Imhotep, the builder the Step Pyramid

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Imhotep (translation of his name is "He who comes in peace") was originally a high priest of Heliopolis. Egypt suffered from a huge drought under Djoser's rule, water level decreased constantly and gradually everybody became desperate. The drought had lasted for whole 7 years and Djoser decided then to send for the high priest Imhotep. He revealed to the Pharaoh, that Nile springs on Elephantine, where god Khnum was worshipped. He had the power to hold back Nile water by his foot. So Djoser should sacrificed a big amount of offertory to Khnum. Djoser followed this advice and the drought really ended. So Djoser went down in history as a redeemer of Egyptian people.

Imhotep studied in the "House of life", where he learnt mathematic, geography, history and medicine, but also philosophy and art. But he became famous especially because of his "revolution" in architecture. We don't know exactly when he was born or when he died. But we do know for sure, that he lived at the time of rule of Huni, the last Pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty.

Imhotep, the first vizier

Imhotep became the first vizier in Egypt, even if this title didn't exist within his lifetime. This function originated oficiallly under the rule of Pharaoh Sneferu from the 4th dynasty, but Imhotep practised all tasks connected afterwards with this function. He was on the top of the state administration and controlled important state matter. He was also a superior of state officials, who gave effect to his orders in particular districts.

Another of his important tasks was the judicature - he presided over six significant royal tribunals, administered the exchequer and looked after agriculture as well. We are bound to Imhotep for a beautiful chantry complex in Saqqara, whose level pyramid is the first monumental stone building in Egypt. These buildings gradually replaced the brick Mastabas and level pyramid inspired Pharaohs of the 4th dynasty, who improved the design and left us the three greatest pyramids Giza among other things.


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There are many whitespaces in the life of this Pharaoh, the most famous Pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. He went down in history thanks to his Level pyramid, which was the very first pyramid in history, thanks to aura of his vizier and architect Imhotep.

DjoserDjoser wasn't the first Pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. This dynasty was founded by certain Sanakht, who is meant in Turin King List. We don't know what was the relationship between Sanakht and Djoser or if there was any.

Djoser, who was known as Horus-Netjerikhet in his period, came to the Egyptian throne around 2,617 BC and ruled approximately for 20 years (the exact duration of his rule is different according to various sources). He transfered the centre of political power from Abydos to the area of Memphis (Mennefer). Djoser undoubtedly chose Memphis (Mennefer) to observe better the delta from there, which was often attacked by Asian and Libyan bedouins.

Pharaohs 3th dynasty, 2778 - 2723 BC

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Most distinguished event the reign of pharaoh Djoser was no doubt the establishment of the new capital city of Memphis (Mennoferu), which replaced the Cenej (near Abydos). Djoser has made history and that he commissioned his vizier, Imhotep inventive, construction of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

Djoser took the good habits of their predecessors and continued in the first raids on Egyptian Nubia. Pharaoh, who ascended the throne after Zoser, we know almost nothing. These rulers were called Sekhemkhet, Chaba, Neferka and Huni.

Pharaoh Reign Significant events
3rd dynasty (2,778 - 2,723 BC)
Netjerikhet-Djoser 19 years level pyramid (Saqqara)
Sekhemkhet 6 years first dynasty of Ur (Sumer)
Sanakht 19 years Memphis (Mennefer) became the capital instead of Thinis
Khaba 6 years  
Huni 24 years he was the first, who wrote the name in cartouche

3th and 4th dynasty

Old Kingdom period

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The Old Kingdom (2,778 - 2,065 BC) represents prosperity and gold age for the Egyptians. It is true, that just the Old Kingdom is the period of the biggest prosperity of Egyptian civilization from many points of view.

Djoser was the first Old Kingdom Pharaoh, who left tangible tracks after himself. This Pharaoh was the founder of the 3rd dynasty. There was no distinct break between this dynasty and the first two dynasty families and only in this dynasty begins the real history of Egyptian civilization. Fertile land was gradually systematically irrigated, a system of religious conceptions was initiated as well as the only language and writing and it came to realization of the land to all intents and purposes. Djoser's successors could use the knowledge gathered during centuries and create an original civilization.

3rd dynasty (2,778 - 2,723)

The most significant event of Pharaoh Djoser rule was undoubtedly the foundation of new capital Memphis (Mennefer), which replaced Thinis (near Abydos). Djoser also influenced the history, when he entrusted his vizier, inventive Imhotep, to build the Level pyramid in Saqqara. Djoser undertook good customs of his predecessors and continued in first Egyptian incursions into Nubia. We don't know almost anything about the Pharaohs, who came to the throne after Djoser. These rulers were Sekhemkhet, Khaba, Neferka and Huni.

4th dynasty (2,723 - 2,563)

Fourth dynasty is the best known dynasty in the whole Egypt history, because it is the dynasty of great pyramid builders. Sneferu was the first Pharaoh of this dynasty and incursion into Nubia, Libya and Sinai Peninsula were characteristic for his rule. He let build himself pyramids in Meidum and two others in Dahshur. His son Khufu is known for a large and wonderful pyramid with smooth walls, that he let build on a rock plain in Giza (recent suburb of Cairo) during 20 years.

Two different stems of royal family competed for succession after Khufu, but this opinion is already obsolete nowadays. Because of these fights Kuaba should have been murdered by his brother, the later ruler Djedefre. Djedefre was killed by Khafre then, who revenged his brother. Khafre was the builder of the great Sphinx in Giza. But according to recent theories Djedefre's brother died early but naturally. The dynasty rich in magnificent architectural constructions ends with the rule of Menkaure, who built the third pyramid in Giza and Shepseskaf.

5th dynasty (2,563 - 2,423)

Ra, the god of sun was worshipped in larger degree during this dynasty rule. Perhaps this god was chosen because the dynasty itself came also from Heliopolis. The importance of ruler's title "Son of Ra" was growing at that time. It was used in the previous dynasty for the first time and the king identified with the solar deity through it. The name of Ra became a part of rulers' native names in this dynasty. Number of Pharaohs made incursions into Sinai. It seems, that they were focused on Asia without forgetting about Nubia. The Old Kingdom was on the top of its fame at the end of this dynasty rule.

6th dynasty (2,423 - around 2,300)

The best known king of this dynasty is Pepi I. He let build a couple of temples, married a daughter of Abydos' high dignitary and he chose her sister as his second wife. He had sons with these two sisters, who undertook the rule after him. Pepi I. was interested in Nubia like his predecessors and made many incursions into Asia. His rule lasted almost 40 years. His son Merenre I ruled only for several years. Pepi I. follow up with his father's politics in Nubia and got far deep behind the first cataract, where he put Soudaneses under control.

Pepi II. was his half-brother and came to the throne after him. He was six at that time and ruled for incredible 94 years. It was the longest rule in the whole history of Egypt and the first business expeditions to Byblos (Phoenicia) and the Land of Punt came through just at that time. The monarch's title (it means the nome governor) became heritable. The decline of the Old Kingdom began with Pepi II. His high age and inability to rule strongly in a large kingdom meant the end of a unique prosperity.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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