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Ancient Egyptian: Jj m ḥtp
Imhotep, donated by Padisu MET DP164134.jpg
Burial placeSaqqara (probable)
Other namesAsclepius (name in Greek) Imouthes (also name in Greek)
Occupation(s)chancellor to the Pharaoh Djoser and High Priest of Ra
Years activec.27th century BC
Known forBeing the architect of Djoser's step pyramid
Imhotep in hieroglyphs
X1 Q3

Jj m ḥtp
He who comes in peace

Jj m ḥtp

Jj m ḥtp
: missing
Eusebius,  AV:  missing

Imhotep (


Traditions from long after Imhotep's death treated him as a great author of wisdom texts[3] and especially as a physician.[4][5][6][7][8] No text from his lifetime mentions these capacities and no text mentions his name in the first 1,200 years following his death.[9][10] Apart from the three short contemporary inscriptions that establish him as chancellor to the Pharaoh, the first text to reference Imhotep dates to the time of Amenhotep III (c. 1391–1353 BC). It is addressed to the owner of a tomb, and reads:

The wab-priest may give offerings to your ka. The wab-priests may stretch to you their arms with libations on the soil, as it is done for Imhotep with the remains of the water bowl.

— Wildung (1977)[3]

It appears that this libation to Imhotep was done regularly, as they are attested on papyri associated with statues of Imhotep until the Late Period (c. 664–332 BC). Wildung (1977)

New Kingdom (c. 1550–1077 BC) sufficiently distinct from the usual offerings made to other commoners that the epithet "demigod" is likely justified to describe his veneration.[11]

The first references to the healing abilities of Imhotep occur from the Thirtieth Dynasty (c. 380–343 BC) onward, some 2,200 years after his death.[10]:  127 [3]:  44 

Imhotep is among the few non-royal Egyptians who were deified after their deaths, and until the 21st century, he was one of nearly a dozen non-royals to achieve this status.[12][13] The center of his cult was in Memphis. The location of his tomb remains unknown, despite efforts to find it.[14] The consensus is that it is hidden somewhere at Saqqara.


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 on the enclosure wall surrounding Sekhemkhet's unfinished step pyramid.[15][16] The latter inscription suggests that Imhotep outlived Djoser by a few years and went on to serve in the construction of Pharaoh Sekhemkhet's pyramid, which was abandoned due to this ruler's brief reign.[15]

Architecture and engineering

Imhotep was one of the chief officials of the

3rd Dynasty.[17] He may also have been responsible for the first known use of stone columns to support a building.[18] Despite these later attestations, the pharaonic Egyptians themselves never credited Imhotep as the designer of the stepped pyramid, nor with the invention of stone architecture.[19]


God of medicine

Two thousand years after his death, Imhotep's status had risen to that of a god of medicine and

: Imhotep's cult was merged with that of his own former tutelary god.

He was revered in the region of Thebes as the "brother" of Amenhotep, son of Hapu – another deified architect – in the temples dedicated to Thoth.[20][21]: v3, p104  Because of his association with health, the Greeks equated Imhotep with Asklepios, their own god of health who also was a deified mortal.[22]

According to myth, Imhotep's mother was a mortal named Kheredu-ankh, she too being eventually revered as a demi-goddess as the daughter of Banebdjedet.[23] Alternatively, since Imhotep was known as the "Son of Ptah",[21]: v?, p106 [volume & issue needed] his mother was sometimes claimed to be Sekhmet, the patron of Upper Egypt whose consort was Ptah.

Post-Alexander period

The Upper Egyptian Famine Stela, which dates from the Ptolemaic period (305–30 BC), bears an inscription containing a legend about a famine lasting seven years during the reign of Djoser. 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 Pharaoh, who then had a dream in which the Nile god spoke to him, promising to end the drought.[24]

A demotic papyrus from the temple of Tebtunis, dating to the 2nd century AD, preserves a long story about Imhotep.[25] The Pharaoh Djoser plays a prominent role in the story, which also mentions Imhotep's family; his father the god Ptah, his mother Khereduankh, and his younger sister Renpetneferet. At one point Djoser desires Renpetneferet, and Imhotep disguises himself and tries to rescue her. The text also refers to the royal tomb of Djoser. Part of the legend includes an anachronistic battle between the Old Kingdom and the Assyrian armies where Imhotep fights an Assyrian sorceress in a duel of magic.[26]

As an instigator of Egyptian culture, Imhotep's idealized image lasted well into the

Archaic Period, though it is true that a building of the size of the step pyramid made entirely out of stone had never before been constructed. Before Djoser, Pharaohs were buried in mastaba


Asklepios, although ironically there is no evidence that Imhotep himself was a physician."[27]

In popular culture

Imhotep is the antagonistic title character of Universal's 1932 film The Mummy,[28] its 1999 remake, and that film's 2001 sequel.[29]

Imhotep was also portrayed in the television show

Goa’uld.[citation needed

See also


  1. ^ "Imhotep". Collins Dictionary. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  2. ^ Ranke, Hermann (1935). Die Ägyptischen Personennamen [Egyptian Personal Names] (PDF) (in German). Vol. Bd. 1: Verzeichnis der Namen. Glückstadt: J.J. Augustin. p. 9. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  3. ^ .
  4. ^ Osler, William (2004). The Evolution of Modern Medicine. Kessinger Publishing. p. 12.
  5. ^ Musso, C.G. (2005). Imhotep: The dean among the ancient Egyptian physicians.[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Willerson, J.T.; Teaff, R. (1995). "Egyptian Contributions to Cardiovascular Medicine". Tex Heart I J: 194.[full citation needed]
  7. ^ Highfield, Roger (10 May 2007). "How Imhotep gave us medicine". The Telegraph. London, UK. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  8. ]
  9. ^ Teeter, E. (2011). Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. p. 96.[full citation needed]
  10. ^ a b Baud, M. (2002). Djéser et la IIIe dynastie [Djoser and the Third Dynasty] (in French). p. 125.[full citation needed]
  11. .
  12. ^ Troche, Julia (2021). Death, Power and Apotheosis in Ancient Egypt: The Old and Middle Kingdoms. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  13. .
  14. ^ "Lay of the Harper". Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  15. ^ a b Malek, Jaromir (2002). "The Old Kingdom". In Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (paperback ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 92–93.
  16. .
  17. Kemp, B.J.
    (2005). Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 159.
  18. .
  19. .
  20. ^ Boylan, Patrick (1922). Thoth or the Hermes of Egypt: A study of some aspects of theological thought in ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. pp. 166–168.
  21. ^ .
  22. .
  23. .
  24. ^ "The famine stele on the island of Sehel". Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  25. ^ Ryholt, Kim (2009). Widmer, G.; Devauchelle, D. (eds.). The Life of Imhotep?. IXe Congrès International des Études Démotiques. Bibliothèque d'étude. Vol. 147. Le Caire, Egypt: Institut français d'archéologie orientale. pp. 305–315.
  26. .
  27. . Retrieved 17 August 2016 – via Google Books.
  28. ^ Reid, Danny (24 April 2014). "The Mummy (1932)". Review, with Boris Karloff and David Manners. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  29. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Sarcophagus, be gone: Night of the living undead". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2016 – via

Further reading

  • Cormack, Maribelle (1965). Imhotep: Builder in stone. New York, NY: Franklin Watts.
  • Dawson, Warren R. (1929). Magician and Leech: A study in the beginnings of medicine with special reference to ancient Egypt. London, UK: Methuen.
  • Garry, T. Gerald (1931). Egypt: The home of the occult sciences, with special reference to Imhotep, the mysterious wise man and Egyptian god of medicine. London, UK: John Bale, Sons and Danielsson.
Hurry, Jamieson B. (2014) [1926]. Imhotep: The Egyptian god of medicine (reprint ed.). Oxford, UK: Traffic Output. .
Wildung, Dietrich (1977). Imhotep und Amenhotep: Gottwerdung im alten Ägypten [Imhotep and Amenhotep: Deification in ancient Egypt] (in German). Deustcher Kunstverlag. .

External links