The Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser), or step pyramid is an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. It was built during the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by Imhotep, his vizier. It is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.
This first Egyptian pyramid consisted of six mastabas (of decreasing size) built atop one another in what were clearly revisions and developments of the original plan. The pyramid originally stood 62 metres (203 ft) tall, with a base of 109 × 125 m (358 × 410 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone. The step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is considered to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction, although the nearby enclosure known as Gisr el-mudir would seem to predate the complex.
The main excavator of the Step Pyramid was Jean-Phillipe Lauer, a French architect who reconstructed key portions of the complex. The complex covers 15ha and is about 2.5 times as large as the Old Kingdom town of Heirakonpolis. Several features of the complex differ from those of later Old Kingdom pyramids. The pyramid temple is situated at the north side of the pyramid, whereas in later pyramids it is on the east side. Also, the Djoser complex is built on a North-South axis whereas later complexes utilize an East-West axis. Furthermore, the Djoser complex has one niched enclosure wall, whereas later pyramids have two enclosure walls with the outside one being smooth and the inside one sometimes niched.
The Enclosure Wall
The Djoser complex is surrounded by a wall of light Tura limestone 10.5m high. The wall design recalls the appearance of 1st Dynasty tombs, with the distinctive paneled construction known as the palace façade, which imitates bound bundles of reeds. The overall structure imitates mudbrick.
The Great Trench
Outside the enclosure wall Djoser’s complex is completely surrounded by a trench dug in the underlying rock. The trench measures 750 m long and 40 m wide and is a rectangle on a North-South axis.
Roofed Colonnade Entrance
The roofed colonnade led from the enclosure wall to the south of the complex. A passageway with a limestone ceiling constructed to look as though it was made from whole tree trunks led to a massive stone imitation of two open doors.
The South Court
The South Court is a large court between the South Tomb and the pyramid. Within the court are curved stones thought to be territorial markers associated with the Heb-sed festival, an important ritual completed by Egyptian kings (typically after 30 years on the throne) to renew their powers.
The Step Pyramid
The superstructure of the Step Pyramid is six steps and was built in six stages, as might be expected with an experimental structure.