Pyramid of Unas

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Pyramid of Unas
Ruined pyramid resembling a heap of rubbles with a few polished blocks still visible at the base.
Photograph of the ruined pyramid of Unas, with the ruins of the mortuary temple in the foreground.
Unas, 5th Dynasty
Coordinates 29°52′5.9″N 31°12′53.2″E / 29.868306°N 31.214778°E / 29.868306; 31.214778Coordinates: 29°52′5.9″N 31°12′53.2″E / 29.868306°N 31.214778°E / 29.868306; 31.214778
Ancient name

"Beautiful are the [cult] places of Unas"[2]
Alternatively translated as "The places of Unas are complete"[3]
Constructed c. 2360 BC
Type True (now ruined)
Material Limestone
Height 43 metres (141 ft)[3]
Base 57.75 metres (189.5 ft; 110.21 cu)[3]
Volume 47,390 m3 (61,980 cu yd)[4]
Slope 53°[3]
Pyramid of Unas is located in Egypt
Pyramid of Unas
Location within Egypt

The Pyramid Complex of Unas is located in the pyramid field at Saqqara, near Cairo in Egypt. It was built for pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty in the mid 24th century BC. Its ancient name, Nefer Isut Unas, means "Beautiful are the places of Unas". Originally reaching 43 metres (141 ft) high with a square base of 58 by 58 metres (190 ft × 190 ft), the pyramid is now completely ruined.


It was investigated by Perring and then Lepsius, but it was Gaston Maspero who first gained entry to the chambers in 1881, where he found texts covering the walls of the burial chambers. These together with others found in nearby pyramids of successive pharaohs are now known as the Pyramid Texts. He was the first pharaoh to include this, and he created the concept of having a number of magic spells inscribed on the walls of his tomb, intended to assist with the pharaoh's journey through the Duat and into the afterlife. This concept was thought to be so successful by other pharaohs that it soon evolved into the Coffin Texts in the Middle Kingdom, and then into the Book of the Dead from the beginning of the New Kingdom until the end of the Ptolemaic Period, when new texts began appearing.

Sakkara C02-29.jpg


In the burial chamber itself the remains of a mummy were found, including the skull, right arm and shin, but whether these belong to Unas is not certain. Near to the main pyramid, to the north east, there are mastabas that contain the burials of the consorts of the king.

Pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, showing Sekhemkhet, Unas, Djoser and Userkaf. Taken from 3d models
Image of pyramid of Unas taken from a 3d model
Iso image of the pyramid of Unas taken from a 3d model

The pyramid was built close to the pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. The causeway was approximately 750m long and the unusual shape is because it follows a wadi. Material was taken from the complex of Djoser that was used to plug gaps in the wadi. The roof of the causeway was covered over to make a closed tunnel, with the exception of a long 'slot' that illuminated the walls that were decorated with brightly painted reliefs. [5] It is believed that within the inscriptions of the Pyramid Text in Unas's tomb, there are also some lines of a Semitic dialect, written in Egyptian script and comprising the earliest evidence of written Semitic language.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Budge 1920, p. 167a.
  2. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 332.
  3. ^ a b c d Arnold 2003, p. 250.
  4. ^ Barta 2005, p. 180.
  5. ^ Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997)p. 154-5 ISBN 0-500-05084-8
  6. ^ "Ancient Semitic Snake Spells Deciphered in Egyptian Pyramid". 


  • Budge, Ernest Alfred Wallis (1920). An Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary: With an index of English words, king list and geographical list with indexes, list of hieroglyphic characters, Coptic and Semitic alphabets, etc. 1. London: J. Murray. OCLC 697736910. 
  • Verner, Miroslav, "The Pyramids – Their Archaeology and History", Atlantic Books, 2001, ISBN 1-84354-171-8
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001d). The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-1703-8. 

External links[edit]