The Princess Nemathap was evidently a daughter of the Delta and not a member of the southern royal family whose blood ran through the Second Dynasty. By her marriage to Kha-Sekhemui she must have supplanted the southern heiress but there is no doubt that she became the great queen. Her official seal bore the title ‘king-bearing mother’ and she was venerated as the acknowledged founder of the Third Dynasty. The king whom she bore was styled by Manetho as Zoser and he was generally referred to by this name in later times. Contemporary monuments list him under his Horus name ‘Neterkhet’, a fact which confused scholars for a considerable time.
|Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age|
One last reminder of the past disorders was found only in recent years. When exploring the foundations of the Step Pyramid, the archaeologists broke into a 33-metre deep shaft which had been left undisturbed since Zoser’s time. It ended in a long gallery filled with the fragments of about 35,000 jars and dishes made of alabaster and hard stone, of which 8,000 have since been restored. On these, seals of all pharaohs of the two preceding dynasties were found, with the notable exception of those of the heretic Peribsen. The fragments may have been rescued from the royal tombs that were sacked and burnt by the rebels, to be piously reburied. The entrance to the shaft was covered up by an enlargement of Zoser’s tomb, which set the Step Pyramid like a gigantic seal upon the buried unhappy past.
Although very little is known about Zoser’s life, he became one of the most famous pharaohs in the history of Egypt. This fame is based on the magnificent funeral complex at Saqqara and, above all on the grandiose Step Pyramid which forms its centre. Nothing even faintly approaching these monuments in size and splendour had ever been created by man and, when beholding it, we cannot but realise that, almost 5,000 years ago, the human race had suddenly moved into a new age. The most astonishing feature of this development was the lack of any preparatory phase; it seems that within one generation Egypt had stepped from a semi- tribal state into a highly organized society, capable of an astounding communal effort.
Even more surprising is the realisation that the immense technological advance required for pyramid building was not due to a technical revolution. The methods of using stone as a building material and the metal and stone tools employed had been well- known in the Second Dynasty. What was new in Zoser’s time was the degree to which all these activities were suddenly escalated. Pyramid-building was a milestone in the history of man because it was his first true application of large-scale technology. Like all later technological efforts, down to our day, pyramid construction relied on tools and methods which were already well-known but the potentialities of which had not as yet been recognised. The keys to the problem were manpower and organisation. The first was provided by a pacified and unified country while for the second a unique human genius was required. His name, which the Egyptians cherished and later venerated for more than 3,000 years, was Imhotep.
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