The Sed Festival Complex

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The Heb Sed Court before the pyramid

This courtyard area was built for celebrating the sed festival, when after thirty years of rule the living pharaoh was expected to prove his continuing vigour by chasing the sacred bull around the courtyard and catching it by the tail. It is believed that Djoser chose to do this every three years rather than thirty. The corners of the buildings were (purportedly) made rounded for safety. w:Pyramid_of_Djoser (rounded corners, not sure what/which buildings this refers to as many buildings have square corners..., some splayed, must clarify-NB)

Chapel in the Heb Sed court

The Jubilee Festival ( sed ) Court at Djoser’s complex was conceived as a space where the king’s ka—royal spirit—could celebrate the Jubilee Festival for eternity. Egyptian kings celebrated the Jubilee Festival ( sed ) after roughly thirty years of rule and then every two years thereafter as long as the king lived. During the festival, the gods of the nomes (Egyptian provinces) visited the king in the form of statues to pledge loyalty to him. The details of the ritual remain unknown. The kings of the First Dynasty celebrated this festival, both in life and in the afterlife at the so-called forts of Kom es Sultan at Abydos. There is evidence that kings continued to celebrate this festival in every period of Egyptian history, but Djoser’s courtyard is the only three-dimensional representation of the physical setting of the festival. The Jubilee Festival Court contains non-functional buildings in two rows that face each other across an open space. These buildings housed the spirits of the visiting gods, probably in the form of statues, during the festival. The dummy non-functional buildings, built of stone, are only façades. The stone is carved to resemble buildings built of woven mats, bundles of reeds, and logs. In some cases doorways carved in stone appear to be open, but it is impossible to enter any of the buildings. At the south end of the open space is a platform reached by steps. This platform supported the royal thrones, one for Lower Egypt and one for Upper Egypt. There the king celebrated the end of the ceremony wherein the gods officially reconfirmed him as king. Since only the spirits of the deceased king and the gods used this space, the American archaeologist Mark Lehner suggested that workers buried it in sand soon after its construction, though the reason for this is unknown. While living, the king probably celebrated this festival at the royal palace. [1]

  1. The North-South Pyramid Complex: King Djoser's Complex at Saqqara