1 34 Route 9. SAKKARA. Step Pyramid.
Pyramid, is preferable. The Pyramid is seldom climbed, as the
stone of which it is composed is too friable, but the top commands
an interesting view.
The *Step Pyramid of Sakkara (Arab. el-Haram el-Medarrageh,
i.e. 'the pyramid provided with steps'), a very conspicuous feature
in the landscape, may be regarded as the 'Cognisance of Sakkara'.
It was the tomb of the ancient king Zoser (3rd Dynasty), and is one
of the oldest historical monuments in Egypt that have come down to
our days. The pyramid consists of six stages, the lowest of which
is about 373/4 ft. in height, the next 36 ft., the third 34>/2 ft., the
fouTth 323/4 ft., the fifth 31 ft., and the sixth 29y3 ft., while each
stage recedes about 6V2 ft. as compared with the one below. The
perpendicular height is 196 ft. For the graduated construction, comp.
p. 115. The pyramid is built of an inferior clayey limestone quarried
in the neighbourhood. The original entrance was on the N. side, at
the foot of the lowest step. The interior (inaccessible) contains a
complicated series of passages and chambers, which, however, are
due to treasure-hunters and to later attempts at restoration, for the
original construction of King Zoser had only one sloping entrance-
shaft, with balustrades at the sides, and a single tomb-chamber.
About 300 paces to the S.W. of the Step Pyramid is the Pyramid
of King Onnos or Unis (5th Dyn.; p. Ixxx), which may be inspected
on the return, if time permit.
Ixteeiok. The pyr?mid was opened in 1881. A sloping Passage runs
from the middle of the N. side to an Antechamber, now closed (opened on
request by the keeper of Mariette's House), beyond which a straight Corri¬
dor, originally blocked at the farther end by three trap doors, leads to a
Central Chamber, with the Tomb Chamber on the right (W.) and another
Small Room on the left (E.). The last has a flat roof and three recesses;
while the central chamber and the tomb-chamber both have pointed roofs
and walls covered with iuscriptions. These hieroglyphics are cut into the
stone and filled with blue pigment. They relate to the life beyond the
tomb, and are the oldest religious Egyptian text known. The granite
sarcophagus of the king stands in the tomb-chamber, close to the W. wall.
The three other walls are partly of alabaster and are adorned with
brightly coloured paintings of doors.
The View from the top of the pyramid, which may be climbed without
assistance, repays the exertion. To the N. are the Pyramids of Abusir
and Gizeh ; to the S. those of Sakkara and Dahshur; and to the E., the
Step Pyramid and the palm-groves and fields of Sakkara and Mit Rahineh.
The mortuary temple, which stood on the E. side of the pyr¬
amid, has been entirely destroyed. — To the N. of the pyramid is the
elegant Tomb of Seshem-nofer (6th Dyn.), discovered in 1900 by
Barsanti. The small chamber, built of brick with a vaulted roof,
is the most ancient example of vaulting in Egypt; on the walls are
clever paintings on stucco, with well-preserved colouring. —On the
S. side of the Pyramid of Onnos are three shaft-tombs of the Persian
epoch, now rendered accessible by a spiral staircase and connected
with each other by means of tunnels. The arrangement of all is
similar. The most important is the first, that of Psammetikh a con¬
temporary of Darius I.; the shaft, 86 ft. deep, leads to a chamber,