Unas, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, was the first pharaoh to incorporate the Pyramid Texts in his pyramid. These texts include the famous "Cannibal Hymn" in which he is described as "the Slayer and Eater of Gods" but in reality he was not a particularly powerful king who perhaps felt the need to assert his greatness in part because he was aware of his lack of power in comparison to his illustrious predecessors. His Horus name was Wadj-tawy ("Horus, the flourishing one of the Two Lands"). Unas had at least two wives (Khenut and Nebit, who were buried in mastaba tombs close to his pyramid) but it seems that his son (Ptahshepses) died before him. As a result there was a short period of political instability after his reign. It is possible that Teti (the first ruler of the Sixth Dynasty) married Unas´s daughter Iput to gain the right to the throne. There is evidence of construction in Elephantine and Saqqara, and an inscription on a vase shows battle scenes during his reign, but we know little else about his life.

Unas choose to build his pyramid near the southwest corner of Step Pyramid of Djoser instead of at Abusir with the majority of the Fifth Dynasty Kings. It is the smallest pyramid from the Old Kingdom, but the finest in terms of bas reliefs. Inside the pyramid was discovered the oldest known religious text in the world, the Pyramid Texts. Although this is the first time the Pyramid Texts were inscribed inside a pyramid, there is evidence that the texts had been in use since around 3200 BCE. Unas´s pyramid also established the typical plan of the internal chambers for pyramids that would be used throughout the end of the Sixth Dynasty.

The causeway linking his mortuary and valley temple was illustrated with scenes depicting the arrival of huge granite columns from the quarries at Aswan, Asiatic traders arriving in Egypt by boat, thriving markets, and recreational hunting in the desert. However, any suggestion of a carefree opulent society is countered by scenes of starving people. The images suggest a famine which may have contributed to the downfall of the Old Kingdom, but the extent of the problem is unknown.

An inscription on the south face of the pyramid by Khaemwaset (the son of Ramesses II who was a High Priest at Memphis and possibly the world's first archeologist), recorded restoration work conducted during the Nineteenth Dynasty.


copyright J Hill 2010
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