To the west of the buried pyramid of Sekhemkhet, a large rectangular structure was discovered composed mainly of a gigantic enclosure wall. With its 600 by 300 metres, this enclosure encompasses an area that is even considerably larger than Netjerikhet's neighbouring complex.

It as long been assumed -without any substantial examination of this structure- that this wall, known as the 'Great Enclosure' or by its Arab name 'Gisr el-Mudir' (wall of the director), was part of an unfinished mortuary complex of a 3rd Dynasty king. There is, however, no trace of a step pyramid inside this wall. Furthermore, this wall seems to have been completed, which would make the building of a pyramid within its compounds quite impossible. Furthermore, recent research by the EES has shown that Gisr el-Mudir may at least be one generation older than the Horus Netjerikhet, thus dating to the 2nd Dynasty.

Traces of other such enclosures have also been found: one to the immediate west of Netjerikhet's complex and one apparently between Sekhemkhet's pyramid and the 'Great Enclosure'.

It has been suggested that these enclosures bear a striking resemblance to similar structures found in Abydos. The largest of these Abydene enclosures, named Shunet ez-Zebib, has been identified as having belonged to Khasekhemwi, the last king of the 2nd Dynasty. It is believed that this structure was intended as a simulacrum of the royal palace, a copy that the king would take with him to the hereafter. If indeed these Abydene palace-copies are similar to the Saqqara enclosures, then it is likely that the Saqqara enclosures were related to the 2nd Dynasty tombs which were located in the vicinity.

If the enclosures at Saqqara are indeed of 2nd Dynasty date and not, as was assumed in the past, of the 3rd Dynasty, then at least the 'Great Enclosure' is to be considered the oldest known building constructed in stone!

Monuments and Sites of Ancient Egypt

- The 'Great Enclosure' -

Location of the tomb

Above: Map of Saqqara, highlighting the location of the 'Great Enclosure'.

  Saqqara   Khasekhemwi    
  The Great Enclosure   Umm el-Qa'ab    


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