While some might better recognize Imhotep as the possessed mummy from the Hollywood blockbusters The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, he was, in fact, one of the most renowned figures in Egyptian history for much more admirable feats.
An astoundingly talented man, Imhotep was the master builder for King Djoser, and built the famous stepped pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara (photo 2). Dating to before 2600 BCE, this pyramid is one of the first monumental stone buildings in the history of mankind. Certainly a milestone in the evolution of architecture, it is viewed as a forerunner to the more typical smooth-faced pyramids built during the great ‘age of the pyramids’ in the 4th Dynasty. He is also the first artist to have their name recorded anywhere in the world.
Imhotep has also variously been recognized as a poet, scribe, astrologer, vizier and as an influential doctor. He also served as the high priest of Re, and as the pharaoh’s official seal bearer. Following his death, Imhotep was deified by the Egyptians as the son of the god Ptah.
“In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Djoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten.” -Egyptologist James Henry Breasted.
Images used: Seated Imhotep, bronze, dates between 664 and 332 BC and was found in Mitrahina, Egypt. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, 54.402. The photo of the pyramid of Djoser is by Olaf Tausch.
Just as a quick side note, consider the time span between the life of Imhotep who lived during the reign of Djoser (2630-2611 BCE) and the age of the shown statuette. This would be like us making artworks of a person who lived over 2000 years ago, not something that would typically be done unless that person was perceived to have been particularly remarkable and important to our history.