Djoser


Djoser
King c.2667-2648 BC.
    Djoser was probably the first king of the Third Dynasty which introduced the period currently known as the Old Kingdom; as such, he was recognised and remembered as the founder of a new epoch.
    Until this time, there had been no marked distinction between the burial place of the king and of the nobility, but Djoser (probably inspired by his vizier and architect, *Imhotep) introduced the custom of burying the king in a pyramid while the nobility continued to be interred in mastaba-tombs.
    Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara represents the evolution of a new architectural form and also a major development in the technique of building in stone. This first pyramid was stepped, unlike the later examples which were geometrically true pyramids with plain, sloping sides. The Step Pyramid was originally conceived as a mastaba tomb and only achieved its final form through a series of changes in plan. Successive enlargements imposed a stepped pyramid on a basic, flat-topped, square mastaba, so that ultimately it consisted of six enormous steps which rose to a hitherto unattained height of approximately two hundred feet. The burial chambers of the king and eleven members of his family were situated underneath the pyramid in the subterranean rock, as they would have been in a mastaba tomb; in later pyramids, the burial chamber was eventually moved into the pyramid structure itself.
    The Step Pyramid was only the central and major element in a rectangular complex which was surrounded by a enclosure wall; the area between the pyramid and the wall was occupied by open courtyards, temple chambers used for ceremonials and the daily offerings made on behalf of the king, and shrines for the celebration of his jubilee (sed-festival) Some of these buildings were dummies, solidly built in stone, with no provision for internal chambers.
    The Step Pyramid complex provides evidence of some interesting architectural developments. For the first time, the builders attempted to reproduce in stone those forms and structures which had hitherto only been designed in brick, wood and light materials. Thus, small blocks of limestone were used in the construction of this pyramid—these reflected the size of the mudbricks used in earlier buildings; stone doors are carved as though they were half-open on their sockets, imitating the wooden doors previously in use; and the architects have simulated in stone the papyrus, reed and other plant materials employed in primitive structures. For the first time fluted or ribbed stone columns appear; these represent the bundles of stems or the single stems of plants while the flowers of the plants form the capitals of the stone columns. The use of such columns was still experimental and the builders obviously considered it prudent to keep them attached to adjacent walls rather than to allow them to be free-standing supports. The encircling wall of the complex was panelled and bastioned, reflecting the recessed and panelled mudbrick walls which formed part of the mastaba tomb.
    At the Step Pyramid site there was also a serdab (a cell-like chamber), which housed a limestone seated statue of the king (now in the Cairo Museum); there were slits in one wall of the serdab, which permitted the statue to 'look out' and partake of the food offerings presented outside the serdab.
    Djoser's reputation as a great king survived for centuries. An inscription of Ptolemaic date on the island of Sehel at the First Cataract relates how the king, saddened by a seven year famine that afflicted Egypt, sought help and advice from his famous vizier *Imhotep and from the god Khnum, who was responsible for the Nile inundation.
BIBL. CAH i, ch xiv; Edwards, I.E.S. The Pyramids ofEgypt. Harmondsworth: 1985, pp 53-89; Drioton, E. and Lauer, J-P. Sakkarah. The Monuments of Zoser. Cairo: 1939; Frith, C.M., Quibell, J.E. and Lauer, J-P. The Step Pyramid, (two vols) Cairo: 1935-6.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 2686–2667 BC)
   Horus name Netjerihet. Probably the first king of Dynasty 3. He is famed for his tomb, the first step pyramid and the first building constructed in stone, supposedly designed by his vizier Imhotep. Nothing is known about his reign.
   See also Sanakhte.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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