Friday, October 3, 2014

Kings & Queens: Djoser the first pyramid Builder !!!

Djoser (also read as Djeser and Zoser) was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom and the founder of this epoque. He is well known under his Hellenized names Tosorthros and Sesorthos.

Length of reign
Manetho states Djoser ruled Egypt for twenty-nine years, while the Turin King List states it was only nineteen years. Because of his many substantial building projects, particularly at Saqqara, some scholars argue Djoser must have enjoyed a reign of nearly three decades. Manetho's figure appears to be more accurate, according to Wilkinson's analysis and reconstruction of the Royal Annals. Wilkinson reconstructs the Annals as giving Djoser "28 complete or partial years", noting that the cattle counts recorded on Palermo Stone register V, and Cairo Fragment 1 register V, for the beginning and ending of Djoser's reign, would most likely indicate his regnal Years 1–5 and 19–28

Political activities
Djoser dispatched several military expeditions to the Sinai Peninsula, during which the local inhabitants were subdued. He also sent expeditions there to mine for valuable minerals such as turquoise and copper. This is known from inscriptions found in the desert there, sometimes displaying the banner of Seth alongside the symbols of Horus, as had been more common under Khasekhemwy. The Sinai was also strategically important as a buffer between the Nile valley and Asia.

His most famous monument was his step pyramid, which entailed the construction of several mastaba tombs one over another. These forms would eventually lead to the standard pyramid tomb in the later Old Kingdom. Manetho, many centuries later, alludes to architectural advances of this reign, mentioning that "Tosorthros" discovered how to build with hewn stone, in addition to being remembered as the physician Aesculapius, and for introducing some reforms in the writing system. Modern scholars think that Manetho originally ascribed (or meant to ascribe) these feats to Imuthes, who was later deified as Aesculapius by the Greeks and Romans, and who corresponds to Imhotep, the famous minister of Djoser who engineered the Step Pyramid's construction.


Some fragmentary reliefs found at Heliopolis and Gebelein mention Djoser's name and suggest he commissioned construction projects in those cities. Also, he may have fixed the southern boundary of his kingdom at the First Cataract. An inscription known as the Famine Stela and claiming to date to the reign of Djoser, but probably created during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, relates how Djoser rebuilt the temple of Khnum on the island of Elephantine at the First Cataract, thus ending a seven-year famine in Egypt. Some consider this ancient inscription as a legend at the time it was inscribed. Nonetheless, it does show that more than two millennia after his reign, Egyptians still remembered Djoser.

Although he seems to have started an unfinished tomb at Abydos (Upper Egypt), Djoser was eventually buried in his famous pyramid at Saqqara in Lower Egypt. Since Khasekhemwy, a pharaoh from the 2nd dynasty, was the last pharaoh to be buried at Abydos, some Egyptologists infer that the shift to a more northerly capital was completed during Djoser's time.

Djoser was buried in his famous step pyramid at Saqqara. This pyramid was originally built as a nearly quadratic mastaba, but then five further mastabas were literally piled upon the first, each new mastaba smaller than the predecessing ones, until the monument became Egypt's first step pyramid. Supervisor of the building constructions was the high lector priest Imhotep.

The pyramid

The step pyramid is made of limestone. It is massive and contains only one tight corridor leading to the close midst of the monument, ending in a rough chamber where the entrance to the tomb shaft was hidden. This inner construction was later filled with rubble, for it was of no use anymore. The pyramid was once 62 metres high and had a base measurement of ca. 125 X 109 meters. It was tightly covered in finely polished, white limestone.

Subterranean structure

Beneath the step pyramid, a large maze of corridors and chambers were dug. The burial chamber lies in the midst of the subterranean complex, a 28 metres deep shaft leads directly from the surface down to the burial. The shaft entrance was sealed by a plug stone with a weight of 3.5 tons. The subterranean burial maze contains four magazine galleries, each pointing straight to one cardinal direction. The eastern gallery contained three limestone reliefs depicting king Djoser during the celebration of the Hebsed (rejuvenation feast). The walls around and between these reliefs were decorated with blueish fayence tiles. They were thought to imitate reed mats, as an allusion to the mythological underworld waters. The other galleries remained unfinished.

At the eastern site of the pyramid, very close to the blue chambers, eleven tomb shafts lead straight down for 30 – 32 metres deep and then deviate in a right angle in western direction. Shaft I – V were used for the burials of royal family members, shaft VI – XI were used as symbolic tombs for the grave goods of royal ancestors from dynasty I – II. More than 40,000 vessels, bowls and vases made of all kind of semiprecious stone were found in these galleries. Royal names such as of kings Den, Semerkhet, Nynetjer and Sekhemib were incised on the pots. It is now thought that Djoser once restored the original tombs of the ancestors and then sealed the grave goods in the galleries in attempt to save them.

Necropolis complex

Djoser's step pyramid was surrounded by a 10.5 meters high inched enclosure wall, building an inner courtyard of 37.06 acres. This courtyard contains several cultic buildings, such as the Southern Tomb, the Southern Courtyard, the Southern Pavilion, the Northern Pavilion, the Entrance Colonnade and the Serdab with the famous seating statue of Djoser.
Source: Wikipedia 
Story of Step Pyramid (6 posts)

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