May 14, 2012

Zoser’s Step Pyramid Facts

Zoser’s step pyramid is a massive construction, rising to a height of over 200 feet, in 6 steps, with a nearly square base of 411 Ft. by 358 Ft. Apparently, like the Mayan pyramids, it underwent several changes of plan. The nucleus of the pyramid is a solid square structure consisting of a core of stone faced with an outer layer of dressed Tura limestone. This nucleus appears to have been a mastaba 26 feet high and about 207 feet square, aligned to the cardinal points (see Fig. 4).

Zoser’s step pyramid
The pyramid substructure contains a shaft 92 feet deep, leading to a maze of rooms and corridors, some of which were either not finished at the time of construction or were aborted additions of a later renovation. At the bottom of the shaft is the tomb chamber which is feet high and wide, and 9% feet long, and completely built of pink granite from Aswan. At the northern end, in order to admit the body, a hole in the roof was bored. After the body was interred in the chamber, the hole was filled with one giant granite plug, 6 feet long and weighing about 3 tons.

The wall encircling the Step Pyramid complex was faced with dressed Tura limestone. It is about 33 feet high and the total length of it around the perimeter is over a mile.

Later generations of Egyptians regarded the Step Pyramid complex with esteem. This is evidenced by hieroglyphic graffiti on the passage walls of some of the attendant buildings in the court, which record the admiration felt by Egyptians who visited the complex a thousand years after its completion.

It is hard to believe that the degree of perfection of the architectural construction of Zoser’s pyramid could have been achieved without being preceded by some lengthy process of development. Yet no evidence exists of the employment of stone in any earlier edifices except for a few isolated parts or sections of buildings. However, because small blocks were used in the construction of the Step Pyramid instead of the massive monolithic giant blocks employed in later construction efforts, it is believed that the technique of quarrying and manipulating massive pieces of stone may not yet have been mastered. This implication is a valid one from the point of view of the archaeologists. However, it does seem that Imhotep, with all his genius and inventiveness, was not masterful enough to develop the techniques necessary for this more sophisticated masonry accomplishment. Therefore, some Egyptologists theorize that for some unknown reason, large pieces of stone were not required, and that for this particular construction the smaller stones sufficed.

Very little remains of the enclosed complex surrounding the Step Pyramid, and even less awaited the archaeologists who entered and explored the various chambers; plunderers virtually denuded every artifact of any value. All that remained were tiled and reliefed walls, some empty coffins and a few pieces of human bone.

Zoser’s successors followed the example he had set in building tombs in the form of a Step Pyramid, although they did not stress the importance of having a courtyard as the complex within the pyramid enclosure.

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