Step Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara

The Step Pyramid of Djoser (also spelled Djozer or Zoser) in Saqqara is the oldest stone pyramid in Egypt and an important development in Ancient Egyptian architecture.

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History of the Step Pyramid of Djoser

The Step Pyramid was built during the 3rd Dynasty (2649-2575 BC) for the pharaoh Djoser by his architect Imhotep. Imhotep was later deified and became the patron god of architects and doctors.

Djoser's pyramid was a revolutionary design. Previously, pharaohs were buried in rectangular mastabas (like that of Mereruka nearby). Imhotep created a pyramid by stacking six mastabas on top of each other. This design would later evolve into the smooth-sided pyramids seen at Giza and elsewhere.

The site was a great attraction in antiquity: As evidenced by ancient graffiti, people came here as tourists and pilgrims from as early as the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC), if not earlier.

What to See at the Step Pyramid of Djoser

When it was first completed and covered in smooth limestone, the Step Pyramid had a height of 62m and a base area of 140m by 118m.

Special permission is needed from the site's Antiquities Inspectorate to access the interior. The original entrance was on the north side, but this has been blocked up and visitors enter via a newer tunnel in the south face. Passageways and wooden ladders lead 28m underground to the pharaoh's burial chamber, which was plundered in antiquity.

The Step Pyramid is surrounded by a large funerary complex, which has been partially reconstructed. Among the buildings flanking the pyramid are a hypostyle hall and Great South Court. One wall has a frieze of cobras. The cobra, worshipped as a goddess in this region, was the symbol of royalty.

On the northern face of the pyramid are the remains of a small room called a Serdab. A sloping wall against the pyramid is drilled with two large holes, which allow a glimpse of the statue of Djoser inside (a replica; the original is in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo). Ancient Egyptians made offerings to the deified pharaoh through these holes.

Near the wall with the cobras is the Southern Tomb, whose interior is decorated with blue tiles and a relief of Djoser running the Heb-Sed race. A ritual marking the 30th year of his reign, this required him to run back and forth between thrones to represent the union of Lower and Upper Egypt.

Quick Facts on the Step Pyramid of Djoser

Site Information
Names:Step Pyramid of Djoser
Country:Egypt
Categories:pyramids; step pyramids; World Heritage Sites
Styles:Ancient Egyptian
Dates:c. 2630 BCE
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:29.871267° N, 31.216294° E
Address:North Saqqara, Egypt
Saqqara, Egypt
Hours:Daily 8-4
Lodging:View hotels near the Step Pyramid of Djoser
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Fodor's Exploring Egypt
  2. Step Pyramid of Saqqara - WCities
  3. The Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser - Virtual tour by Professor Jay Treat
  4. Step Pyramid - Egypt Archive
  5. Zoser's funerary complex - Rough Guide Egypt
  6. Step Pyramid of Djoser - Saqqara Online (Leiden University)

More Information

Guided Tours of the Step Pyramid of Djoser

The Step Pyramid of Djoser. © Peter Brubacher
Statue of Djoser viewed through an offering hole. © Jon Bodworth
Step Pyramid and Heb Sed Court. © Jon Bodworth
Wall with Cobra frieze. © Jon Bodworth

Map of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.