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The complex of Djoser at Saqqara is one of the oldest known structures to have been constructed completely with natural stone. It was built at the beginning of the third dynasty, around 2625 BC, and was intended as a funerary complex for king Djoser.

View of the Djoser Step-Pyramid

A limestone wall of 10.5 metres high and enclosing an area of 1.5 hectares surrounds the complex. A recessed panelling motif is used to decorate the wall. This motif is known as the serekh or "palace fašade" motif and was mainly used in a royal context. Protruding bastions are reminiscent of towers in strongholds or fortresses. The complex is entered through a narrow door in the southeast part of the enclosure wall.

Entrance to the Djoser Complex

The entrance already reveals an important feature of the architecture of Djoser's complex: each part of the structure was inspired on existing, mudbrick and wooden structures. The decoration of the entrance hall's ceiling is an imitation of rounded wooden beams. Immediately after the entrance the stone is cut to resemble an open wooden door.

The entrance hall itself is a long narrow passage flanked by high pillars. The fact that the pillars are connected to the outer walls of the entrance hall indicates that they do not have a supporting function. The pillars themselves are meant to resemble several stems of papyrus plants tied together. The entrance hall opens into a vestibule with four pillars that again do not have a supporting function.

The exit of the vestibule is marked by a stone imitation of an open door. This door opens onto a large open court, the so-called "South Court".

The walls around this court are dressed with fine limestone, parts of which are still visible today. The recessed panelling motif on this wall is similar to that on the outside of the enclosure wall, but on the inside of the complex, there are no bastions.

One of the pillars situated in the entrance

Against the south part of the enclosure wall and immediately facing the Entrance Hall, a wall, forming an angular projection into the court, was decorated with recessed panels, topped by small drums (suggesting rolled reed-mats), and a frieze of uraei. On its north face, a small blocked entrance can be found. The interior of this building is completely filled with rubble, a feature that is prominent in the complex. It is obvious that the building was not intended for daily use by mere mortals. This building has been interpreted as a copy of a chapel.
(Jacques Kinnaer)

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