Check Out 10 Baffling Aerial Images of Ancient Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid


The Step Pyramid of Djoser is regarded as ancient Egypt’s oldest Pyramid. It is thought to have been built during the Third dynasty reign under the rule of Djoser. The Step Pyramid is thought to draw ideas from several precedents, the most important of which is the mastaba tomb. Here are ten fascinating aerial images of the Pyramid and its complex that show what an amazing architectural feat the monument is.

Sometime around 2700 BC, a King of Egypt’s Third Dynasty decided he wanted to leave a mark in history by building a monument that people would speak about for thousands of years. This King was referred to by his Horus name Netjeriykhetm, but would later be called Djoser by the Egyptians in the New Kingdom.

When thinking about the pyramids of Egypt, we always seem to have in mind the mesmerizing three pyramids at the Giza plateau. However, there are other ancient constructions that are very worth visiting and offer a plethora of information about the evolution of ancient Egypt. One of these structures was built at Saqqara.

Ṣaqqâra (Egypt), aerial view of the Step pyramid of Djoser. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.
Ṣaqqâra (Egypt), aerial view of the Step pyramid of Djoser. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.

Djoser’s Step Pyramid is regarded as Egypt’s first Pyramid, and it completely changed Egyptian architecture thousands of years ago. In terms of design, size, and complexity, nothing in Egypt exists that can be compared to Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex. The step pyramid, or proto-pyramid, can be regarded as the first real monumental cenotaph.

Aerial view of the Step Pyramid complex and the Saqqara Royal Necropolis in Egypt.
Aerial view of the Step Pyramid complex and the Saqqara Royal Necropolis in Egypt.

The Step Pyramid is part of a complex of intricately built structures, surrounded by a stone wall that housed a series of symbolic buildings, most of them massive, not accessible, with a large courtyard that may have been used commemorate Heb Sed, and an intricate system of underground galleries and warehouses that covers a mind-boggling 5.7 kilometers in length.

Egyptologists maintain that, until the construction of the Pyramid at Saqqara, the royal tombs consisted of underground chambers covered by a kind of truncated pyramid-shaped adobe structure called a mastaba.

Aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. Shutterstock.
A modern view of the Step pyramid showing its entire complex. Shutterstock.

Therefore, Egyptologists believe that the Step Pyramid draws ideas from the mastaba structures, specifically one that is located in Saqqara, officially designated as Mastaba 3038, which is thought to have been built around 2,700 BC. This mastaba would have been a Step Pyramid had its builders not left one of the sides of the structure uncovered.

This images shows an aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The photograph was taken on January 24, 1938. This great pyramid of six giant steps was the first of these structures. It was built by Imhotep. The pyramid was erected in the desert, and in the background the line of the Nile irrigation is seen. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.
This image shows an aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The photograph was taken on January 24, 1938. This great Pyramid of six giant steps was the first of these structures. It was built by Imhotep. The Pyramid was erected in the desert, and in the background, the line of the Nile irrigation is seen. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.

Djoser’s Step Pyramid is seen as Egypt’s earliest colossal stone building, and it essentially consists of six huge, superimposed mastabas, one sitting atop the rather, each smaller than the previous. Although there are no written documents that date back to Djoser’s reign that mention the construction of the Pyramid complex, and although there are no blueprints of the Pyramid, Egyptologists estimate it was built in several stages.

An aerial view of Djoser's Pyramid. Pinterest.
An aerial view of Djoser’s Pyramid. Pinterest.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser is one of the first monuments made out of massive, multi-ton stones, although not the first. Six distinct stages have been identified by researchers through which the Pyramid was built; these stages are designated M1, M2, M3, P1, P1′, and P2.

The Pyramid is built in an enclosure that constitutes what Egyptologists have identified as a funerary complex; the Pyramid was built to a height of around 65 meters and measures 140 meters long and 118 meters wide at the base. The Pyramid, like many others that would follow it, was covered with polished white limestone.

An aerial view of the Step Pyramid with Djoser's pyramid complex outlined in red. Shutterstock / Curiosmos.
An aerial view of the Step Pyramid with Djoser’s pyramid complex outlined in red. Shutterstock / Curiosmos.

The step pyramid is located in the center of a rectangular enclosure that measures 544 meters from north to south, and 277 meters from east to west. The wall that surrounds the Pyramid and its structures were made of limestone; It was originally about ten meters high and had fourteen false doors and single access, arranged in one of the entrances that imitate a false door. The buildings have well-kept exterior facades; however, the interiors are solid.

A rare aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The Image was taken in January 24, 1938. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.
A rare aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The image was taken on January 24, 1938. Image Credit: UMW Libraries.

The Pyramid was an experimental structure, and its design bears evidence of that. The construction project underwent several phases, three forming a mastaba, M1, M2, and M3, and three that would see the monument take share as the first Step Pyramid, P1, P1′, and P2.

The underground world beneath the Pyramid is one of the most unique structures of the entire pyramid complex. Covering around 5.6 kilometers in length, a subterranean labyrinth of this size would never be repeated in the construction of future pyramids in Egypt, which makes Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex a far more unique monument.

An aerial image taken in 1952 showing the Saqqara royal necropolis as well as the Step Pyramid Complex, the Great Enclosure, as well as other ancient structures. Image Credit: Francesco Raffaele.
An aerial image taken in 1952 showing the Saqqara royal necropolis as well as the Step Pyramid Complex, the Great Enclosure, as well as other ancient structures. Image Credit: Francesco Raffaele.

Inside the countless room, chambers, and magazines, beneath the Pyramid, archeological missions discovered more than 48,000 ceramic and stone vessels, many with the engraved names of pharaohs, from dynasties I and II.  The so-called burial chamber of Djoser is located at the center of the Pyramid, beneath the surface, at the bottom of a pit 28 meters deep and seven meters wide; it was built in granite and covered with plaster.

Aerial view showing Djoser's Step Pyramid. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial view showing Djoser’s Step Pyramid. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

It was sealed with several granite blocks that add up to a total weight of 3500 kilograms. The stones were placed like a puzzle. Inside the chamber, archaeologists have reported discovering stonemason marks with hieroglyphs that indicated the weight and the orientation in which they should be placed, although the exact age of the glyphs has not been confirmed.

Aerial view of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, as well as many other ancient structures built throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Shutterstock.
Aerial view of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, as well as many other ancient structures built throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Shutterstock.

The French architect and Egyptologist, Jean-Philippe Lauer, the restorer of the complex since 1932, found remains of a mummy that was not Djoser’s but that predates the Thrid Dynasty King by several hundred years.

Djoser’s Step Pyramid is the most notable structure of the Saqqara necropolis, south of the ancient city of Memphis, and served as a prototype for future pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza. In its time, it was the tallest building built by humans.

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