12561 Cairo, Egypt
tel: +20 2 285 4509 (Tourist Information)
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The Pyramid of Unas, in the Saqqara necropolis, was built by the last pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty, Unas. Although he ruled Egypt for around 30 years, it is the smallest of the Old Kingdom pyramids: it is believed that Egypt was already in a period of economic decline at this time. Situated near the spectacular Step Pyramid of Zoser, the Pyramid of Unas is easily overlooked, since it is nothing more than a vaguely pyramid shaped pile of rubble. It was once part of a larger, walled funerary complex, complete with subsidiary cult pyramid and temple, and was attached via a causeway to the valley temple. Sadly, none of this really remains. Which is ironic, since the ancient Egyptian name for the complex was "Beautiful are the places of Unas"! Appearances can be deceiving, however, and the Pyramid of Unas is actually a very significant archaeological find. It contains the oldest known examples of the Pyramid texts. These were a series of religious and magic spells that were carved into the passageways and chambers of all Royal pyramids, from the time of Unas onwards. These spells and invocations seem to form the basis of much of the ancient Egyptian belief system, and gradually evolved into the more complete and elaborate symbolism of the various Books of the Dead that were used to adorn the New Kingdom tombs. Sadly, it is not possible to enter the Pyramid of Unas to see these beautiful carvings for yourself, since it is closed as part of a long term restoration project.