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Egypt in the Old Kingdom
Faience tile from the Step Pyramid of Djoser
While brick remained the basic building material of structures for living in, whether palaces or the houses of the ordinary people, stone was gradually introduced for temples and the tombs of royalty and the élite. Of the new stone structures, most striking were the massive stone pyramid complexes built as burial-places for the king and his royal family.
The earliest pyramid (and the world's first monumental structure in stone) was the Step Pyramid built by the royal architect Imhotep for King Djoser in the Third Dynasty (about 2686-2613 BC). It comprised six steps reaching a height of 63.7 metres. It was also the first royal tomb to receive some form of decoration. This tile was one of many which decorated the entrances to rooms in a maze of corridors within the pyramid. The rooms and tiled areas were mirrored in an underground area in the southern part of the pyramid complex, known as the 'South Tomb'. This was not in fact used for burial, but built as a symbolic representation of southern Egypt.
Approximately 36,000 tiles of this type were used in these two tomb areas. They were made to resemble the reed matting of the king's palace at Memphis. Reeds had symbolic meaning in ancient Egypt; they grew out of the waters from which the world was created. Furthermore, the blue-green colour of faience was associated with re-birth and new life.