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Imhotep

Architects - The People

Imhotep, “He who comes in Peace”

The World’s First Known Architect

Known in Egypt as the Vizier and High Priest of Ptah for Pharaoh Djoser during the 3rd Dynasty, he was also as Architect, an Engineer and a Physician who wrote a Medical Treatise that theorised that diseases occurred naturally rather than as a punishment for a human’s sins on earth. He was so revered that he was assigned with a divine status approx. 100 years after his death and was worshipped as a God in both Egypt and Greece, being labelled as the “God of Healing”.

As an Architect he personally designed and oversaw the construction of Pharaoh Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex at Saqqara, the precursor to the Pyramids at Giza. Taking the format of the Mastaba (click here to learn more about Mastabas) and enhancing and extrapolating his vision, moved away from the basic stone or mud brick erected buildings to create the massive Step Pyramid, the highest building in Egypt at the time, which changed the way nearly every Pharaoh following Djoser looked at building their own memorial monuments.

It is presumed that in order to complete this building first, Imhotep also had to create new methods and maybe tools in ensure the completion of his architectural vision.

Imhotep’s complete list of titles was:

  • Vizier
  • Chancellor of the King of Egypt
  • First in Line After the King of Upper Egypt
  • Royal Scribe
  • Doctor
  • High Priest of Heliopolis
  • Hereditary Nobleman
  • Chief Architect
  • Administrator of the Great Palace
  • Primary Counsellor
  • Chief Carpenter
  • Sealer of the King of Lower Egypt
  • Chief Sculptor
  • Overseer of Sculptures
  • Builder
  • Nobleman
  • Chief Maker of Vases

Panorma Photo of Pharaoh Djoser’s Heb Sed Festival Court as laid out by Imhotep at Saqqara

Under his title of Chief Maker of Vases, Chief Sculptor and Builder, Imhotep supervised a new way of carving stone vessels. He introduced the carving of Calcite stones or Egyptian Alabaster, a change from the denser and harder stones which had been used in the Early Dynastic Period. These new Calcite stones were initially shaped with Dolerite pounders and Copper chisels, the interior was hollowed by the use of a flint blade secured to a wooden shaft which together formed a drill which was pressed down on by 2 heavy stones.