The immense necropolis of the Old Kingdom capital, Memphis, at Saqqara began as the burial place of wealthy officials during Dynasty I. These "Archaic Tombs" were huge mastabas that became the foundation prototype for the best-known monument at Saqqara, the step pyramid of Djoser, second king of Dynasty III (2667-2648 BCE). The tombs of a dozen or so Old Kingdom kings are to be found at Saqqara and, indeed, the necropolis was in steady use until the time of the Romans.

At the heart of Saqqara is the funerary complex of Djoser, including the step pyramid, built of stone (instead of mud brick) by the architect Imhotep. (Imhotep was an all around genius. As a physician, he was deified centuries after his death by the Greeks, who identified him with their healer-god, Asclepius.)

The complex was surrounded by an immense stone wall, a portion of which, reconstructed, is shown here, baking under a clear blue sky in the hot Egyptian sun as it has for millennia. To enter through the narrow door, click on the photograph.