Step Pyramid of the Pharaoh Djoser (01:23)
In the desert burial ground of Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, the first pyramid was built during the 27th century BC.
Complex Reconstruction (02:06)
First explored in 1828, later discoveries showed a surrounding complex of temples and a palace, reconstructed by French archeologist Jean-Philippe Lauer.
From Mastaba to Step Pyramid (01:50)
Only the stone feet remain of Djoser, founder of the 3rd dynasty; his name and builder Imhotep's are incised on the base. Imhotep added later levels to the early Mastaba.
Ancient Mastabas were made of perishable mud bricks; Imhotep used dressed stone. He laid limestone bricks in sloping layers, and covered them with white limestone.
Smooth Sided Pyramids (00:53)
Subsequent dynasties filled in levels to create the smooth sided pyramid. The rhomboidal pyramid at Sneferu and a later pyramid were experiments with the form.
Pyramid with Two Tombs (01:11)
Unlike later pyramids, the Djoser pyramid has no corridors or vault. The tomb and galleries lie 28 meters under ground level. A second gallery network replicates that under the pyramid.
Imhotep covered the corridors with reproductions of the Pharaoh's palace. See symbolic openings of doors and windows lined with jade blocks.
Memphis Walls (02:21)
Cobras protect the King's second tomb. The enclosure was probably modeled on the city of Memphis, but reproduced in stone.
Complex of 25 Chapels (02:49)
Images often depict Djoser running; the esplanade has a track for running. Chapel facades reproduce the typical architecture of the two Egyptian Kingdoms, and Djoser's double throne.
Pyramid Stone Reproductions (01:58)
All decorative elements are signs and symbols, like the stone papyrus columns that represent the Nile delta. Arched roofs copy reed built cabins.
Bundled Reed Columns (01:57)
The 40 great columns in the entrance had no precedent and became architectural standards.
Oldest Architectural Sketch (01:58)
The calculations for a vault painted on stone are fragments of an ancient sketch that showed the advance of stone built architecture at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC.
New Architecture (02:01)
The Pyramid of Djoser represents a new architecture and forms that imitate and replicate the Pharaoh's surroundings. The Pharaoh looks out at the pole star.
Credits: The Pyramid of The Pharaoh Djoser Saqqara: Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture (00:24)
Credits: The Pyramid of The Pharaoh Djoser Saqqara: Architectures—Achievements in Modern Architecture
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