The Step Pyramid of Djoser, located just 19 miles outside of Giza, is the oldest pyramid in Egypt. Though there are a couple of other competitors, it may also be the oldest known cut-stone building complex in the world. Today it is the centerpiece of the necropolis of Saqqara, a large cemetery that served the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis for more than 3,000 years. The Great Pyramids of Egypt were also a necropolis, though they were reserved solely for the burial of Pharaohs. In comparison, the Saqqara complex contains the tombs of at least 16 kings, as well as high officials and non-royals.
Built during the 27th century BC, the Step Pyramid of Djoser is an important archeological site for its construction techniques as well as its age. Built of limestone, it is composed of six rectangular platforms with inward sloping sides. Each successive level was smaller than the one upon which it sat, giving the appearance of a four-sided structure that ascended to a point. Upon completion, it would have been covered with polished white limestone and its sides smoothed down. Over time, Egyptians stone cutters honed their skills. By the Fourth Dynasty, they were building true pyramids with smooth sides. These more sophisticated construction methods led to the stone pyramids with which we are most familiar today.