Ancient Tomb Built By High Priest Imhotep Back After Restoration

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Joseph Golder, Zenger News

A tomb believed to have been built by Imhotep — a trusted adviser to Egyptian pharaoh Djoser (2630–2611 B.C.) — opened to the public Sept. 14.

Restoration of the southern tomb of Djoser, who ruled during the Third Dynasty of the Old Kingdom beginning around 2650 B.C., took 15 years to complete, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Imhotep’s modern-day claim to fame came about millennia later, when he was portrayed as the antagonist in the film “The Mummy,” first by Boris Karloff in 1932 and by Arnold Vosloo in the 1999 remake and its 2001 sequel.

As pharaoh Djoser’s chancellor and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis, Imhotep is also believed to be the architect of Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the site of the cemetery now open to the public in the Saqqara area, about 19 miles south of Cairo.

Entrance to the southern tomb of pharaoh Djoser. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Zenger)

Djoser’s tomb is in the southern corner of his funerary complex, accessed by stone staircases leading to a door carved in the rock, as well as many fake doors, and corridors decorated with murals of blue glazed pottery, according to Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

“The cemetery has a burial room with a coffin of pink granite similar to the burial room in the [Step] pyramid,” Waziri stated.

The granite coffin at the bottom of the burial well has been restored, he said. A ladder and lighting have been installed for public access to the site.

The upper part of the access to the tomb is built of limestone, the Egyptian officials said, The bottom is carved into the rock at a depth of nearly 100 feet. A stone ladder leads to a carved door in the rock.

Entrance to the burial site. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Zenger)

“The granite sarcophagus at the bottom of the burial well was reassembled and restored, in addition to rehabilitating the cemetery,” the ministry stated.

Djoser is believed to be the first Egyptian king to commission a pyramid — the Step Pyramid. Imhotep was worshipped as a god of healing some 2,000 years after his death but is best known among academics as the builder and overseer of the construction of the Step Pyramid.

Restoration of the cemetery began in 2006 and included archeological studies of the cemetery.

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