Ancient Egypt / Old Kingdom /
The 3rd Dynasty appears to have been one of strong kingship, concentration of power and improved administration. It may not unambiguously be concluded that there was more wealth in the society than during the 1st and 2nd Dynasties, but this is still the most logical.
While much of the administration moved north to the area right south of the Nile Delta, the traditional Abydos remained an important cult centre. Enormous tombs were built here, probably by high officials. Apart from that, all information suggest that no other local centre emerged with wealth and rich local elites.
It was during this dynasty, that the system of nomes (provinces) emerged, which came to be the basis of Old Kingdom administration. There are deviations to the king list of this dynasty, in which some theories make Zoser its first king, while the commonly listed first king, Sanakhte is placed later.
The definition of a dynasty shift between the 2nd and the 3rd is linked mainly with the change of burial place, although this is theoretical. No clear pattern for burial ground has been established with 2nd Dynasty kings, and the 3rd Dynasty kings' preference for Saqqara corresponds already with the choice of the first 2nd Dynasty king, Hotepsekhemwy, who was also buried here.
This dynasty is known for being the builders of great stone structures rising up from the ground, being pyramids or masatabas, although this represented a continuation of former endeavours, especially with the 1st Dynasty. It is largely only one king from the dynasty who is remembered for his achievements here, Zoser, though his architect, Imhotep, who would be fully credited with the honour of the construction of the step-pyramid at Saqqara.
The focal point of the royal cult of this period is linked with the step-pyramid, the oldest standing large stone-building. It was really a mastaba enlarged, but not unique in its form, as it often is alleged. Under 1st Dynasty king, Anedjib, a much smaller step-mastaba was built at Saqqara, preceding Zoser's pyramid with almost 250 years. Zoser introduced the custom of burying himself and some other members of the royal family under the superstructure, which also represent somewhat of a change from earlier customs. Earlier pyramidal structures had been built, like at Naqada, but apparently without the purpose of marking a tomb.
Even during this dynasty, small non-mortuary tombs were built all around Egypt.
After Zoser, other step-pyramids were begun. Sekhemkhet begun an even larger one right south of Zoser's, but it was never completed, and Khaba begun one at the burial ground today referred to as Zawiyet el-Aryan, a new area north of Saqqara.
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