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Imhotep

Imhotep

Overview


Imhotep fl. 27th century BC
27th century BC
The 27th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 2700 BC to 2601 BC.-Events:*2900 BC – 2334 BC: Mesopotamian wars of the Early Dynastic period.*2775 BC – 2650 BC: Second Dynasty wars in Egypt....

 (circa 2650-2600 BC) (Egyptian meaning "the one who comes in peace, is with peace") was an Egyptian
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, who served under the Third Dynasty
Third dynasty of Egypt
For the Sumerian Renaissance, see Third Dynasty of Ur.The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth...

 king Djoser
Djoser
Netjerikhet or Djoser is the best-known pharaoh of the Third dynasty of Egypt. He commissioned his official, Imhotep, to build the first of the pyramids, a step pyramid for him at Saqqara...

 as chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 to the pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 and high priest of the sun god Ra
Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

 at Heliopolis
Heliopolis (ancient)
Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome that was located five miles east of the Nile to the north of the apex of the Nile Delta...

. He is considered to be the first architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 and engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

 and physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 in early history though two other good physicians, Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra was an official, physician and scribe who lived during the Third dynasty of Egypt, served under the pharaoh Djoser, and was buried in an elaborate tomb at Saqqara...

 and Merit-Ptah lived around the same time.
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Imhotep fl. 27th century BC
27th century BC
The 27th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 2700 BC to 2601 BC.-Events:*2900 BC – 2334 BC: Mesopotamian wars of the Early Dynastic period.*2775 BC – 2650 BC: Second Dynasty wars in Egypt....

 (circa 2650-2600 BC) (Egyptian meaning "the one who comes in peace, is with peace") was an Egyptian
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

, who served under the Third Dynasty
Third dynasty of Egypt
For the Sumerian Renaissance, see Third Dynasty of Ur.The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth...

 king Djoser
Djoser
Netjerikhet or Djoser is the best-known pharaoh of the Third dynasty of Egypt. He commissioned his official, Imhotep, to build the first of the pyramids, a step pyramid for him at Saqqara...

 as chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 to the pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 and high priest of the sun god Ra
Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

 at Heliopolis
Heliopolis (ancient)
Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome that was located five miles east of the Nile to the north of the apex of the Nile Delta...

. He is considered to be the first architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 and engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

 and physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 in early history though two other good physicians, Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra was an official, physician and scribe who lived during the Third dynasty of Egypt, served under the pharaoh Djoser, and was buried in an elaborate tomb at Saqqara...

 and Merit-Ptah lived around the same time. The full list of his titles is:
Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor, and Maker of Vases in Chief.

Imhotep was one of very few mortals to be depicted as part of a pharaoh's statue. He was one of only a few commoners ever to be accorded divine status after death. The center of his cult was Memphis
Memphis, Egypt
Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Helwan, south of Cairo.According to legend related by Manetho, the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC. Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an...

. From the First Intermediate Period onward Imhotep was also revered as a poet and philosopher. His sayings were famously referred to in poems: "I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hordedef with whose discourses men speak so much."

The location of Imhotep's self-constructed tomb was well hidden from the beginning and it remains unknown, despite efforts to find it. The consensus is that it is hidden somewhere at Saqqara
Saqqara
Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of...

. Imhotep's historicity is confirmed by two contemporary inscriptions made during his lifetime on the base or pedestal of one of Djoser's statues (Cairo JE 49889) and also by a graffito
Graffito (archaeology)
A Graffito , in an archaeological context, is a deliberate mark made by scratching or engraving on a large surface such as a wall. The marks may form an image or writing...

 on the enclosure wall surrounding Sekhemkhet
Sekhemkhet
Sekhemkhet was a Pharaoh in Egypt during the Third dynasty. According to the Manethonian tradition, a king known as Tyris reigned for a relatively brief period of seven years, and modern scholars believe Djoserty and Sekhemkhet are the same person...

's unfinished step-pyramid. The latter inscription suggests that Imhotep outlived Djoser by a few years and went on to serve in the construction of king Sekhemkhet's pyramid which was abandoned due to this ruler's brief reign.

Attribution of achievements and inventions


James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted was an American archaeologist and historian. After completing his PhD at the University of Berlin in 1894, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. In 1901 he became director of the Haskell Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago, where he continued to...

 says of Imhotep:

Architecture and engineering


As one of the officials of the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Djoser
Djoser
Netjerikhet or Djoser is the best-known pharaoh of the Third dynasty of Egypt. He commissioned his official, Imhotep, to build the first of the pyramids, a step pyramid for him at Saqqara...

, he designed the Pyramid of Djoser
Pyramid of Djoser
The Pyramid of Djoser , or step pyramid is an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. It was built during the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser by Imhotep, his vizier...

 (the Step Pyramid
Step pyramid
Step pyramids are structures which characterized several cultures throughout history, in several locations throughout the world. These pyramids typically are large and made of several layers of stone...

) at Saqqara
Saqqara
Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of...

 in Egypt
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

 in 2630
27th century BC
The 27th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 2700 BC to 2601 BC.-Events:*2900 BC – 2334 BC: Mesopotamian wars of the Early Dynastic period.*2775 BC – 2650 BC: Second Dynasty wars in Egypt....

 – 2611 BCE. He may have been responsible for the first known use of column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s in architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

.
As an instigator of Egyptian culture, Imhotep's idealized image lasted well into the Ptolemaic period. The Egyptian historian Manetho
Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

 credited him with inventing the method of a stone-dressed building during Djoser's reign, though he was not the first to actually build with stone. Stone walling, flooring, lintel
Lintel (architecture)
A lintel can be a load-bearing building component, a decorative architectural element, or a combined ornamented structural item. It is often found over portals, doors, and windows.-Structural uses:...

s, and jambs had appeared sporadically during the Archaic Period
Early Dynastic Period of Egypt
The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the Protodynastic Period of Egypt until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom...

, though it is true that a building of the Step Pyramid
Step pyramid
Step pyramids are structures which characterized several cultures throughout history, in several locations throughout the world. These pyramids typically are large and made of several layers of stone...

's size and made entirely out of stone had never before been constructed. Before Djoser, pharaohs were buried in mastaba
Mastaba
A mastaba, or "pr-djt" , is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with outward sloping sides that marked the burial site of many eminent Egyptians of Egypt's ancient period...

 tombs.

Medicine


Imhotep is credited with being the founder of medicine
Ancient Egyptian medicine
The medicine of the ancient Egyptians is some of the oldest documented. From the beginnings of the civilization in the until the Persian invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medical practice went largely unchanged and was highly advanced for its time, including simple non-invasive surgery, setting of...

 and with being the author of a medical treatise remarkable for being devoid of magical thinking; the so-called Edwin Smith papyrus
Edwin Smith papyrus
The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an Ancient Egyptian medical text and the oldest known surgical treatise on trauma. It dates to Dynasties 16-17 of the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt, ca. 1500 BCE. The Edwin Smith papyrus is unique among the four principal medical papyri in existencethat...

 containing anatomical
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 observations, ailments, and cures. The surviving papyrus was probably written around 1700 BCE but may be a copy of texts a thousand years older. This attribution of authorship is speculative, however.The Papyrus can be viewed at, The Brooklyn Childrens Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue brooklyn, NY. The 48 cases contained within the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus concern: 27 head injuries (cases #1-27)
6 throat and neck injuries (cases #28-33)
2 injuries to the clavicle (collarbone) (cases #34-35)
3 injuries to the arm (cases #36-38)
8 injuries to the sternum (breastbone) and ribs (cases #39-46)
1 injury to the shoulder(case #47)
1 injury to the spine (case #48)

Descriptions of Imhotep by James Henry Breasted et. al :

"In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Zoser's reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten. He was the patron spirit of the later scribes, to whom they regularly poured out a libation from the water-jug of their writing outfit before beginning their work." '

'Imhotep extracted medicine from plants.'

'Imhotep was portrayed as a priest with a shaven head, seated and holding a papyrus roll. Occasionally he was shown clothed in the archaic costume of a priest.'

'Of the details of his life, very little has survived though numerous statues and statuettes of him have been found. Some show him as an ordinary man who is dressed in plain attire. Others show him as a sage who is seated on a chair with a roll of papyrus on his knees or under his arm. Later, his statuettes show him with a god like beard, standing, and carrying the ankh and a scepter.'

'He is represented seated with a papyrus scroll across his knees, wearing a skullcap and a long linen kilt. We can interpret the papyrus as suggesting the sources of knowledge kept by scribes in the "House of Life". The headgear identifies Imhotep with Ptah, and his priestly linen garment symbolizes his religious purity.'

Birth myths


According to myth, Imhotep's mother was a mortal named Kheredu-ankh, elevated later to semi-divine status by claims that she was the daughter of Banebdjedet
Banebdjedet
Banebdjedet was an Ancient Egyptian ram god with a cult centre at Mendes. Khnum was the equivalent god in Upper Egypt. His wife was the goddess Hatmehyt who was perhaps the original deity of Mendes. Their offspring was "Horus the Child" and they formed the so called "Mendesian Triad"...

. Conversely, since Imhotep was known as the "Son of Ptah
Ptah
In Ancient Egyptian Religion, Ptah was the deification of the primordial mound in the Ennead cosmogony, which was more literally referred to as Ta-tenen , meaning risen land, or as Tanen, meaning submerged land, though Tatenen was a god in his...

," his mother was sometimes claimed to be Sekhmet
Sekhmet
In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet , was originally the warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing for Upper Egypt. She is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said that her breath created the desert...

, the patron of Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt is the strip of land, on both sides of the Nile valley, that extends from the cataract boundaries of modern-day Aswan north to the area between El-Ayait and Zawyet Dahshur . The northern section of Upper Egypt, between El-Ayait and Sohag is sometimes known as Middle Egypt...

 whose consort was Ptah
Ptah
In Ancient Egyptian Religion, Ptah was the deification of the primordial mound in the Ennead cosmogony, which was more literally referred to as Ta-tenen , meaning risen land, or as Tanen, meaning submerged land, though Tatenen was a god in his...

.

Deification


As Imhotep was considered the founder of medicine as a discipline, he was sometimes said to be the one who held up the goddess Nut
Nut (goddess)
In the Ennead of Egyptian mythology, Nut was the goddess of the sky.-Goddess of the sky:...

 (the deification of the sky), as the separation of Nut and Geb
Geb
Geb was the Egyptian god of the Earth and a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis. It was believed in ancient Egypt that Geb's laughter was earthquakes and that he allowed crops to grow. The name was pronounced as such from the Greek period onward,...

 (the deification of the earth) was said to be what held back chaos
Chaos (cosmogony)
Chaos refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, more specifically the initial "gap" created by the original separation of heaven and earth....

. Due to the position this would have placed him in, he was also sometimes said to be Nut's son. In artwork he is also linked with the great goddess, Hathor
Hathor
Hathor , is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of love, beauty, music, motherhood and joy. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt...

, who eventually became identified as the wife of Ra
Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

. Imhotep was also associated with Ma'at, the goddess who personified the concept of truth, cosmic order, and justice — having created order out of chaos and being responsible for maintaining that order.

Two thousand years after his death, Imhotep's status was raised to that of a deity
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. He became the god of medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and healing
Healing
Physiological healing is the restoration of damaged living tissue, organs and biological system to normal function. It is the process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair to reduce the size of a damaged or necrotic area....

. He later was linked to Asclepius
Asclepius
Asclepius is the God of Medicine and Healing in ancient Greek religion. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia , Iaso , Aceso , Aglæa/Ægle , and Panacea...

 by the Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

s. He was associated with Amenhotep son of Hapu, who was another deified architect, in the region of Thebes
Thebes, Egypt
Thebes is the Greek name for a city in Ancient Egypt located about 800 km south of the Mediterranean, on the east bank of the river Nile within the modern city of Luxor. The Theban Necropolis is situated nearby on the west bank of the Nile.-History:...

 where they were worshipped as "brothers".

Legacy


According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The evidence afforded by Egyptian and Greek texts support the view that Imhotep's reputation was very respected in early times ... His prestige increased with the lapse of centuries and his temples in Greek times were the centers of medical teachings."

It is Imhotep, says Sir William Osler, who was the real "Father of Medicine", "the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity."

Imhotep's dreams


The Upper Egyptian Famine Stela, dating from the Ptolemaic period, bears an inscription containing a legend about a famine of seven years during the reign of Djoser
Djoser
Netjerikhet or Djoser is the best-known pharaoh of the Third dynasty of Egypt. He commissioned his official, Imhotep, to build the first of the pyramids, a step pyramid for him at Saqqara...

. Imhotep is credited with having been instrumental in ending it. One of his priests explained the connection between the god Khnum and the rise of the Nile to the king, who then had a dream in which the Nile god spoke to him, promising to end the drought.

In popular culture

  • In modern times, the historical figure lent his name to Imhotep
    Imhotep (character)
    Imhotep is a fictional character and the titular antagonist in the 1932 film The Mummy, and later featured in its 1999 remake and its sequel The Mummy Returns again as one of the main antagonists...

    , the title character of the 1932 film The Mummy
    The Mummy (1932 film)
    The Mummy is a 1932 horror film from Universal Studios directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features Zita Johann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan...

    and its 1999 remake
    The Mummy (1999 film)
    The Mummy is a 1999 American adventure film written and directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah and Kevin J. O'Connor, with Arnold Vosloo in the title role as the reanimated mummy. The film features substantial dialogue in ancient Egyptian language, spoken...

     along with a sequel
    The Mummy Returns
    The Mummy Returns is a 2001 American adventure film written and directed by Stephen Sommers, starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez and Freddie Boath. The film is a sequel to the 1999 film The Mummy...

    .
  • It is the title of a video game
    Imhotep (video game)
    Imhotep is a video game for the Commodore 64 released by Ultimate Play The Game in 1985. Although published by Ultimate, it was developed by an independent programmer, Manuel Caballero...

    .
  • Imhotep features in the British comedy television series Look Around You
    Look Around You
    Look Around You is a British television comedy series devised and written by Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz, and, in the first series, narrated by Nigel Lambert...

    .

See also


  • History of ancient Egypt
    History of Ancient Egypt
    The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

  • Third dynasty of Egypt
    Third dynasty of Egypt
    For the Sumerian Renaissance, see Third Dynasty of Ur.The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth...

  • Ancient Egyptian architecture
    Ancient Egyptian architecture
    The Nile valley has been the site of one of the most influential civilizations which developed a vast array of diverse structures encompassing ancient Egyptian architecture...

  • Ancient Egyptian medicine
    Ancient Egyptian medicine
    The medicine of the ancient Egyptians is some of the oldest documented. From the beginnings of the civilization in the until the Persian invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medical practice went largely unchanged and was highly advanced for its time, including simple non-invasive surgery, setting of...


External links

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/imhotep.shtml
  • http://www.nbufront.org/html/MastersMuseums/JHClarke/HistoricalPersonalities/hp2.html
  • http://touregypt.net/featurestories/imhotep.htm