People - Ancient Egypt: Netjerykhet (Djoser)
OLD KINGDOM 3rd Dynasty (2630 - 2611) The age of the Pyramid. The
pyramids of Giza and Dahshur are built during this period.
Netjerykhet (Djoser) in Tour Egypt
Netjerikhet Djoser was the 2nd King of Egypt's 3rd Dynasty,
and was probably the most famous king during this period. He
is also sometimes referred to as Zoser, and by the Greeks,
Tesorthos. Through contemporary sources, he is only known by
his Horus and Nebt-names, Netjerikhet, "the divine of body".
Djoser may have been the king's birth name and appears only
in later records. The earliest evidence that the two names
belong to the same king is found on a long inscription on a
large rock on the island of Sehel at Aswan.
According to the Turin King list, Netjerikhet Djoser ruled
for about 19 years, following the 20 year long reign of the
otherwise unattested Nebka (Sanakhte). However, some
archaeological sources have shown that Djoser may be
considered as the first king after Khasekhemwii, the last
king of the 2nd Dynasty. The order by which some
predecessors of Kheops are mentioned on the Papyrus Westcar
may confirm that Nebka must be placed between Djoser and
Huni and not before Djoser. The fact that the Turin King
list has noted Djoser's name in red may also be significant,
indicating a reverence for this king late into Egypt's
In view of Djoser's building projects, particularly his
monumental complex at Saqqara, the number of years credited
to him by the Turin King list has been in doubt. It is not
impossible that the Turin King list may have mistook some
bi-annual cattle-counts for whole years. If this is indeed
the case, then Djoser may have ruled up to 37 or 38 years.
Nimaathapu (Nimaethap), the wife of Khasekhemwi, is known to
have held the title "Mother of the King". This makes it
likely that Netjerikhet Djoser was her son, with Khasekhemwi
his father. Three royal women are known from during his
reign, including Inetkawes, Hetephernebti and a third one
whose name is destroyed. One of them might have been his
wife while the others were perhaps daughters or sisters. The
relationship between Netjerikhet and his traditional
successor, Sekhemkhet is not known.
It is possible that during Djoser’s reign the king managed
to extend Egypt's southern border as far as Elephantine at
the Nile's First Cataract. The inscription near modern Aswan
on the Island of Sehel, which is a Ptolemaic forgery cut by
the priests of the god Khnum of Elephantine, lays claim to
some 137 km (85 miles) of territory south of their temple,
known as the Dodekaschoinoi. This claim is made under the
authority of Djoser, who, the inscription reads, was advised
by Imhotep, his famous vizier, to make the grant of land to
the temple of Khnum in order to end a famine in Egypt. In
part, the text, written during the time of Ptolemy V.
Epiphanes over 2000 years after the death of Djoser, partly
"My heart was in sore distress, for the Nile had not risen
for seven years. The grain was not abundant, the seeds were
dried up, everything that one had to eat was in pathetic
quantities, each person was denied his harvest. Nobody could
walk any more; the old people's hearts were sad and their
legs were bent when they sat on the ground, and their hands
were hidden away. Even the courtiers were going without, the
temples were closed and the sanctuaries were covered in
dust. In short, everything in existence was afflicted."
The text goes on to record Djoser's attempt to find the
origins of the Nile flood and to understand the role played
by Khnum in the inundation. He then makes an offering to
Khnum, and the god appears to him in a dream, promising,
"I will cause the Nile to rise up for you. There will be no
more years when the inundation fails to cover any area of
land. The flowers will sprout up, their stems bending with
the weight of the pollen."
Ptolemy V Epiphanes was no doubt actually referring to
himself in the guise of Djoser, having to struggle with the
effects of a famine. Regardless of whether there was a
famine in Djoser's time, this stele is evidence of Djoser's
continuing fame throughout Egypt's dynastic period. Also
important is the fact that Ptolemy V Epiphanes was making an
attempt to identify himself with Djoser, who Egyptians saw
as an idea king and the founder of the Memphite dynasty.
Later kings would imitate much about Djoser, and generally
regard him as a king they wished to be associated with.
Netjerikhet Djoser’s foreign policy was one of careful
establishment of Egyptian presence in economically important
places. He sent several military expeditions to the Sinai,
during which the local Bedouins were defeated, and an
inscription at Wadi Maghara would indicate that he also had
turquoise mined in the region. The Sinai owed its importance
to the Egyptian economy for its valuable minerals turquoise
and copper. It was also strategically important as a buffer
between the Asian Bedouin and the Nile valley.
Netjerikhet Djoser is mostly known as the king who
commissioned the building of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and
the temple complex surrounding it. This is often recognized
as the first monumental building made of stone. His name is
linked with that of the architect who planned and
constructed the first stone buildings in the world, the
high-priest and vizier Imhotep, who may also have built the
Step Pyramid of Djoser’s successor, Sekhemkhet. Besides the
technological advances and the Ancient Egyptian
craftsmanship, the building of Djoser's funerary complex at
Saqqara also demonstrates the organizational skills of the
central government. It would probably be the Step Pyramid
which caused most of Djoser's fame during ancient times, and
it is certainly why his name is known to so many today.
Djoser is also attested by fragments from a shrine in
Heliopolis, a seal impressions in the tomb of Khasekhemwy in
Abydos, a seal impressions from tomb 2305 in Saqqara, a seal
impression from the tomb of Hesy in Saqqara, seal impression
from Hierakonpolis and seal impression from Elephantine.
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