Catacombs of Shouqafa
The entrance to the catacombs is through a huge circular stairway that goes down for three stories. THe body of the dead person would be lowered down through the center of the shaft, while mourners and priests would circle down to the tomb shafts.
There is a huge "banqueting hall" (a triclinium) in the catacombs, which has a vaulted roof. It was customary to visit the catacombs on feast days and in mourning, and people would bring picnics to eat in the catacombs. The room here once had a large banqueting table. Since it was considered bad luck to bring plates and cups back out of the tombs, they were thrown here -- the room was full of shards of pottery when it was discovered.
Shafts lead off the main staircase in many directions, leading to aisles and corridors of shelf tombs. There are blocks and planks to walk through the shelves, since the ground is wet even on the second level. While we were there, a small group of excavators were cleaning the reliefs in a private tomb, they were very interesting to watch and were happy to answer our questions. [ m o r e ]