Djoser’s Steps into Life after Death

The pyramids based firmly on Giza plateau and looming like massive monsters of perfect geometric design are hailed the world over as one of the ultimate creations of the ancients. Thousands from all over the globe ever year flock to Cairo, Egypt even today to get a glimpse of the only remaining ancient wonder, others having been destroyed due to natural disasters. Although with the pyramids of Giza built more than 7000 years ago the ancient Egyptians achieved great superiority in craftsmanship, it is of great interest to know that the ancients had been trying their hands at it from a long time. The first of the pyramids that were ever to be built in Egypt are the step pyramids, the bent pyramid, the stable pyramid and the red pyramid, the last three being built by Sneferu (the first king of the fourth Egyptian dynasty) during the old kingdom. The oldest and the predecessor of all the later pyramid is the step pyramid.

The step pyramid is also known as the Pyramid of Djoser, because it was for him that the pyramid was built. Djoser was the most famous pharaoh of the Egyptian third-dynasty. His period of reign ranged from sometime between 2691-2625 B.C (as has been shown by the radiocarbon tests). He had commissioned his chancellor Imhotep to build a pyramid which took shape as the Step pyramid of Saqqara.

Imhotep was a very renowned Egyptian architect and priest. All of us are more or less familiar with this polymaths name from the movie ‘The Mummy’ starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and Arnold Vosloo in the role of Imhotep, the high priest. But what has been shown in the movie is historically not very accurate, but only entertaining. So the image that has been portrayed to us in the movie of Imhotep is not enough to justify actual history.

Entrusted with the important task, Imhotep built a precise complex consisting of six mastabas, originally made with white polished limestone which has now faded in colour with the passage of time. The complex was built under the careful supervision of the priest to ensure a proper journey of the king into the afterlife for rebirth. The entire length of the complex is bordered by a wall of light tura limestone with an entrance on the east. There is also a temple on the north of the pyramid. To the east of the temple is the serdab. A small structure containing the Ka or spirit statue, it is furnished with two small eye holes on the north wall through which he witnesses the rituals and ceremonies taking place. The temples location on the north sky signifies the king’s desire to become a star amongst the many others in the north sky. Now this eye hole serves as a major tourist attraction through which the statue of Ka can be viewed.

Jean-Phillip Lauer, the French architect who excavated the area, did not find a body in the burial chamber which gives suggestions of a robbery. Apart from these there are many more dimensions to the complex like the Great Trench, the South Court and the roofed entrance.

This pyramid was the very first to be built although it is not as famous as the Great Pyramid. The pyramids in the Giza complex were built a long time after, in fact these were the last to be built.

Though we gave a lot of fame to the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, we barely have knowledge of its predecessors; therefore it’s very important to have knowledge of the earliest pyramids of Egypt in order to appreciate the earliest ones, and all the hard work that was put into in order top make better ones, which ultimately gave result to one of the greatest Ancient Wonders.

Madhurima Ganguly