A Bit More on Djoser's Pyramid and the Saqqara Necropolis,
including the Mastaba Tomb of Mereruka

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The pyramid that Imhotep built for King Djoser in the third millinium BCE, the first pyramid ever built, was constructed of relatively small stones -- not the huge blocks used by the dynasty IV pharaohs -- fitted together ingeniously. The close-up picture at right gives an indication of the construction technique, as well as the different kinds of stone used at various construction stages. At left, the remains of altars in the Great Court of the pyramid may still be discerned after more than 4,500 years.

Djoser's mortuary temple was on the north side of the pyramid (the side opposite the Great Court) unlike later pyramids, which usually had the temple on the east. Very little remains of the temple but the walls of the entrance shaft to the pryamid's below ground passageways, which ran through its center, are relatively intact.

The immense Saqqara necropolis contains a number of important tombs other than Djoser's Step Pyramid, including the pyramids of Unas (last of the dynasty V rulers, Userkaf (first ruler of dynasty V), Sekhemkhet (Djoser's successor; dynasty III), Pepi I (dynasty VI), and Teti (founder of dynasty VI).

Left: the Pyramid of Userkaf, which is actually within the Step Pyramid complex, at its north-east corner.

The pyramid of Unas, situated at the south-west corner of Djoser's complex, is of particular interest because the earliest significantly large religious compositions known from ancient Egypt, the so-called pyramid texts, were inscribed on its walls.

Mastaba tombs of court officials and other notables of the Old Kingdom also dot the Saqqara landscape. That of Mereruka contains thirty-two rooms that seem to be reproductions of its owner's actual house. The walls are covered with reliefs that depict daily-life activities, including hunting and fishing (bottom right) milking (upper right), and--mirabile dictu--calving (below left).

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