Saqqara is the location of the famous Step Pyramid, the grandfather of all pyramids. The Step Pyramid is the oldest stone structure known in the world and is also home to an immense necropolis, or cemetery. It has been speculated that this is where many of the people involved in constructing the pyramids were laid to rest. When Djoser, one of the earliest Egyptian Pharaohs, first commissioned the building, he originally had planned for it to look like many of the traditional burial chambers for nobles, called ‘mastabas’. Mastabas were simple and large rectangular tombs that were traditionally used for the wealthy. After the construction began, they continued to enlarge it, stacking one on top of the other until it stood 6 terraces high, or 60 metres. It is thought that the entire structure was covered in white limestone, which would have looked very impressive in the bright desert sun.
The Step Pyramid was commissioned by Djoser of the third dynasty (2630 BC, the Old Kingdom) and its construction was administered by the famous Egyptian architect and builder Imhotep, Djoser’s vizier or chief courtier. Imhotep was a very well regarded and knowledgeable man who contributed to advancing the successful ancient civilization. Touted as an architect, physician, master sculptor, scribe and astronomer, he was a valuable consultant for the Egyptians and some speculate he was likely the first genius in recorded history. Later generations revered him as the god of wisdom.
It is thought there still is a lot of ancient Egypt still hidden under the sands at Saqqara. Saqqara is just west of the old city of Memphis, which at a number of different times during the ancient civilization, acted as the bureaucratic capital. Despite ongoing excavations for close to two centuries, much of the entire area remains to be excavated. The site itself stretches six kilometres from north to south and more than 1.5 kilometres at its widest point. There is yet a lot of digging still to be done.