Em Hotep Digest vol. 02 no. 03: Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex
23
Jan

Em Hotep Digest vol. 02 no. 03: Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex

   Posted by: Shemsu Sesen   

Categories: Em Hotep Digest

000 - djoser digest tabDjoser’s Step Pyramid is the first monumental work in dressed stone and the first Egyptian pyramid, and his pyramid complex brought together funerary elements, such as tombs and enclosures, that were originally separate edifices, setting the pattern for centuries to come.  Last week the Em Hotep group shared their explorations of this architectural icon, which we have gathered here for your enjoyment and education.

 

digest banner 0203

 

Contributors:  Jane Akshar, Celeste Albo, Gwyn Ashworth-Pratt, Yvonne Buskens, Amy Calvert, Lorraine Evans, Ia Georgia, Dennis van Hoorn, Jemma Isis Johnson, Heidi Kontkanen, Mark Lauria, Manuela Le Chler, Vicky Metafora, Nebty, Richie O’Neill, Keith Payne, David Rohl, Keith Schengili-Roberts, Jean Smith, Jan Summers, R. Thiele, and Amy Wilson.  With very special thanks to The Brooklyn Museum, The Egyptian Society of South Africa, and The Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities/ La Société pour l’Étude de l’Égypte.

Would you like to be a part of the Em Hotep group?  Doing so is easy.  Just follow this link to the Em Hotep BBS group on Facebook and request to be added.  A member will add you as soon as we notice you have requested to join.  Read the About section at the Facebook group site to get an idea of our few rules, and then join in.  It’s that easy.

 

divider bar 03

 

Dogs guarding the T-Temple at Djoser's complex (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Dogs guarding the T-Temple at Djoser’s complex (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

Building on the Past:  From Mounds to Mudbrick to Stone

 

The Pyramids, the Sphinx: Tombs and Temples of Giza by Peter Lacovera

“The Egyptian pyramids can trace their ancestry back to the early Neolithic, or “Predynastic,” period that began in Egypt around 6000 BC and ended with the unification of Egypt under a single king around 3000 BC.  During this period people were buried in shallow graves along the edge of the desert.   The sand that had been scooped out of the graves was piled back on top of the burial in a low mound.  It’s possible that the sand’s drying effect preserved the bodies of the dead so well that it inspired mummification in later ages.

001 - aa-01 djoser

“With the development of a central state in Egypt, more impressive monuments for the king and his officials were sought.  Larger mounds were heaped over the graves and encased in reed mats or mudbrick retaining walls.  Bricks made of unbaked mud, formed in rectangular wooden molds, were an architectural innovation inspired by Mesopotamia.  There they were often laid in a complex recessed pattern of rectangular panels.  In Mesopotamia, these were used in temples, but in Egypt they were also used in tombs and royal residences, and Egyptologists often call this type of masonry “palace façade.”

001a - map of complex

“The tombs of the earliest kings of the first and second dynasties were located in Middle Egypt at Abydos, the traditional burial ground of the god of the dead, Osiris.  These tombs were placed out in the desert.  Closer to the Nile, large mudbrick enclosures mimicked the palace of the king and were built in “palace façade” style.

[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/9748178/djosers_step_pyramid/[/metacafe]

“With the beginning of the Third Dynasty, under the pharaoh Djoser, a fantastic innovation was conceived by his architect, Imhotep.  Instead of mudbrick, small blocks of stone the size of brick were used to create a large slope-sided rectangular structure…” (pp. 20-21).

 

divider bar 03

 

Boat pit on the south side of Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

Boat pit on the south side of Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

Pharaoh Djoser

 

From Monarchs of the Nile by Aiden Dodson

“Whatever the nature of the disturbances that seem to have beset the Second Dynasty, they had definitely ended before a new, Third, dynasty arose, in the person of Horus Netjerykhet, better known by the name Djoser, perhaps his personal name, but oly found on monuments dating from long after his death.  The discovery of his sealings in the tomb of the Horus and Seth Khasekhemwy at Abydos has now proved that he did indeed found the dynasty, rather than being preceded by another king.  That Djoser’s reign was felt to be an important point in Egyptian history by New Kingdom scribes is indicated by the fact that his name is exceptionally inscribed in red ink in the Turni king list, a document written around the time of Ramesses II” (p. 22).

Fragment representing Pharaoh Djoser (Netjerikhet) wrapped up in the mantle for the celebration of the Heb Sed (Bridgeman Art Library, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)

Fragment representing Pharaoh Djoser (Netjerikhet) wrapped up in the mantle for the celebration of the Heb Sed (Bridgeman Art Library, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)

 

divider bar 03

 

002b - djoser statue

Pharaoh Djoser’s serdab statue, now in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo – a replica is now in the serdab (Photo by Keith Payne)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

Imhotep—Vizier and Chief Builder

 

From The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson

“Vizier and architect of the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djoser (2667-2648 BC) of the Third Dynasty.  Manetho credits him (under the Greek form of his name, Imouthes) with the invention of building in dressed stone.
He is also said to have written a number of ‘instructions’, although none has survived.  It was for his great learning that he was most respected and, some two thousand years after his death, the first evidence appears of his deification, a great rarity for non-royal individuals in ancient Egypt.  He was considered to be a god of wisdom, writing and medicine, and as a result became identified with the cults of the gods Thoth and Ptah” (p. 139).

[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/9750708/imhotep_kings_architect/[/metacafe]

 

divider bar 03

 

002c - imhotep

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The Enclosure Wall, Entrance Colonnade and Southern Court

 

From The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

The enclosure wall itself was decorated in the palace façade style, proclaiming the royal ownership of the monument.  Inside, a dummy royal palace was provided to serve the king for eternity, while a large courtyard in front of the pyramid with an elevated dais served as an eternal arena for the rituals of kingship.  In particular, two pairs of horseshoe-shaped markers denoted the ritual area in which the king would inspect prisoners, and around which he would stride or run to assert his territorial claim over Egypt” (p. 236).

The entrance to Djoser's pyramid complex from the outside, showing the niched walls done in the palace facade style (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

The entrance to Djoser’s pyramid complex from the outside, showing the niched walls done in the palace facade style (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

 

From Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton

“The whole complex was surrounded by a high temenos  wall of white limestone blocks in the form known as the ‘palace façade’; thirteen false or dummy doors were set into it, while a fourteenth actually opened into the inner area.  This doorway led into a long colonnaded hall of fluted columns, none of which were freestanding, all of them being engaged into a supporting wall behind them, exemplifying the initial, faltering steps of architecture in stone taking over from mudbrick and imitating the organic forms of earlier styles [see comments below by David Rohl for another possible explanation for the columns being engaged].  The fine fluting on the columns immediately recalls the Greek Doric column, but that comes almost 2000 years later.  The hall in turn opens onto a large court on the south side of the pyramid, containing two jubilee festival altars whose bases only survive” (p. 36).

Part of the restored enclosure wall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2008)

Part of the restored enclosure wall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2008)

The colonnade entrance hall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The colonnade entrance hall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Author and Egyptologist David Rohl offered this explanation for the layout of the colonnade:  “Consider the possibility that each niche, created between adjacent engaged pillars, represents a shrine where the nome gods of Egypt were housed during the Heb Sed (in the original festival structure of which this stone version is a mortuary replica).  These gods’ statues would have been brought to Memphis for the festival in ships and carried to the ritual site where they would have required temporary shrines.  Count the niches and see if this works [there are 42, one for each nome].  Think of the corridor being the Nile River and the end chamber with the four columns being the delta and you get a picture of what the architect was trying to portray.  Then imagine the king processing along the corridor and passing by each nome shrine.  This would be a ritualized version of the king’s journey along the Nile to visit each of the nomes and their local gods.”

The engaged columns in the entrance hall form niches which probably served a ritual purpose (Phot by Keith Payne, 1997)

The engaged columns in the entrance hall form niches which probably served a ritual purpose (Phot by Keith Payne, 1997)

Columns in the entrance hall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Columns in the entrance hall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

From The Complete Pyramids by Mark Lehner

“The Egyptian penchant for simulation receives one of its greatest expressions here.  The stone enclosure wall imitates one of mudbrick; the ceiling stones of the entrance passage, the Sed chapels and the Pavilions of the North and South imitate wooden log beams; traces of paint indicate that many facades and pillars in fine limestone were painted red to imitate wood” (p. 85).

008 - aa-03

 

From Egyptens Pyramider: Evighetens Aarkitektur I Forntid och Nutid, by Nils Billing

Heidi Kontkanen, contrib.

“The entrance to Djoser´s pyramid complex is an impressive colonnade with 6 meter high columns.  The ceiling consisted of limestone blocks shaped like tree trunks. The columns are built to look like bundles of plant stems and are attached to the wall behind.  At the same time they form 42 niches that may have had a cultic function.”

South entrance to Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

South entrance to Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

From An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt by Kathryn A. Bard

Heidi Kontkanen, contrib.

“In the South Court, between the South Tomb and the pyramid, are curved stone cairns, which have been called territorial markers and are believed to be associated with the sed-festival.  Scenes of the sed-festival depict the king running between curved markers, and then seated on a double throne (symbolic of Upper and Lower Egypt) on a canopied dais and wearing a knee-length robe.  The stone cairns in the Step Pyramid´s South Court were for the king´s sed-festival symbolizing the king as the territorial claimant of all of Egypt.”

There are two pairs of these "horseshoe altars" on the great court of Djoser´s Pyramid Complex and they are about 60m apart from each other (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

There are two pairs of these “horseshoe altars” on the great court of Djoser´s Pyramid Complex and they are about 60m apart from each other (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The territorial markers in the South Court which (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The territorial markers in the South Court which (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

A scene on the Narmer Macehead shows the pharaoh racing between horseshoe-shaped markerd like those in the South Court (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, Narmer’s macehead in the Ashmolean Museum, AN1896-1908)

A scene on the Narmer Macehead shows the pharaoh racing between horseshoe-shaped markerd like those in the South Court (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, Narmer’s macehead in the Ashmolean Museum, AN1896-1908)

 

divider bar 03

 

012b - zz-jan-01

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The South Tomb

 

From Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton

“Facing the pyramid on the south side of the enclosure is the so-called South Tomb.  Three carved relief panels set within the frames of its false doors show the king performing the heb-sed ritual, in which he reaffirmed his fitness to rule.  On one panel he wears the tall White Crown and a ribbed ritual beard as he runs the requisite course.  This also serves to underline the wholly ritualistic nature of the entire complex that Imhotep created for his master.

Uraeus frieze in the southwest corner of the courtyard of Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

Uraeus frieze in the southwest corner of the courtyard of Djoser’s complex (Photo by Amy Calvert)

Layout of the South Tomb (written on the map: d'après J.P. Lauer).  The South Tomb is a near-replica of the large tomb in the north (under the pyramid), though built to a smaller scale.

Layout of the South Tomb (written on the map: d’après J.P. Lauer). The South Tomb is a near-replica of the large tomb in the north (under the pyramid), though built to a smaller scale.

It is believed that the South Tomb also serves as the burial place for Djoser’s viscera, which were removed during the embalming process.  With his mummy buried in the pyramid, the king thus fulfilled the requirements of having a northern and southern tomb, symbolic of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt” (pp35-6).

 

From The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

“The pyramid is surrounded by an extensive complex of buildings, each designed to perform a specific function in the afterlife.  The South Tomb, built within the thickness of the enclosure wall, provided a final resting place for the king’s ka, and was thus a precursor to the satellite pyramids in Fourth Dynasty royal mortuary complexes” (p. 236).

The nearly 20-meter long passageway leading to the open shaft to the Southern Tomb (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2008)

The nearly 20-meter long passageway leading to the open shaft to the Southern Tomb (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2008)

The entrance to the South Tomb, it is an almost 20 meters-long passageway that is connected to the open shaft (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2011)

The entrance to the South Tomb, it is an almost 20 meters-long passageway that is connected to the open shaft (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2011)

The South Tomb Shaft, 7x7 meters wide and 28 meters deep (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

The South Tomb Shaft, 7×7 meters wide and 28 meters deep (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

 

From The Complete Pyramids by Mark Lehner

“By all Egyptological reckoning the Step Pyramid itself is a functional royal tomb.  But in Djoser’s complex, in addition to the Step Pyramid, we find the enigimatic South Tomb.  Below it the builders replicated three essential features of the substructure of the pyramid: the descending corridor;p central shaft with the granite vault; and the king’s palace with its blue-tiled chambers.  As under the pyramid, the builders blocked the descending corridor except for a narrow stairway to allow them to bring in whatever it was they placed in the vault.  About halfway down the corridor a side chamber was found with large jars.  On top of these the workmen had left a wooden stretcher, box and posts from a baldachin that resemble those of Hetepheres’ cache at Giza” (p. 92).

Gallery beneath the South Tomb (Ia Georgia, contrib.)

Gallery beneath the South Tomb (Ia Georgia, contrib.)

Some of the green-tiled chamber beneath the South Tomb (Photo courtesy of University of Pennsylvania, Yvonne Buskens, contrib)

Some of the green-tiled chamber beneath the South Tomb (Photo courtesy of University of Pennsylvania, Yvonne Buskens, contrib)

 

divider bar 03

 

Looking north over the heads of the cobra frieze to the Step Pyramid, the territorial markers can be seen in the South Court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

Looking north over the heads of the cobra frieze to the Step Pyramid, the territorial markers can be seen in the South Court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

 

divider bar 03

 

King Djoser running the heb sed – one of three false door stelae in the blue-tiled chambers in the South Tomb (Jean Smith, contrib.)

King Djoser running the heb sed – one of three false door stelae in the blue-tiled chambers in the South Tomb (Jean Smith, contrib.)

divider bar 03

 

 

The Heb Sed Court

 

From The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

“A smaller courtyard, along the eastern edge of the complex, was provided as a setting for the sed festival.  It is lined with dummy chapels, for the deities of Upper and Lower Egypt, and contains a double throne-platform, a representation of which was used for the hieroglyph for ‘sed festival’” (p. 236).

Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex, wall and Chapels (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex, wall and Chapels (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

Part of the Heb-Sed Court. On the right you see the Per Wer Shrine (“Great House”) type, a form characteristic of Upper Egypt in the Predynastic Period.  The prototype was a light, wood- framed structure with a low vaulted roof supported by three engaged, fluted columns (Photo by Yvonne Buskens)

Part of the Heb-Sed Court. On the right you see the Per Wer Shrine (“Great House”) type, a form characteristic of Upper Egypt in the Predynastic Period. The prototype was a light, wood- framed structure with a low vaulted roof supported by three engaged, fluted columns (Photo by Yvonne Buskens)

 

From Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton

“Along the east side of the [Southern] court are a series of three heb-sed shrines or pavilions that face a narrower court which runs inside the eastern wall…These pavilions all have doorways, but they only penetrate the façade for a short distance and lead nowhere.  Three unfinished, roughly blocked out standing statues of Djoser have been placed to one side of this court.  They show the king in ritual pose wearing a nemes head cloth, long beard, and holding the flail and scepter” (pp. 36-7).

Three unfinished block statues of Pharaoh Djoser (Photo by Richie O'Neil)

Three unfinished block statues of Pharaoh Djoser (Photo by Richie O’Neil)

Detail of the Per Wer shrine (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

Detail of the Per Wer shrine (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

 

From The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt by Richard Wilkinson

“The false chapels which surrounded the Heb-Sed Court are among the most famous structures within the compound, for those on the east were given the narrow elevation and curved roof of the canonical shrine of Lower Egypt, and most of those on the west were formed to reflect the shrine of Upper Egypt.  Both building types are merely stylized renderings of very ancient architectural types representing the shrines of the gods, but they nevertheless show the Egyptians interest in maintaining the traditions of the earliest sacred buildings” (p. 127).

The Heb Sed court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

The Heb Sed court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

Looking east across the South Court toward the entrance and the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

Looking east across the South Court toward the entrance and the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Keith Payne, 1997)

 

divider bar 03

 

Feet of four statues found in the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Yvonne Buskens)

Feet of four statues found in the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Yvonne Buskens)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The T-Temple

 

From Pyramid and Mortuary Complex of Djoser by Su Bayfield

“Immediately to the north of the entrance colonnade, on the eastern side of a large open courtyard, is a series of reconstructed buildings thought to have been connected with the King’s heb-sed, or jubilee festival. A rectangular building known as Temple ‘T’ is suggested to have been a model of the King’s palace and contains an entrance colonnade, antechamber and three inner courts leading to a square chamber decorated with a frieze of ‘djed’ symbols. This structure leads into the southern end of the ‘Jubilee Court’, which is lined with dummy buildings representing Upper Egypt (on the eastern side) and Lower Egypt (on the western side).”

The T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Another view of the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Another view of the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

At the south end of the T-temple. Here can be seen some of the columns which, at the T-temple,  are just like those at the entrance colonnade, bundles of plant stems, and like those in the entrance colonnade, they were attached to the side wall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

At the south end of the T-temple. Here can be seen some of the columns which, at the T-temple, are just like those at the entrance colonnade, bundles of plant stems, and like those in the entrance colonnade, they were attached to the side wall (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

From Egyptens Pyramider: Evighetens Aarkitektur I Forntid och Nutid, by Nils Billing

Heidi Kontkanen, contrib.

“Immediately west of sed-festival court (on the east side of the complex) is the T-Temple, a name given by Jean-Philippe Lauer on basis of its external form.  The building contained rooms, with an entrance colonnade, an antechamber and a square hall. The square hall has a niche in the north wall and on the top part of the wall is a djed frieze.  Possibly in the niche was a statue of the king, and Cecil Firth suggested that the temple in fact represented the chambers where the king stayed during the sed-festival.”

A view within the T-Temple of Djoser's complex (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Djed Pillar friezes at the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Djed Pillar friezes at the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Detail of the djed-frieze above the niche at the square hall at T-temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

Detail of the djed-frieze above the niche at the square hall at T-temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

 

divider bar 03

 

Looking across the South Court toward the T-Temple (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

Looking across the South Court toward the T-Temple (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The Houses (Pavilions) of the North and South

 

From Egyptens Pyramider: Evighetens Aarkitektur I Forntid och Nutid, by Nils Billing

Heidi Kontkanen, contrib.

“North of the T-Temple and sed-festival court are two courtyards, with the southern one being slightly larger than the northern one.   At the northern walls of these courts are two buildings which Jean-Philippe Lauer called “the Southern and Northern Houses.”  Before they were cleared and found, these ruined hills were so blended into the desert landscape that Lepsius even identified them as pyramids.

The House of the South--note that the door is off-center with the pillars (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The House of the South–note that the door is off-center with the pillars (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The chapels are small.  A door leads into a small L-shaped corridor which ends in a smaller wall niche. The roof consists, as in the entrance colonnade, of stone blocks in the form of wooden beams.  At the chapels’ interior walls Cecil Firth found a number of graffiti by later visitors from Eighteenth – Twenty-Sixth Dynasties. In the south chapel Pharaoh Ahmose (Eighteenth dynasty) wrote that he came to behold Djoser´s temple and found it as if heaven were within it and the sun god rose up through it. He said: “Let bulls, birds, and all good and pure things come to Djoser´s Ka, the upright.  Let fresh myrrh rain from the sky, let it drip incense!”

Hieratic graffiti in the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Hieratic graffiti in the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Regarding the graffiti in the House of the South, Em Hotep contributor Richie O’Neill quotes Jimmy Dunn:  “This graffiti includes those of the treasury scribe Hednakht and the vizier’s scribe, Panakht. These graffiti are actually of considerable historical importance, for they refer, for the first time, to Djoser as the owner of the complex and they also show that the structures were still in relatively good condition at that time (Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasty)”

More of the ancient graffiti in the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

More of the ancient graffiti in the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

From The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

Two buildings known as the ‘House of the North’ and ‘House of the South’ represent the tented structures in which the king would have robed, disrobed and received guests during the ceremonies” (p. 236).

The stone roof beams at the House of the South were made to look like wooden beams (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The stone roof beams at the House of the South were made to look like wooden beams (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Niche inside the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Niche inside the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

From Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton

“To the north of [the heb sed court] is another [court], whose dummy buildings once again reflect the division of the Two Lands.  The first structure is known as the House of the South and has a stylized khekher frieze over its doorway—a stylized protective fence motif which, like so many the first appeared in the early periods, continued to be used for centuries, if not millennia…

Engaged columns of the House of the North (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

Engaged columns of the House of the North (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

“The House of the North is noted for its papyrus columns with large umbels, all of which are engaged in the supporting wall, but which also have the triangular-sectioned papyrus stems reproduced correctly in the small limestone blocks; later, in the New Kingdom, this accuracy is lost in favor of large, heavily –rounded columns” (p.37).

 

From The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt by Richard Wilkinson

“Beyond the Heb-Sed Court are the larger Houses of the North and South, so-named as they are believed to represent the archaic shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt at Hierakonpolis and Buto due to the heraldic floral images of the lily and papyrus carved on the capitals of their respective engaged columns.  Like the Sed chapels, these were dummy buildings, however, and thus of purely symbolic significance.  It is thought that all these dummy buildings were at least partially covered with earth after their construction to symbolize their role in the underworld” (p. 127).

Khekeru frieze above the doorway to the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

Khekeru frieze above the doorway to the House of the South (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen).

 

divider bar 03

 

039b - aa-10

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The Step Pyramid

 

From The Complete Pyramids by Mark Lehner

“The pyramid was built in stages, progressing from an initial square mastaba to the final six-step pyramid.  According to Jean-Philippe Lauer, the main excavator of the site, there were six stages.  Assuming that this is correct (Rainer Stadelmann has modified this scheme), we get a major expansion every three years, if we divide the six stages into the 19 years of Djoser’s reign.  Even doubling his reign to 38 years—conceivable if the 19 were biennial taxation years—gives us a major alteration every six years.

Djoser’s Pyramid from Unas’ Causeway (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

Djoser’s Pyramid from Unas’ Causeway (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

“When the builders began to transform the mastaba into the first pyramid they built a crude core of roughly shaped stones with a fine limestone casing and a layer of packing in between.  This technique had also been used for the mastabas.  But now there was a profound difference: they abandoned horizontal beds and began to build in accretions that leaned inward.  They also used bigger and better blocks that they no longer needed to pack with large amounts of mortar of tafla—the local tan-colored desert clay.  Instead, the clay was only used as an aid to setting each block on a bed that inclined with the accretion layer…”

Djoser's Step Pyramid while undergoing restoration work (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Djoser’s Step Pyramid while undergoing restoration work (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

“Evidence suggests that the builders partially buried the dummy structures of Djoser’s enclosure—the Pavilions of the North and South, the South Tomb and Sed Chapels—almost immediately after they built them in the first stage.  Likewise they encased the king’s mastaba in fine limestone in the first stage and then only a few years later entirely covered it with the step pyramid—an act which, if Stadelmann is right, they may have planned from the beginning.  The half submerging of the dummy buildings must have signified the chthonic, underworld aspect of existence after death.  And the full envelopment of the mastaba conforms to the pattern of early Egyptian monuments that successive stages conceal earlier ones.  Tomb building seems to have been part of a larger ceremonial cycle, an act of consolidation and renewal that necessitated burying finely crafted structures” (p. 84-5).

 

From Egyptens Pyramider: Evighetens Aarkitektur I Forntid och Nutid, by Nils Billing

Heidi Kontkanen, contrib.

“Djoser´s pyramid complex began with the same pattern as the royal mastaba tombs in the area, but turned out to be the world’s first monumental building in stone. The man behind this architectural revolution was the king´s architect Imhotep, who was later elevated to divine status. Djoser´s pyramid complex has a central position in the development of royal architecture.”

The Step Pyramid from the South Court (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The Step Pyramid from the South Court (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/9748145/djosers_mansion_of_eternity/[/metacafe]

 

divider bar 03

 

Detail of the Djed friezes at the T-Temple (Photo by Manuela Le Chler)

Detail of the Djed friezes at the T-Temple (Photo by Manuela Le Chler)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The Serdab

 

From Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton

“Close to the northern entrance stands the serdab (Arabic for ‘cellar’), a box-like structure of finished Tura limestone with a pair of small holes pierced through its front-facing slope.  This was found during the excavations of C. M. Firth and was a complete surprise.  Within the serdab was a painted, limestone life-sized seated figure of Djoser, the oldest royal sculpture of this scale known from Egypt [although an older example may have been recovered in fragments from the elite cemetery at Hierakonpolis].  It represents the king closely wrapped in a long white cloak, probably that used in the king’s jubilee or heb-sed festival.  Food offerings and incense would have been placed on an altar before the two small eyeholes in the wall of the serdab, enabling the ka (the spirit of the king) to partake of the spirit substance—whilst, at the end of the day, the mortuary priests could enjoy the material substance of the offerings” (pp. 34-5).

The serdab court at the Step Pyramid.  The "peek holes" can be seen in the serdab.  Within is a replica of the statue of Djoser, the original is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

The serdab court at the Step Pyramid. The “peek holes” can be seen in the serdab. Within is a replica of the statue of Djoser, the original is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

 

divider bar 03

 

Part of the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

Part of the Heb Sed Court (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The World Beneath Djoser’s Pyramid

 

From Egyptian Pyramids and Mastaba Tombs by Philip Watson

“The development of the substructure was no less complicated.  Again following the traditions of earlier mastabas, the burial chamber lay at the bottom of a 27 meters (88 feet) deep shaft excavated out of the bedrock.  It was constructed of pink Aswan granite and a hole had been left in one of the roof slabs through which the body would have been lowered.  A 3 ton granite block was stored in a room above the burial chamber ready to plug the hole following burial.

The Entrance to Djoser’s Step Pyramid (Photo by Richie O'Neill)

The Entrance to Djoser’s Step Pyramid (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

An overview of the galleries and funeral compartments beneath the Step Pyramid

An overview of the galleries and funeral compartments beneath the Step Pyramid

“The burial chamber was approached by a sloping ramp from the north side of the pyramid.  It started at ground level and stopped 12 meters (40 feet) above the bottom of the shaft.  However, this entrance was covered by the last extension of the superstructure and a new approach had to be cut.  This also started on the north side but followed a somewhat erratic course until it finally joined up with the original entrance ramp.  Midway between this junction and the burial shaft flights of stairs led to a series of underground galleries, some of which are decorated with reliefs and blue glazed tiles.

At the end of the entrance passage to the Step Pyramid near the burial chamber (Photo by Jean Smith)

At the end of the entrance passage to the Step Pyramid near the burial chamber (Photo by Jean Smith)

Step pyramid complex- this passage is accessed via an entrance on the south side (Photo by Jean Smith)

Step pyramid complex- this passage is accessed via an entrance on the south side (Photo by Jean Smith)

“Beneath the second extension of the pyramids were eleven tombs with deep shafts and tunnels excavated under the pyramid.  An alabaster coffin found at the end of one of these tunnels contained the remains of a child.  The relationship between these burials and the pyramid is not certain.  They are usually thought to be royal and possibly offer an explanation for the second extension, which could be interpreted as a common superstructure for these graves.  They are not to be equated with the subsidiary burials of the First Dynasty mastabas” (p. 20).

Faience tiles from the miles of chambers beneath the Step Pyramid  (Photo by Keith Schengili-Roberts, 2007)

Faience tiles from the miles of chambers beneath the Step Pyramid (Photo by Keith Schengili-Roberts, 2007)

Blue faience chambers beneath Djoser’s Pyramid (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

Blue faience chambers beneath Djoser’s Pyramid (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

 

From The Complete Pyramids by Mark Lehner

“The above-ground elements of Djoser’s pyramid complex are only one part of the story.  Below, the Egyptians created an underground structure on a scale previously unknown, quarrying out more than 5.7 km (3.5 miles) of shafts, tunnels, chambers, galleries and magazines…A central corridor and two parallel ones extend over 365 m (1,198 ft), connecting 400 rooms.  These and other subterranean features—impressive enough—surround one of the most complicated tangles of tunnels and shafts the Egyptians ever created, below the pyramid itself” (p. 87).

More of the blue faience chambers (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

More of the blue faience chambers (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

A door frame in the gallery beneath the South Tomb.  Note the reed mat screen rendered in stone, eternally furled above the doorway (Ia Georgia, contrib.)

A door frame in the gallery beneath the South Tomb. Note the reed mat screen rendered in stone, eternally furled above the doorway (Ia Georgia, contrib.)

 

divider bar 03

 

Faience tile from the Step Pyramid of Djoser (Yvonne Buskens, contrib.)

Faience tile from the Step Pyramid of Djoser (Yvonne Buskens, contrib.)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

The Step Pyramid Under Restoration

 

By Heidi Kontkanen

From Al-Ahram: “Restoring Djoser’s Step Pyramid” by Nevine el-Aref

“The restoration project is the first complete plan to rescue the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the southern tomb. Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), described it as a pioneer project comparable to the salvage operation of the Abu Simbel temples. Hawass added that the project would be carried out by Egyptian engineers and archaeologists in three phases with a budget of LE25 million. Plans include consolidating the underground tunnels, monitoring the cracks, restoring the wall decorations and inspecting the natural ventilation inside the pyramid and the southern tomb.”

Restoration work on Djoser’s pyramid in 2010, with workmen and their wheelbarrows visible on the pyramid clearing away debris (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

Restoration work on Djoser’s pyramid in 2010, with workmen and their wheelbarrows visible on the pyramid clearing away debris (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2010)

New stone built over the south side of Djoser’s Pyramid (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2011)

New stone built over the south side of Djoser’s Pyramid (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen, 2011)

Restoration work in 2011 (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Restoration work in 2011 (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The east side of Djoser’s Pyramid in 2011 (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The east side of Djoser’s Pyramid in 2011 (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Renovation work at the pyramid (Photo by R. Thiele, 2011)

Renovation work at the pyramid (Photo by R. Thiele, 2011)

Close up of a partially restored wall (Photo by Maveric 149, 2008)

Close up of a partially restored wall (Photo by Maveric 149, 2008)

If you wish to read about some of the concerns regarding the Djoser Step Pyramid restoration program, Dennis van Hoorn blogged about Sara Abou Bakr’s article, “Djoser’s Dilemma” on his Amun-Re Egyptology blog.

 

divider bar 03

 

The T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

The T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

Djoser’s Step Pyramid in Black & White

 

Photography by Richie O’Neill

058 - zz-ro-08

 

059 - zz-ro-01

 

060 - zz-ro-03

 

061 - zz-ro-05

 

062 - zz-ro-06

 

063 - zz-ro-07

 

divider bar 03

 

Engaged columns at the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Engaged columns at the T-Temple (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

Links and Online Books

 

Vicky Metafora shared a link to Excavations at Saqqara Vol. 01 and Excavations at Saqqara Vol. 02 by Quibell, et. al.

Vicky Metafora shared a link to Saqqara Mastabas Parts I & II by Murray, Sethe, et. al.

Richie O’Neill shared a link to Tour Egypt’s article Imhotep—Doctor, Architect, High Priest, Scribe and Vizier to King Djoser by Jimmy Dunn

Jemma Isis Johnson and Yvonne Buskens shared the link to the University of Pennsylvania’s page on the Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser.

 

divider bar 03

 

Many of the structures in Djoser's complex are believed to have been partially buried to strengthen their connection to the underworld (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

Many of the structures in Djoser’s complex are believed to have been partially buried to strengthen their connection to the underworld (Photo by Richie O’Neill)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

In the News & On the Blogs

 

Luxor Times6-Foot Sekhmet Statue Unearthed in Mut Temple (Jane Akshar)

ANSAmed: Italian Archaeologists Unearth Trove of Artifacts in Egypt (Celeste Albo)

Ancient Egypt Online8 Million Dog Mummies Uncovered at Saqqara (Vicky Metafora)

Ancient Egypt Online: Dashur Under Threat (Vicky Metafora)

Another view of the T-Temple and associated architecture (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Another view of the T-Temple and associated architecture (Photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Egypt at the ManchesterRoyal Portraits in Ancient Egypt…? (Yvonne Buskens)

Egypt at the ManchesterTrees in Ancient Egypt (Celeste Albo)

Lapham’s QuarterlyThe Woman Who Would Be King (SSEA/SEEA)

The Hierakonpolis Expedition launched their new website

Vase with rope decoration from the underground galleries in the Djoser complex (Yvonne Buskens, contrib.)

Vase with rope decoration from the underground galleries in the Djoser complex (Yvonne Buskens, contrib.)

Current Research in Egyptology XIV announced their program (Lorraine Evans)

Ateliers de Nebty posted the January 16 Newsletter (Nebty)

Amun-Re Egyptology BlogDjoser’s Dilemma (Dennis van Hoorn/Sara Abou Bakr)

BBCTutankhamun Tomb:  Human Breath Wreaks Havoc in Egypt (Mark Lauria)

066 - zz-ro-04

Niebla y IuzSearching for the Lost Royal City of Nubia in Northern Sudan (Celeste Albo)

The American University in Cairo published their Bioarchaeology of Ancient Egypt conference abstracts (Amy Wilson)

Seshat’s Journal: Manchester Museum (Gwyn Ashworth-Pratt)

History of the Ancient WorldWhen a Book of the Dead Text Does Not Match Archaeology—The Case of the Protective Magical Bricks (Mark Lauria)

Art of Counting: Bound Foes (Amy Calvert)

 

divider bar 03

 

 

shemsutag

Copyright by Keith Payne, 2013.  All rights reserved.

All copyrighted photography is denoted as such by watermark and attribution and is used by permission of the respective creators, who maintain the copyrights and all other rights to their work.  All other copyrighted photography and text are used in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of copyright law.  All non-copyright photography is either in the public domain or is shared via Creative Commons and may be reused at will within those provisions.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 at 12:07 pm and is filed under Em Hotep Digest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 comments so far

Susan Leogrande Alt
avatar
 1 

This is more complex than I’ve noticed before – or been taught. Do you – or anyone – HEY JEAN-PIERRE HOUDIN – have a notion about the reason for all those corridors dug into the ground and why they weren’t represented in the other pyramids to this extent? I’m guessing that this, being the first, had many additional portions that weren’t copied into the upcoming pyramids because this was the first big project – some things just didn’t need to be continued in the other pyramids?

Also, this is the first time I’ve noticed how much they did render in stone that which was around them – like the furled “blinds”. Are things like this included in all the other large pyramids?

Additionally, has the ground around the Great Pyramid been checked for additional tombs like the “southern tomb” found at this pyramid? Within the article it says – or in one of the video clips – that the viscera of the king went to the southern tomb while his body went to the pyramid. Was this political in nature – like breaking apart a Saint’s body to make sure a great deal of people get a piece? What is the timeline of the unification of Southern and Upper Egypt in relationship to this?

Finally, why are they allowed to do so much work on this pyramid and yet, we can’t even get a sample of the black stuff found in the Grand Gallery or have equipment used to “view” remotely, the stone Jean Pierre Houdin believes (and I with him) leads to the two additional chambers in the Great Pyramid?

Lots to read and thanks for it. It’s not the ordinary History Channel version information here on this site and I am so glad!

Happy Chilly Billy memories!

January 23rd, 2013 at 1:30 pm
Richard O'Neill
avatar
 2 

Just keeps getting better and better!

January 23rd, 2013 at 11:36 pm
avatar
 3 

great blog, as usual! thanks!

January 25th, 2013 at 7:03 am
Gina Taro
avatar
 4 

I miss REAL Egyptian information since I left 8 years ago. I watch shows on the History Channel, but I shake my head at the pronunciation, miss-information, and plain old ignorance. I think that they should make anyone who is going to do a TV show take a 2 week tour with an Egyptologist as a guide!
Thanks for this information, it’s in small increments, so I can read when I have time. I can keep up with what’s going on, and not suffer through bad TV! :D

January 26th, 2013 at 9:14 am
avatar
 5 

Hi Susan!

As always you have great questions, and as always I do not have the answers for all of them, but you are probably used to that by now ;-) But who knows who might read them and have some answers? I think you hit the nail on the head when you note that this was a transitional phase, so while there are some elements of Djoser’s complex that became standard features of pyramid complexes, such as mortuary temples, the enclosure wall, and underground burials, others were a part of an evolutionary process. The South Tomb, for example, may have evolved into the satellite pyramid.

Pretty much all pyramids had their own personalities. Khufu, for example, may have had a provisional burial chamber underground, but clearly planned from the outset to have a burial chamber located above ground, but within the superstructure of the pyramid itself. I say clearly planned from the outset because the innovation of a flat ceiling instead of corbelled walls/ceiling required forethought and planning. I think that part of the reason for the vast underground galleries had to do with the evolving notion of the tomb as a “palace for eternity”, a place where the spirit of the dead king would roam. More space meant that more “spiritual territory” could be represented. The need for such space may have declined as artistic representation became more complex. Instead of needing the winding halls and galleries, the art itself became representational of increasingly vaster countryside. I could be wrong about that, but that is what I think.

As for stone representation of things made out of other materials, such as the rolled reed mats rendered in stone, being in the larger pyramids, I think this occurred but to a lesser degree, and I think it became more associated with representing things that were to manifest in the afterlife. False doors, for example, and even shabti figures, are examples of things being represented in a more durable material such as stone or faience, but which would become functional on the Underworld in the same way that the immovable stone doors in Djoser’s mortuary temple would become closable in the afterlife versions. But these representations could also be on less durable surfaces such as plaster or even wood, so I am not really sure if that answers you question. Again, maybe someone else will weigh in?

As for an equivalent of the South Tomb in the Great Pyramid, like I said above, I think the satellite pyramid may have served that function for Khufu. Regarding burying the viscera separately, I am not completely sure about that, and whether it served a similar function as dividing up a body of a saint. I think the division of the body and scattering it across the country would have sounded too much to the ancient Egyptians like what Set did to Osiris, and altogether undesirable! But I do know that while some of the viscera was considered unnecessary for the more immediate ritual of the Opening of the Mouth, such as the brain, it was still buried nearby, along with the rags and waste from the mummification process. To my recollection, these things were considered impure, but were still buried someplace where the resurrected could find them, should they need them for some reason, so that might have something to do with the separate burial. Other viscera that was needed (stomach, lungs, etc) were included in canopic jars that were buried with the king.

And as for allowing work to be done in the Great Pyramid, I will fall back on my perennial answer, simply because it remains true—politics, full stop. As the politics change, work will progress. Certainly there is no archaeological reason to refuse researchers such as Jean-Pierre Houdin from doing noninvasive work employing technology that would be no more destructive to the pyramid than shining a flashlight on it. The infrared technology, for example, would have no physical impact on the pyramid at all. As much as I hate to say it, time will tell. But again, I can assure you that JPH is not idle. Work is being done elsewhere on other things, more to come…….

Stay warm, Chilly Billy pal!
–Keith

January 26th, 2013 at 11:14 am
avatar
 6 

Thank you Richie, Diana and Gina! :-) As a look at the “Contributors” section at the beginning of each Digest will tell you, this is a group effort, and I am very pleased and humbled from all of the participation. But having said that, yes, this is a LOT of work and it is great to be appreciated! It is worth it when I see the comments here and in the Em Hotep BBS Facebook group and I know that people are not just reading it, but enjoying it and learning from it too. I can say that I learn a great deal with each Digest myself, and that can only come from working with such great people on the BBS page.

I would again like to encourage people to check out our group on Facebook, Em Hotep BBS. I understand that some of you may not be Facebook people. I wasn’t either until I began using Facebook to network for, and spread news about, this website. But the benefits have been immeasurable. For one thing, this digest would obviously be impossible without the group there. But also, just being able to interact with people I originally only knew from books or watching documentaries, and being able to keep up with people I have met at Egyptology conferences and events, has been a tremendous source of personal learning and growth. My Facebook friends list looks a lot like my bookshelves now!

It just takes a couple of minutes to set up a Facebook account, it is free, and even if you just use it to hop around in the many Egyptology groups and pages there, it will be worth your time. And in case you are wondering, I have no connections to Facebook, nobody is paying me to promote them, they are just a tool which I have found invaluable and which puts me into daily contact with both professionals working in the field of Egyptology and an incredibly informed and brilliant group of fellow amateurs.

Please do join us, we have a lot of fun there, and you just might learn something.

Cheers!
–Keith

January 26th, 2013 at 11:27 am
Fabio Zannier
avatar
 7 

Great job! Many thanks

February 2nd, 2013 at 9:29 am

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)
URI
Comment