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AC Origins Pyramid of Djoser

Pyramid of Djoser

The Pyramid of Djoser, also known as the Step Pyramid or Djoser's Pyramid, is an ancient Egyptian pyramid built during the reign of the pharaoh Djoser around 2667 BCE to 2648 BCE. It is the first example of monumental cut stone architecture on Earth, as well as the first pyramid in history. Located in the Saqqara Nome, it was designed by Djoser's vizier Imhotep and later served as the pharaoh's burial site after his death.

Location overview

Ground level

The pyramid forms part of a far more extensive funerary complex contained within a massive rectangular enclosure wall built in the palace facade style. Although the enclosure wall is now badly compromised providing various points of entry into the complex, once the only way in was through a large doorway in the south east corner of the enclosure wall that opened into a grand colonnade. A possible sign of the inexperience of these pioneering builders is that the columns are connected to the walls that run either side of them for support. Over the centuries the columns have started to fall and with them a large portion of the roof, whilst the colonnade itself has slowly filled with sand. The colonnade and surrounding area has been re-purposed as a base for bandits who waste no time in killing any intruder they see within or around Djoser's funerary complex.

AC Origins Festival Temples Djoser Pyramid

Festival temples along the eastern side of the South Court.

The colonnade opens onto an expansive open courtyard called the South Court. The court was likely ceremonial and contains several false temple structures. Some of the temple structures have started to collapse revealing they are filled with nothing more than sand and rubble. The court itself is peppered with several trees. The court is boxed in to the east, south and west by the monumental enclosure wall.

The pyramid itself stands immediately to the north of of the South Court. It is a step pyramid with six tiers rising to an elevation of 62 metres. The apex of the pyramid serves as a viewpoint and provides stunning views of the pyramids both to the north and south of the step pyramid, as well as views of the ancient capital, Memphis. Although a majority of the pyramid's outer casing is intact some sections have fallen away over the millennia.

To the north of the pyramid is an area called the Serdab Court. This court contains the remains of a funerary temple directly underneath the pyramid's northern facade. At the pyramid's north eastern corner facing north stands the serdab itself. The serdab is a limestone kiosk, the front face of which is fitted with a viewing hole through which you can see a half buried seated statute that represents Djoser's spirit and for which offerings can be left.

To the immediate west of the pyramid are several dilapidated structures. One of the more intact buildings is infested with poisonous snakes and two desiccated corpses can be found slumped against the western wall accompanied by a letter that reads: 'Welcome, pillagers! Thought yourselves clever breaking into this place? May you find nothing but pain and death! No one steals from Dafoq, the greatest of all bandit leaders!'


The tomb itself is accessed by a ramp cut into the bedrock that is located immediately north of the mortuary temple in the Serdab Court and offset slight to the west of the central axis of the complex. At the bottom of the access ramp is a roughly cut stone doorway that leads into a network of rough cut passageways filled with shelves, storage sacks and vessels as well as human remains. There are many blocked doorways obstructed by wooden planking or debris resulting from cave-ins.

Eventually they lead to the central burial chamber which lies directly under the pyramid and takes the form of a crude shaft cut down through the bedrock. The floor of the burial chamber is covered in rubble and sand that sits atop a series of granite blocks and is littered with broken pottery, wood planks, pieces of rope and more human remains. In the centre of the chamber stands two standing torches that can be ignited to provide limited light to the burial chamber.

In the eastern wall of the burial chamber is a weakened section of wall that can be broken to gain access to more of the hypogeum. This area of the tomb is considerably more ornate and features walls inlaid with aquamarine faience tiles. Located in this area is a long tiled corridor running north-south with three sealed doorways, two of which are accessible. The central door leads to a chamber with a stela inscribed with an Old Kingdom text and a guided hidden shrine built into the northern wall.




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