Pyramid Texts

(ca. 2494–2193 BCE)

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest religious texts preserved from ancient Egypt, dating to between 2404 and 2193 BCE. They are called the Pyramid Texts because they were carved on the walls of the subterranean chambers and corridors of the pyramids of ten kings and queens of Old Kingdom Egypt (ca. 2687–2191 BCE), beginning with Unas, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty. These pyramids are located at Saqqara, which served as the cemetery for Memphis, the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. The texts were mostly written in vertical columns of hieroglyphs and have been divided into sections called spells by scholars. Each section begins with the hieroglyphs for djed medu, or “words to be spoken,” and ends with the hieroglyph for the word meaning “chapter.” The number of spells varied from pyramid to pyramid, with the pyramid of Unas containing 227, while the pyramid of Pepi II Neferkare contained over 600. There was considerable repetition of spells among the pyramids, and...

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Bas-relief and hieroglyphics on an arched stele with eyes of Horus at the top (Library of Congress)

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