Top Ten Necropolises

Top Ten Necropolises


       A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις – nekropolis, literally meaning “city of the dead.” Apart from the occasional application of the word to modern cemeteries outside large towns, the term is chiefly used of burial grounds, near the centers of ancient civilizations, such as an abandoned city or town.

  1. The Giza Necropolis, Egypt

    The Giza Necropolis is an archaeological site on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids, the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers’ village and an industrial complex. It is located some 9 km (5 mi) inland into the desert from the old town of Giza on the Nile, some 25 km (15 mi) southwest of Cairo city center  The pyramids, which have always loomed large as emblems of ancient Egypt in the Western imagination, were popularized in Hellenistic times, when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is by far the oldest of the ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.
    Links: Top Ten Egyptian Attractions, Pyramids,,
  2. Theban Necropolis, Egypt

    The Theban Necropolis is an area of the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes in Egypt. It was used for ritual burials for much of Pharaonic times, especially in the New Kingdom of Egypt.
    Links: Top Ten Egyptian Attractions, Temples, Top Ten African Temples, Top Ten Egyptian Temples, Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top Ten African Relieves, Top Ten Egyptian Relieves,,
  3. Vatican Necropolis, Vatican City

    The Vatican Necropolis, also known as the Scavi, lies under the Vatican City, at depths varying between 5 and 12 m below the basilica. The Vatican sponsored archeological excavations under Saint Peter’s in the years 1940-1949 which revealed parts of a necropolis dating to Imperial times. The work was undertaken at the request of Pope Pius XI who wished to be buried as close as possible to Peter the Apostle. Peter is said to be buried there due to its proximity to the Circus of Nero where he was martyred. It is also home to the Tomb of the Julii, which has been dated to the 3rd or 4th century. More of the necropolis was unearthed in 2003 during construction of a parking lot. Some tombs have undergone restorations, such as the ten-month project involving the Valerii Mausoleum. Tours of the Scavi can be arranged in advance by specifying the desired date and indicating the language in which the tour is to be conducted. Lasting about an hour and a half, the tours end at Saint Peter’s tomb before returning to the basilica. Due to limits placed by conservation efforts, only small groups of ten to fifteen people are permitted at a time.
    Links: Top Ten Vatican City Attractions, Top Ten Italian Attractions,
  4. Eastern Qing Tombs, China

    The Eastern Qing Tombs, located in Zunhua, 125 km northeast of Beijing, are among the finest and largest extant Mausoleum complexes in China. Altogether 5 emperors (Shunzhi, Kangxi, Qianlong, Xianfeng, and Tongzhi), 15 empresses, 136 imperial concubines, 3 princes, and 2 princesses of the Qing Dynasty were buried here. Surrounded by Changrui Mountain, Jinxing Mountain, Huanghua Mountain, and Yingfei Daoyang Mountain, the Tombs take up a total of 80 square km of space.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions,
  5. Saqqara, Memphis, Egypt

    Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.3 by 0.93 mi). At Saqqara, the oldest complete hewn-stone building complex known in history was built: Djoser’s step pyramid, built during the 3rd dynasty. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times. North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir; south lies Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Contrary to popular belief, the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary god Sokar, but from the Beni Saqqar who are a local Berber tribe. Their name means “Sons of Saqqar.” Since they are not indigenous to the area it would not follow that they would fashion themselves as being born of an ancient Egyptian god whose identity was unknown until the age of archaeology.
    Links: Top Ten Egyptian Attractions,,_Egypt,
  6. Ming Dynasty Tombs, China

    The Ming Dynasty Tombs are located some 50 km due north of urban Beijing, China. The site was chosen by the 3rd Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424), who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. He is credited with envisioning the layout of the ancient city of Beijing as well as a number of landmarks and monuments located therein. After the construction of the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor selected his burial site and created his own mausoleum. The Ming tombs of the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty were located on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain (originally Mount Huangtu). From the Yongle Emperor onwards, 13 Ming Dynasty Emperors were buried in this area. The tombs of the first two Ming Emperors are located near Nanjing (the capital city during their reigns). Emperor Jingtai was also not buried here, as the Emperor Tianshun had denied Jingtai an imperial burial, but was instead buried west of Beijing. The last Chongzhen Emperor, who hanged himself in April 1644, named Si Ling by the Qing emperor, was the last to be buried here, but on a much smaller scale than his predecessors. During the Ming dynasty the tombs were off limits to commoners, but in 1644 Li Zicheng’s army ransacked and set many of the tombs on fire before advancing and capturing Beijing in April of that year.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions, Sculptures, Top 100 Asian SculpturesTop Ten Crowns,,
  7. Pantheon, Paris, France

           The Panthéon, “Every god,” is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics, but after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is an early example of neoclassicism, with a façade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante’s “Tempietto.” Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Designer Jacques-Germain Soufflot had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the gothic cathedral with classical principles, but its role as a mausoleum required the great gothic windows to be blocked. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions, Sculptures, Top 100 European Sculptures, Top Ten Friezes,,
  8. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, China

    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions, Sculptures, Top 100 Asian Sculptures,,
  9. Western Xia Tombs, China

           Occupying an area of some 50 square km (19 sq mi), the Western Xia tombs at the foot of the Helan Mountains in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwestern China includes nine imperial mausoleums and 250 tombs of imperial relatives and officials. This burial complex lies some 40 km (25 mi) westward from capital city of the Western Xia, the Xingqing fu or Xingqing, what is modern-day Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Some 17,000 square m (180,000 sq ft) have so far been excavated, and efforts are underway to secure and preserve the remains of this poorly understood era. The Western Xia dynasty (also known as Tangut Empire), existed between 1038 and 1227, when it was finally conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan. The empire was founded by the Tangut ethnic group, about which little is currently known. Of current excavations, only the #3 mausoleum has been adequately excavated and researched. This mausoleum is attributed to Western Xia’s first emperor Jingzong, born Li Yuanhao, (1003-1048), has been determined as a pavilion-tower construction fusing both traditional mausoleum and temple styles with Buddhist characteristics. The Western Xia capital city and the burial complex eluded early 20th century explorers of Central Asia, including Nikolay Kozlov, Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. During modern times, it was first reported by Wulf-Dieter Graf zu Castell, who recorded the site in an aerial photograph, published in 1938 in book Chinaflug.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions,,
  10. Western Qing Tombs, China

           The Western Qing Tombs are located some 140km (87 miles) southwest of Beijing in Hebei province near the town of Yixian. The Western Qing Tombs is a necropolis that incorporate four royal mausoleums where 78 royal members in all are buried. These include four emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their empresses, imperial concubines, princes and princesses, as well as other royal servants.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions,
  11. Chor-Bakr, Uzbekistan

           The memorial complex of Chor-Bakr was built over the ostensible burial place of Abu-Bakr-Said, who died in the year 360 of the Muslim Calendar (970-971 AD), and who was one of the four of Abu-Bakrs (Chor-Bakr), descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The complex includes the necropolis of family tombs, and courtyards enclosed with walls.
    Links: Top Ten Uzbekistani Attractions,,
  12. Tillya Tepe, Afghanistan

           Tillya tepe, Tillia tepe or Tillā tapa, literally “Golden Hill” or “Golden Mound,” is an archaeological site in northern Afghanistan near Sheberghan, surveyed in 1979 by a Soviet-Afghan mission of archaeologists led by Victor Sarianidi, a year before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The hoard is a collection of about 20,000 gold ornaments that were found in six graves (five women and one man) with extremely rich jewelry, dated to around the 1st century BC. Altogether several thousand pieces of fine jewelry were recovered, usually made of gold, turquoise and/or lapis-lazuli. The ornaments include coins, necklaces set with gems, belts, medallions and crowns. A new museum in Kabul is being planned where the Bactrian gold will eventually be kept. The heavily fortified town of Yemshi-tepe, just five km to the northeast of modern Sheberghan on the road to Akcha, is only half a km from the now-famous necropolis of Tillia-tepe.
    Links: Top Ten Afghani Attractions, Top Ten Treasure Troves, Top 100 Gold Artifacts, Top Ten Crowns,,
  13. Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria

           The Varna Necropolis is a burial site in the western industrial zone of Varna, Bulgaria, approximately half a kilometer from Lake Varna and 4 km from the city center. It is internationally considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory.
    Links: Top Ten Bulgarian Attractions,,
  14. Tyre Necropolis, Lebanon

           The Al-Bass Tyre necropolis is an ancient site in the city of Tyre, Lebanon. Discovered in 1962, it consists of hundreds of stone and marble sarcophagi from the Roman and Byzantine eras. Several tombs have Greek inscriptions or the names of those buried there, or their trade such as “wealthy purple dye manufacturer.” Others have sculpted reliefs of works from Homer and others. South of the necropolis is the partially reconstructed Roman hippodrome discovered in 1967.
    Links: Top Ten Lebanese Attractions,,
  15. Paracas Necropolis, Peru

    Links: Top Ten Peruvian Attractions, Top Ten Human Skulls, Top Ten Skulls, Top Ten Skull Artifacts,
  16. Basilica of St. Denis, France

           The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the commune of Saint-Denis, now a northern suburb of Paris. The abbey church was created a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy. The building is of unique importance historically and architecturally. Founded in the 7th century by Dagobert I on the burial place of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France, the church became a place of pilgrimage and the burial place of the French Kings, nearly every king from the 10th to the 18th centuries being buried there, as well as many from the previous centuries. (It was not used for the coronations of kings, this role being designated to the Cathedral of Reims; however, queens were commonly crowned there.) “Saint-Denis” soon became the abbey church of a growing monastic complex. In the 12th century the Abbot Suger rebuilt portions of the abbey church using innovative structural and decorative features that were drawn from a number of other sources. In doing so, he is said to have created the first truly Gothic building. The basilica’s 13th century nave is also the prototype for the Rayonnant Gothic style, and provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions,
  17. Imperial Crypt, Vienna, Austria

           The Imperial Crypt in Vienna, Austria lies below the Capuchin Church and monastery founded in 1618 and dedicated in 1632. It is on the Neuer Markt square of the Innere Stadt, near the imperial Hofburg Palace. Since 1633 it has been the principal place of entombment for members of the Habsburg dynasty. The bodies of 145 Habsburg royalty, plus urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of four others, are deposited here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The most recent entombment150 was in 2011. The visible 107 metal sarcophagi and 5 heart urns range in style from puritan plain to exuberant rococo. The Imperial Crypt is one of the top tourist attractions in Vienna. To this day, some of the dozen resident Capuchin friars continue their customary role as the guardians and caretakers of the crypt along with their other pastoral work in Vienna.
    Links: Top Ten Austrian Attractions, Top 100 Busts,,_Vienna,
  18. Fengdu Ghost City, China

           Fengdu Ghost City is a necropolis situated in Fengdu County about 170 km (110 miles) downstream from Chongqing Municipality on the north bank of the Yangtze River in the People’s Republic of China. Fengu Ghost City is a Yangtze cruise tourist attraction featuring buildings and ghosts that provide a model of hell.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions, Sculptures, Top 100 Asian Sculptures, Top Ten Ghosts, Top Ten Ghost Towns,,
  19. Beit She’arim, Israel

           Beit She’arim, also known as Beth She’arim or Besara (Greek), literally ‘The Strangers House,’ is the archaeological site of a Jewish town and a large number of ancient rock-cut Jewish tombs. The necropolis is part of the Beit She’arim National Park, which borders the town of Kiryat Tiv’on on the northeast and is located close to the modern moshav of Beit She’arim. It is situated 20 km east of Haifa in the southern foothills of the Lower Galilee. The park is managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. According to Moshe Sharon, following Kutcher, the name of the city was more correctly Beit She’arayim (the House (or Village) of Two Gates).
    Links: Top Ten Israeli Attractions,
  20. Tombs of the Kings (Paphos), Cyprus

           The Tombs of the Kings is a large necropolis lying about two km north-west of Paphos harbor in Cyprus. The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to the 3rd century AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here). Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls. Archaeological excavations are still being carried out at the site. The tombs are cut into the native rock and at times imitated the houses of the living. Although the tombs have been known and casually explored for centuries, they were first subjected to systematic excavation in the later 1970’s and the 1980’s under the direction of Dr Sophocles Hadjisavvas, now Director of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.
    Links: Top Ten Cyprian Attractions,,
  21. Saint Erasmus NecropolisSaint Erasmus is an ancient Christian basilica and necropolis located near Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia, along the Ohrid-Struga freeway. Archaeological excavations have uncovered a three part basilica and a necropolis with 124 graves dating from the 6th and 12th centuries.
  22. Siwa Oasis?
  23. Links: Top 100 Monuments, Top Ten Tombs, Top Ten Gods of the Underworld, Top Ten Skeletons, Top Ten Skulls,,