Pyramid of Unas

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Pyramid of Unas (Ancient Egyptian: Nfr swt Wnjs meaning "Beautiful are the places of Unas") is a smooth-sided pyramid built in the 24th century BCE for the Egyptian pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty. The pyramid is situated on the Saqqara plateau and lies on a line running from the pyramid of Sekhemkhet to the Pyramid of Menkauhor.


The Unas Pyramid is the smallest Old Kingdom pyramid, but significant due to the discovery of Pyramid Texts, spells for the king's afterlife incised into the walls of its subterranean chambers. Inscribed for the first time in Unas's pyramid, the tradition of funerary texts carried on in the pyramids of subsequent rulers, through to the end of the Old Kingdom, and into the Middle Kingdom through the Coffin Texts that form the basis of the Book of the Dead.

Unas built his pyramid between the complexes of Sekhemket and Djoser, in North Saqqara. The site required the construction of an exceptionally long causeway to reach a nearby lake, suggesting the site held some significance to Unas.

External Architecture

circa 2360 BCE

Outer Casing
The pyramid of Unas was encased with fine white limestone blocks quarried from Tura. Some of the casing on the lowest steps has remained intact. The pyramid was smooth-sided.


circa 2360 BCE

Passage A
From the vestibule, a 14.10 meters (46.3 feet) long horizontal passage follows a level path to the antechamber and is guarded by three granite slab portcullises in succession. The passage ends at an antechamber, a room measuring 3.75 meters (12.3 feet) by 3.08 meters (10.1 feet), located under the centre axis of the pyramid.

circa 2360 BCE

Burial Chamber
The burial chamber lies to the west, measures 7.3 meters (24 feet) by 3.08 meters (10.1 feet), containing the ruler's sarcophagus. The roof of both the antechamber and burial chamber were gabled, in a similar fashion to earlier pyramids of the era. Near the burial chamber's west wall sat Unas's coffin, made from greywacke rather than basalt as was originally presumed. The coffin was undamaged, but its contents had been robbed. The ceiling of the burial chamber was painted blue with gold stars to resemble the night sky.


See Also


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