Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Step Pyramid at Saqqara

Where do I start with this one? Maybe I should start at the end……the only content from this tomb is a mummified left foot and a pile of rock. Okay, now let’s move backward. The Step Pyramid for Djoser (Zoser) was the largest pyramid of it’s time when completed around 2600 B.C., and was made of stone, not mud and clay like its edificial predecessors.

(image from: www.en.wikipedia.org)

The tomb was built in the third dynasty in Egypt (the Early Dynastic period, if anyone cares) and was meant to be the final resting place for the Pharoah, Djoser. Well, this guy reigned north and south Egypt for almost 20 years, (some say 30) and gave the Architect, Imhotep, plenty of time to keep building and building and turning this tomb into a complex. This complex trumped any previous tomb to date in size. It is one of 97 pyramids found at Saqqara near the necropolis (City of the dead) Memphis, Egypt. It still remains, although its outer limestone shell has since disintegrated.

The final pyramid design ended up being 6 stepped levels above ground, built one at a time. Each level is called a mastaba. Or “bench”. As usual, there was a maze of chambers underground as well. It is believed that the complex, as a whole, emulates the kingship of Djoser over the North and South of Egypt. There are double courts and two mock palaces within the temple walls. Today a scale model is housed at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I know, because I was just there and I saw it!

Egyptians believed that the structure of the tomb was relevant in this life and the afterlife. The steps have been thought to be a way to ascend to the North Star. Others have suggested that they resemble a crown, but the definitive reason for the shape is unknown. And the tombs have always been grand enough to accommodate even the richest, pickiest king in all the land in the afterlife. There were also false doors along the enclosure wall used for the King’s use in the afterlife, and for the Ka (soul) to move in and out of the tomb. In the years after the construction was complete, this complex doubled as a distribution center for agricultural products that flowed into this funerary estate. Having said that, I suppose I should pay homage to this tomb and complex for being one of the first distribution centers. Today's distribution centers are still made of stone and are also enormous. However, you won't find anyone's Ka there, though. They are generally pretty soulless. We have, however, refined the art of Code compliance. That is, until the current code changes or the wind blows.

(image from www.touregypt.com)


  1. Wow, very informative post. Pyramid of Djoser is known as step pyramid. This is a first Egyptian pyramid. height of the pyramid is 62 meters tall and base of the pyramid is 109 x 125 m. Jean-Phillipe Lauer was the major excavator of the Step Pyramid.Djoser is famous for his pioneering tomb. Best time to visit is October till May.accommodation and food is available and quite reasonable rate. For more details refer The Step pyramid of djoser

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