Faience tile from the Step Pyramid of Djoser

Saqqara, Egypt
3rd Dynasty, around 2650 BC

The first Egyptian pyramid

The tomb of King Djoser (2630-2611 BC) at Saqqara, known as the Step Pyramid, was the first Egyptian pyramid tomb, and the earliest stone building of its size in the world. It was also the first royal tomb to receive some form of decoration.

In a maze of corridors under the pyramid was a room decorated with three panels showing the king engaged in rituals. This tile was one of many which decorated the entrances to this room and others. The rooms and tiled areas were repeated in the 'South Tomb', an underground area in the south part of the complex. The 'South Tomb' was probably a false tomb, built to represent southern Egypt. The blue-green faience tiles were made to resemble the reed matting of the king's palace at Memphis. Furthermore, reeds had symbolic meaning in ancient Egypt; they grew out of the waters from which the world was created. The symbolism of blue-green and faience for creation and rebirth is evident here.

Approximately 36,000 tiles of this type were used in these two tomb areas. The tiles are early examples of the use of moulds for manufacture. On the rear are projections and holes; the tiles were perhaps lined up by being threaded together, and then pressed into plaster which held them in place on the walls.

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More information


F.D. Friedman (ed.), Gifts of the Nile: ancient Egy (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998)

R. Parkinson, Cracking codes: the Rosetta St (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

A.J. Spencer, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)


Diameter: 1.300 cm
Width: 3.600 cm
Height: 6.000 cm

Museum number

EA 66830



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