptians buried their dead over thousands of years, as it documents the discovery of shafts filled with the mummified animals, beautifully preserved human mummies still inside their highly decorated coffins, funerary artifacts including a rare complete senet set (board game), and numerous other stunning rare artifacts from Old, New, and Late Kingdoms.

In the course of one season, the Egyptian team at the Bubasteion found more than 3100 unique artifacts