The Pyramid

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Djoser's 'Step' pyramid at Saqqara

The pyramid was developed in stages, beginning as a mastaba similar to the mud brick tombs of earlier pharaohs. This was extended twice before being covered by a four-stepped pyramid, which was later enlarged to the final six-stepped shape. See Pyramid of Djoser

Description: This pyramid is considered to be the first full pyramid form and first stone clad structure of this type. It is believed that Architect and Visier Imhotep designed the pyramid and Djoser complex.

The pyramid itself stands slightly off-center in the complex toward the south. It reaches sixty meters (167 feet) in height in six layers and is the only Egyptian pyramid that has a rectangular base rather than a square base. Lauer interpreted the construction history as a series of additions. The first stage of the building was a square mastaba built in stone. Roughly every three years of Djoser’s nineteen-year reign, workers added an additional layer. Lauer and German archaeologist Dieter Arnold have interpreted the expansions as gradual, reflecting emerging ideas about the king’s future in the afterlife. The German Egyptologist Rainer Stadelmann, on the other hand, believes that Imhotep planned the step pyramid shape from the beginning. In any case, the shape represented a staircase to the northern stars. These stars represented the god Osiris because they never disappear as do stars in other parts of the heavens. Thus they are eternal, like Osiris. Beneath the Step Pyramid at Djoser’s complex are over 400 rooms connected by tunnels. The total length of the rooms and tunnels combined is 5.7 kilometers (3.5 miles). The rooms include the king’s burial chamber and a palace to serve as the home for the king’s spirit. The king’s burial chamber was accessed through a vertical shaft in the pyramid that was seven meters (22.9 feet) on each side and reached a depth of 28 meters (91.8 feet), lined entirely in granite. At the bottom of the shaft was a burial chamber lined with four courses of granite blocks. After the burial, workers lowered a 3.5-ton granite block to block the shaft and prevent future access by robbers. The palace for the king’s spirit, located under the east wall of the pyramid, was lined with limestone and decorated with relief sculptures. Other areas were lined with faience tiles arranged to imitate mats made of reeds. The storage rooms were on the east side of the pyramid and housed over forty thousand jars, some inscribed with Djoser’s name, but many more made in earlier times for other kings. Some scholars believe that many of these stored materials came from earlier tombs that had been removed from the Saqqara plateau to make room for Djoser’s complex. Nevertheless, the great wealth stored in the pyramid demonstrates both the opulence of the king’s life on earth and in the next world. [1]

This pyramid was clad in polished (?) limestone, with no bas-reliefs or embellishment. In plan the Pyramid is not an exact square with the South and North faces longer than the East/West facades. The outer more vertically oriented surface slopes at approximately 72° which is consistent with earlier mastaba vertical surfaces. The top of each surface also slopes at approximately 22° (?-based on memory). Combined, they create an overall angle and appearance of later pyramids. When viewing frontally, while the top surface appears foreshortened, the hypotenuse reveals the angles and relationship between both surfaces. It appears that in plan the hypotenuse is not an exact 45° angle resulting in a slightly greater angle of the slopes on the East?West faces. The sloped side and top faces for each 'step' are consistent in proportion leaving a flat rectangular area ( ____meters x __?___ meters) on top of the pyramid that may of held a pyramidion or other structure, but no evidence this has been discovered. There are 6 'steps' and given their angular form are similar to the water hieroglyph. Each 'step' decreases in height with the largest 'step' at the final pyramid's base (unsure of this). The base 'step' is much larger than the progressive decrease in size of the upper 'steps'. The West side of the pyramid is engaged with mounds making finding the location of the base and determination of exact dimensions more difficult (to find exact dimensions, one would have to determine the 'ridges', exact angles and project down to an imaginary ground plane). There is no mention in Ancient Egyptian culture that this pyramid was to look like steps or that it was an embodiment of steps rising into the sky, despite it being commonly referred to as the Step Pyramid. --NBuccalo 04:08, 15 January 2009 (UTC)

Close-p of partially restored wall which aligns with the edge of the earlier mastaba

Dimensions: The pyramid was constructed in two stages. The first stage was a four-step pyramid (P1), which was later enlarged to a six-step pyramid (P2) The first stage, P1, had a base measuring 71.5 x 71.5m and reached a height of 8.4m. The second stage resulted in a pyramid with a rectangular base measuring 109m x 121m. The final height measured 62.5 m. The perimeter wall surrounding the complex measures 544.9m x 277.6m and reached a height of 10.5 meters. [2]

Access (editing): There currently exists 2 access points into the Pyramid... (was the one on the South original ?)... (give sizes, locations, detailing information, and proximity/relationships to other elements)...

Interior Chambers :

Construction Techniques : Accretion method: Courses of masonry were put down inclined towards the middle of the pyramid. The basic material consisted of limestone blocks.[2]

Architectural Components that touch the exterior face of pyramid: (list with links to where described)....

Above Description, unless noted otherwise: --NBuccalo 03:39, 14 January 2009 (UTC)


  1. The North-South Pyramid Complex: King Djoser's Complex at Saqqara
  2. 2.0 2.1 Miroslav Verner, The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture, and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments, 1997, Grove Press.,