The step pyramid of Zoser: facts, location, history, photos
The step pyramid of Zoser dominates the horizon in Saqqara. It is the first pyramid in history and the first stone building erected in Egypt. The pyramid is surrounded by a funerary complex with a limestone enclosure. We know better its location, the history of its construction and discovery, some interesting facts and what it hides inside.
What was the purpose of the Step Pyramid of Djoser?
Before constructing the Step Pyramid, pharaohs were interred in mastaba tombs, which were substantial rectangular structures. However, Imhotep, Djoser’s vizier, determined that his pharaoh required a more impressive tomb for him to be properly buried. He came up with the notion of stacking mastabas on top of one another, with the length and width of the stack reducing as time went on. The Step Pyramid acquired its name from the stepped design on which it is built.
The burial chambers are located beneath the pyramid, just as they were in the earlier mastaba tombs. The Egyptians built an underground system on a scale that had never been seen before, quarrying more than 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) of shafts, tunnels, chambers, galleries, and magazines to accommodate their growing population. Four hundred and eighty rooms are connected by a central hallway and two parallel corridors that stretch over 1,198 feet (365 meters).
The stepped pyramid of Saqqara dominates the horizon of the area, it is believed to be the oldest monumental masonry structure in the world. The unique Zoser pyramid in Saqqara is part of a mortuary complex for the king of the 3rd Zoser dynasty. He was the first of the pharaohs to build a limestone pyramid with a limestone funerary complex surrounded by an enclosure of fine limestone. Created by the architect Imhotep, it is a unique step pyramid with 6 levels. The pyramid stands in six unequal stages up to a height of 60 meters (appr.) and is the first and oldest ancient Egyptian pyramid, although it is not a “real” with smooth sides.
Before the pyramid reached its final stepped shape, many changes were applied. Before it was shaped like a square mastaba facing the “four cardinal points”, it was built with local Saqqara limestone; the length was 63 square meters and the height was only 8 meters. Later another 3 meters of limestone was added to all 4 sides of the building, making it a square mastaba of 71.5 square meters. Then 8.40 meters were added on the east side of the building, making it a rectangular pyramid and 79.90 square meters from east to west and 71.50 square meters from south to north. The eastern addition was made to dig a vertical well 33 m deep to bury the royal family members inside the same tomb.
The royal tomb was transformed into a stepped pyramid when 3 more passages were added above the original mastaba, so” it became 85.9 meters from east to west and 77.50 meters from south to north and 43 meters high. A 3-meter thick layer was also added on 4 sides. Later, when a covering layer was added to the south and north of the pyramid, it became a 6-step rectangular pyramid with 121 m from east to west, 109 m from south to north and 59.64 m high. And for the last time, the pyramid was covered with limestone finely coated with Tura.
There is a burial chamber at the bottom of a large well about 28 meters and seven square meters deep, located almost exactly below the center of the pyramid. It is surrounded by a series of chambers and a corridor to house the furniture and artifacts of the deceased.
The blue ceramic tiles of Zoser’s symbolic palace were found under the pyramid. At the bottom under the pyramid of King Zoser are a series of rooms and corridors representing the royal palace. The limestone walls here were decorated with delicate blue and green-blue ceramic tiles, inlaid with stone panels to imitate mats made of bound reeds. Rooms similarly decorated were found under the South Tomb. Some of the original porcelain tiles, attached to the modern blocks, are reinstalled here. In the center is a deep niche, with a finely carved relief on the back representing an image of the King visiting a shrine in Edfu. Now, part of this room is on display at the Imhotep Museum in Saqqara.