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Assignment #1- Source a Piece of Media

Assignment #1- Source a Piece of Media

Egyptian Social Structures

Learning Outcome: Students should be able to identify key aspects of Egyptian culture by explaining cultural structures, including their social hierarchy.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser is one of the earliest stone pyramids from Ancient Egypt, and has six layers of stacked stones.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser

The Step Pyramid of Djoser is located at Saqqara, just south of Memphis, in Egypt. It was originally built as a mastaba and was expanded six different times to six levels. 

The Step Pyramid of Zoser was built approximately between 2649 to 2575 BC, during the 3rd Dynasty and under the rule of the pharaoh Zoser (or Djoser). The building was under the leadership of the pharaoh’s architect Imhotep. Because of Imhotep’s immense influence and contribution over Ancient Egyptian architecture, he was later deified and became known as a god of architects and doctors. 

This pyramid is perhaps the earliest stone pyramid in Egypt, and serves as an important milestone in Ancient Egyptian architecture. Throughout the history of Ancient Egypt, many other pyramids were created, and more complex structures required even more knowledge, collaboration and resources to create.


Projects like the Step Pyramid of Zoser are evidence that the Ancient Egyptians had organized themselves in a way that would allow them to direct a lot of energy to big, complex projects. In other words, we can tell that Ancient Egyptians were able to work together.

Through archeological and historical evidence, we can get a sense of how Ancient Egyptians organized their society, and can look at how people in Ancient Egypt can be categorized into groups that describe their access to wealth, status and power. 

Take some time to read the information found on this website that talks about society in Ancient Egypt. Think about the different groups that Ancient Egypt was stratified into, and how much of the wealth, status and power each group might have.

Modeling a Social Structure:

In ancient Egypt, wealth, status and power was divided unequally, with Pharoah’s being extremely wealthy and powerful, and other groups in the society having less and less access to power and wealth. We can describe their society as a social hierarchy, and can use models to represent their social structure.

This pyramid displays the different levels of the Egyptian Social Structure overlaying a step pyramid.
The Ancient Egyptian Social Hierarchy can be modelled as a pyramid

The pyramid above is a model representing Ancient Egyptian social structure. Some levels of stones are higher on the pyramid than others. The pyramid is narrow at the top, and wide at the bottom, and is made of stones. All of these characteristics make a pyramid a good model for the social structure of Ancient Egypt.

 In the questions below, you will be making inferences about why the shape makes it a good choice to model the Ancient Egyptian Social Structure. Answer each, using evidence to justify your thinking.


  1. Pyramids are usually made out of hard, inflexible stone that is heavy and hard to move. Why might this make a pyramid a good choice as a model for the Ancient Egyptian Social Structure? 


  1. The majority of the population was made up of slaves and farmers. Why might this make a pyramid a good choice as a model for the Ancient Egyptian Social Structure?  


  1. If you looked at the pyramid model of the social structure of Ancient Egypt, you might decide that the nobles and priests were considered important in this society. Explain how the diagram shows this.
Extension Opportunities

Social Structures: Compare Egypt’s social structure to that of the Haida (page 143 of the “Ancient World to the 7th Century” textbook). Compare various social roles within Egypt in terms of: daily life and how they met their basic needs; work family structures; gender roles; and class systems.



Dennis Jarvis (2004). Egypt-12B-021 – Step Pyramid of Djoser

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