Although the pyramids of Giza are Egypt’s most famous and most visited tourist attractions, the massive monuments are not Egypt’s oldest.
Top the south, not far from present-day Cairo, we find the remnants of an ancient necropolis used by Pharaohs from different dynasties in the history of ancient Egypt. There, at Saqqara, the ancient Egyptians built incredible mastaba tombs throughout history.
Then, some 4,700 years ago, a third dynasty ruler called Djoser instructed a young architect called Imhotep to build a stone structure unlike any other.
In around nineteen years, Imhotep is thought to have built not only Egypt’s first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, but an entire pyramid complex of previously unseen proportions.
Djoser’s Pyramid complex covers 15 ha (37 acres) and is about 2.5 times as large as the Old Kingdom town of Heirakonpolis. In other words, it was an archeological construction process never-before-seen in the history of Egypt.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser, with a base of 109 meters × 121 meters has a total volume of 330,400 cubic meters (11,667,966 cu ft).
As explained by Egyptologist Mark Lehner, this step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is recognized to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction and the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt.
Although revolutionary in many ways, the Step Pyramid of Djoser is regarded as an experimental monument.
Analysis of the structure suggests that the monument was built in six distinct stages, a telltale signs that support the idea of an experimental structure.
Djoser’s pyramid may not have initially been envisioned as a pyramid at all, but rather a morphed-mastaba which eventually took shape as a pyramid, resulting in a six-stepped formation we see today.
Djoser’s Pyramid is thought to have been built using more than 850,000 tons of stone and served as a starting point for the largest lithic industry of ancient civilizations. Today we know, as archeology has shown, that this monument is an evolution of the mastaba and was conceived as a stepped structure which is essentially made from six superimposed mastabas, stacked one atop the other.
Prior to Djoser’s Pyramid, there wasn’t a single construction or monument of similar size built anywhere in Egypt.
The successful completion of the Pyramid complex at Saqqara, therefore, suggests that the royal government had a new level of control of resources, both material and human at the time the pyramid and its surrounding monuments were built.
In addition to the pyramid and surrounding temples, the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser is unique because beneath its pyramid is a massive 5.7-kilometers-long labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, magazines, and rooms. No other pyramid in Egypt features such a massive world beneath it.
In fact, never again would such a massive subterranean construction attempt be repeated in the history of Egyptian pyramid building.
Restoring a 4,700-year-old Pyramid
After a restoration process that – due to the crises in the area – lasted for more than a decade, the stepped pyramid of Doser can be admired again by locals and tourists starting Thursday, March 5, 2020, confirmed Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.
The reopening of the pyramid will surely see many tourists rush to Saqqara in order to appreciate a structure regarded as a revolutionary monument in Egypt’s history.
As revealed by Egypt Today, the pyramid restoration project included the rehabilitation of internal corridors, the pharaoh’s supposed sarcophagus that remains inside, walls, roads, and stairs, as well as risk reduction on the entire structure.
The road was also paved from the doors of the archeological area to the entrance of the pyramid to facilitate the arrival of visitors in general and for those with special needs in particular.
Another important feature added was the information panels to clarify the path to whoever travels it, with illustrations and texts explaining the history of the region and the monuments that are located there.
The supervisor of the Department of Development of Archeological Sites and Museums in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Dalia Khattab, explained that the process of improving the region was carried out according to a comprehensive action plan, in cooperation with the private sector and with the goal of preserving the area and providing the necessary amenities and services for tourists.