The Pharaoh Djoser is the most well-known pharaoh from the Third dynasty. Although there have been issues with the dates as to when he actually reigned, the time frame appears to have begun sometime between 2691 BC and 2625 BC. During the time of his reign, he was also known as Netjerikhet, which means “body of the gods.”
Just as there are controversies about the time frame that this pharaoh ruled, there is also some debate as to the length that he actually was in power. Many experts, however, believe that it lasted for about 28 years.
During his reign he accomplished several things. From an economic direction, he went on to develop mining in the area which provided turquoise and copper. On the military side of things, he sent multiple military expeditions into the Sinai region to subdue the locals and this helped to stabilize the kingdom. It was important to keep the population subdued as the region served as a buffer between Egypt and Asia.
In addition to also expanding his kingdom, Djoser’s reign was marked with many significant construction projects. One of the most famous is the step pyramid. Other construction projects included the rebuilding of the temple of Khnum on Elephantine, and an unfinished tomb at Abydos. It is also believed that during Djoser’s reign the shift of the Egyptian capital farther north was completed.
The Pyramid of Djoser
The step pyramid of Djoser, located at Saqqara, was the first of its kind. It consisted of six mastabas; a tomb structure built on top of one another with the lower one always being the smallest. Using this construction technique created a stepped structure-type pyramid that would be used by future pharaohs. This type of construction method would continue to be used under the Pharaoh Sekhemkhet and Pharaoh Khaba. The design was created by Imhotep, chancellor to Pharaoh Djoser and high priest of Ra at Heliopolis. As the designer of the step pyramid, Imhotep became known as the world’s first great architect.
There are multiple canopic jars that mention Queen Nimaethap as “Mother of the King’s children” and “Mother of the King of the Two Lands.” These writings have identified Nimaethap as Djoser’s mother, and Khasekhemwy as his father. Djoser’s queen was Hetephernebti, who was an important queen during the period and is believed to have also been a daughter of Khasekhemwy. If this were true, this would stand to reason that Hetephernebti would also be a step-sister to the pharaoh as well as his wife. Together, Djoser and Hetephernebti had only one daughter, Inetkaes.
The Famine Stela is an inscription that details a legend based on the Pharaoh Djoser. It mentions how he rebuilt the temple of Khnum, which was located on an island in the Nile and ended a seven-year famine. The historical accuracy of this tale is unknown, as the inscription has been dated to around the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Having an inscription reference a legend 2,000 years after Djoser’s reign, clearly demonstrates his importance as pharaoh during Ancient Egypt.
Since Djoser died without a son, another family member most likely became pharaoh. Sekhemkhet would only reign for about seven years before dying; however, the family connection is unknown. This particular pharaoh’s name was
unknown until an unfinished step pyramid was discovered in 1951 AD. This unfinished step pyramid is also believed to have been designed by Imhotep, but was probably not finished due to Sekhemkhet’s death during its construction. Only the first mastaba was finished, and is buried beneath sand dunes. Because of this structure being underneath a sandbank, Sekhemkhet’s temple continues to be known as the Buried Pyramid.