Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Third dynasty of Egypt

History of Egypt 3rd Dynasty

Third Dynasty
Name Comments Dates
Sanakhte - 2686-2668
Djoser Commissioned the Step Pyramid designed by Imhotep 2668-2649
Sekhemkhet - 2649-2643
Khaba - 2643-2637
Huni - 2637-2613


Netjerikhet Djoser is the most famous king of the 3rd Dynasty. Through contemporary sources, he is only known by his Horus- and Nebti-names, Netjerikhet, "the divine of body". Later sources, among which a New Kingdom reference on his Step Pyramid at Saqqara, confirm that the Djoser from the king lists and the builder of the Step Pyramid, Netjerikhet are one and the same.

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). Some archaeological sources suggest, that Djoser must be considered as the first king after Khasekhemwi, 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.

In view of Netjerikhet's building projects, particularly at Saqqara, the number of years credited to him by the Turin King-list has been doubted as well. It is not unlikely that the Turin King-list has mistaken bi-annual cattle-counts for years. If this is indeed the case, then Netjerikhet may have ruled for 37 or 38 years.

Nimaathapu, 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: Inetkawes, Hetephernebti and a third one whose name is destroyed. One of them might have been his wife, others perhaps daughters or sisters. The relationship between Netjerikhet and his successor, Sekhemkhet is not known.

Some fragmentary reliefs found at Heliopolis and Gebelein mention Djoser's name and are an indication of Djoser's building policy. An inscription claiming to date to the reign of Djoser, but actually created during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, relates how Djoser rebuilt the temple of the god Khnum on the island of Elephantine at the First Cataract and thus ended a famine in Egypt. Although this inscription is but a story, it does show that more than two millennia after his reign, Netjerikhet Djoser was still remembered on Elephantine. This at the very least indicates that he had a special status on that island.

It is possible that during Djoser's reign, the country's southern border was fixed at the First Cataract.

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 Peninsula, during which the local Bedouins were overthrown. The Sinai owed its importance to the Egyptian economy for its valuable minerals like 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. 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 also built the Step Pyramid of Djoser's successor, Sekhemkhet. Besides the technological advances and the Ancient Egyptian craftsmenship, the building of Djoser's funerary complex at Saqqara also demonstrates the organisational skills of the central government.