The Step Pyramid at Sakkara
Part 1 : An Introduction to the Earliest Known Pyramid of Ancient Egypt
Part of the great Memphis necropolis, the Step Pyramid Complex at Sakkara presents the earliest pyramid in the development of the ancient Egyptian pyramid concept. Memphis was the capital of the Old Kingdom and was home to the burial chambers of countless kings and officials.
The Step Pyramid was built for the 2nd king of Egypt's 3rd Dynasty, Kind Djoser, and is considered to be the foundation on which all later pyramids were based upon. The pyramid was built by a genius architect of the time, Imhotep, who based the theory of the pyramid on the more traditional ancient Egyptian funerary chamber the "mastaba".
The mastaba is simply comprised of a flat rectangular structure of one level, with an underground extension leading to the burial chamber. The step pyramid was thus, to put it very simply, a series of square mastabas, laid on top of each other, diminishing in size to reach the smallest top level, creating a geometric image of a pyramid. This then created the beginning of a new concept in ancient Egypt, the pyramid, and the idea of a monumental complex in royal dimensions, to serve as a significant royal commemoration.
The Step pyramid complex is comprised of a series of sections creating the complex, much like later pyramids, with several exterior outlets as dedication to the gods. The Djoser complex or the step pyramid complex also presents the first example in which limestone was used as a construction material in a large scale venture, as opposed to the previously common material for construction, mudbrick.
There are various theories regarding the method and stages of construction and also regarding the function of the many smaller buildings throughout the complex. Egyptologists continue to analyse and theorise as there doesn't seem to be a solid framework that answers all questions. Nonetheless the complex reflects a true transition in ancient Egyptian development, in terms of aesthetics, architecture, as well as politics.
The complex presents almost a perfect merger between the old and the new of the ancients; a significant influence of the older dynasties is apparent in the various elements of decoration and construction, while being implemented in novel materials and concepts.
The complex includes the main step pyramid, the first of its kind, in addition to the first colonnade and hypostyle, life-sized statues, cavetto cornice, torus-mouldings and a portico. The significance of these features is reflected in later buildings which were used as symbols in the hieroglyphic sign-list of sacred constructions.
The Step Pyramid itself is comprised of six steps and is approximately 60 meters (197 feet) in height. Under the pyramid, there exists a concealed underground construction of corridors and paths that measure in total length to around 5635 meters; the largest underground construction at the time.
Recent excavations and studies of the Step pyramid reveal answers to long posed questions, as well as new questions to recent findings. The process of discovery and unearthing of new information seems like a continuous journey, almost exactly as intended by the ancients; one of misleading confusion and secret paths to unspoken truths.
The Step Pyramid of Sakkara is the original gateway to the hidden under-world of the ancient Egyptians. While it's a staple on the route of traditional tours in Egypt, there still exists and can be witnessed, every so often, a visitor or two, slowly walking and gently touching the side walls of the pyramid, chanting verses from another world that seem to echo in the open-air in an incomprehensible manner to the modern-day tourist. That in itself is a testament that some people do believe in the infinite powers of the Egyptian afterworld and sacred entities. It's hypnotizing to witness and almost quite surreal.
The Step Pyramid Complex at Sakkara
Part 2 : An In-depth View on the Structures of the Complex