Step Pyramid of Djoser

Definition

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published on 18 October 2011
Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Charlesjsharp)

The Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara is one of the first of the many pyramids that are iconic to ancient Egyptian culture. Djoser's Pyramid is considered a leader in the long history pyramid constuction in Egypt.

The Step Pyramid was built during the 3rd Dynasty (2649-2575 BC) in Saqqara for the pharaoh Djoser by his architect Imhotep. Djoser's pyramid was a revolutionary design for its time. Previously, pharaohs were buried in mastabas --  bench-like tombs that became common for nobles, pharaohs, and the royal family. Djoser wanted something different, something that would have him not only remembered, but as a symbol of his power and influence over his people.. Turning to Imhotep, a great architect of the time, construction on his tomb began.

Imhotep originally planned building a mastaba, but the plan soon changed. Both Imhotep and Djoser wanted to build it larger and larger it seems. In the end the original mastaba soon had 5 smaller ones stacked on top of it, one on top of the other. By the end of its construction, the Step Pyramid had a height of 62m and a base area of 140m by 118m -- one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time. It is also remarkable for the use of stone as construction material, instead of mud brick, which had been used before. Before this, no civilization had built something this big, and was the largest stone structure in existence at the time.

The area around the tomb became a large funeral complex in honor of Djoser, 2.5 times larger than the Old Kingdom town of Hierakonpolis. The complex is 37 acres in size and is surrounded by an over 10 meters high wall. The wall contains thirteen false doors, as well as one real entrance in the south east. The entrance corridor is made of stone, but the ceiling is carved to look as if made of wood. A three ton piece of granite sealed the entrance.

The impact of the Step Pyramid was profound. Imhotep, gaining great fame for this wonder, later was declared the patron god of architects and doctors. The pyramid was a famous attraction, with pilgrims and tourists traveling far and wide to gaze at the stuctural marvel. More importantly, the unique design inspired the more famous smooth-sided pyramids most people are accustomed to today. 



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Timeline

  • 2691 BCE - 2625 BCE
    Estimated reign of power for Pharaoh Djoser.

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