How old are the Great Pyramids of Giza? Well, not as old as the Pyramid of Djoser! It turns out aliens didn't build the pyramids after all - the Egyptians did (how droll!). The Egyptians started small, making larger ones as they went on, and progressing from the Step Pyramids to the mighty pyramids one thinks of today (they also made mistakes along the way as is seen in the Bent Pyramid). That being said, no one is quite sure exactly how the Egyptian pyramids were built and there are still a number of theories out there.

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The Pyramid of Djoser (also called the Step Pyramid) is regarded as the oldest pyramid still intact today. It is located in the Saqqara necropolis northwest of the ruins of Memphis (not Tennessee Memphis). It was built in 6 tiers and is believed to be the earliest colossal pyramid or stone building in Ancient Egypt. It is even said to be the oldest known Ancient Egyptian stone structure.

The Age Of The Pyramid Of Djoser

The Pyramid of Djoser was predictably built to entomb Pharaoh Djoser during the Third Dynasty in the 27th century BC. It was built around 100 years before the Great Pyramid of Egypt.

  • Built: Around 2670–2650 BC
  • Age: 4,700 Years
  • Type: Step Pyramid or Proto Pyramid
  • Revolutionary: The Step Pyramid of Djoser Was Revolutionary In The Construction of Pymarids
  • The Great Pyramid: Built Around 100 Years After The Pyramid of Djoser

As the first great step pyramid, Djoser's Step Pyramid is not just another pyramid. It is a significant historical turning point in the construction of Egypt's pyramids and funerary monuments that would lead to the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

  • Pharaoh: King Netjerykhet (c.2667–2648 BC) - Also Known As Djoser

Before Djoser, the Egyptian elite was buried in mastabas - a rectangular structure built over the tomb proper (which was underground), the Step Pyramid is made up of six stacked mastabas.

The king's burial chamber was in a vault beneath the pyramid made with well-dressed granite. It had a single opening that was sealed by a massive 3.5-ton block. However, no body was discovered in the tomb during excavations as it has been extensively robbed over the years.

Related: There's More Than Just The Great Pyramids Of Egypt: Don't Forget The Lesser-Known Pyramids

Part Of A Much Larger Funerary Complex

As with other pyramids, it was not a stand-alone building, but rather part of a much larger mortuary complex that was surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration - most of which do not survive today. Amazingly, archeologists even know the man who designed the complex. The architect was the chancellor of the pharaoh and high priest of the god Ra called Imhotep.

The complex would have included the step pyramid, the Sed festival complex, two temples, pavilions, more tombs, galleries, an altar, and more.

  • Funerary Complex: Included A Complex of Walls, Temples, Altars, And Other Structures

While the pyramid still stands, it is difficult to really imagine what it would have looked like. Today it stands at a height of 62.5 meters (205 ft) but would have originally been taller. The pyramid was originally clad in polished white limestone but this has long since been quarried for other building projects in Egypt (as with the other pyramids).

When visiting any of the pyramids today, it is useful to try to imagine what these once magnificent gleaming structures looked like.

Related: The Secrets Of The Great Pyramid's Chambers & Passages

Restoration And Reopening To The Public

Today visitors can once again go and see this revolutionary monument. After decades of neglect, the Egyptian government finally worked to restore the pyramid from 2006 to 2020. Before the restoration, the pyramid was at risk of collapse.

The work was carried out both inside and outside the pyramid to ensure the pyramid remains standing for many more years to come. According to Reuters, experts also restored the sarcophagus of King Djoser within the pyramid and the walls of the burial shaft tomb.

  • Restored: 2006 to 2020 (Took 14 Years)
  • Location: The Saqqara Archeological Site West of Cairo

Today when visiting Egypt, remember that while the pyramids of Giza are the most famous and the most impressive, they are not the only or the oldest pyramids in Egypt. One can find even older pyramids in Saqqara - pyramids that tell the tale of how the Great Pyramids of Giza came to be built.