Unas


Unas
King 2375-2345 BC.
    Unas was the last king of the Fifth Dynasty, and his pyramid complex at Saqqara has two features of special interest. The pyramid was smaller than those of his predecessors, and nearby there were the tombs of his chief queen, Nebet, and other members of his family and courtiers. The internal structure of his pyramid incorporated several innovative features, but it is best known for the inclusion of vertical lines of hieroglyphs on the walls of the vestibule and the burial chamber.
    These were magico-religious texts, designed to ensure the safe passage of the king into the next world, and they are known today as the 'Pyramid Texts'. The appearance of these texts in Unas' monument is the earliest example of their use within a pyramid, but they were later inscribed in the pyramids of *Teti, *Pepy I, Merenre, *Pepy II and Ibi, and in the pyramids of *Pepy II's three queens. They are the oldest religious texts to have been discovered in Egypt and they were evidently compiled from earlier, oral traditions. Altogether, over seven hundred spells are known from these Texts, but they do not all occur in any one pyramid. In the pyramid of Unas there are two hundred and twenty-eight spells, inscribed in vertical lines of hieroglyphs; each incised sign is filled in with blue pigment which makes the hieroglyphs stand out in marked contrast to the background of the white wall.
    The other major feature of Unas' pyramid complex is the causeway, which is the best preserved example of its kind; it is seven hundred and thirty yards long. It was excavated by Selim Bey Hassan in AD 1937-8, and later by Abdessalam Hussein. On the inner walls of the corridor, there are the remains of scenes carved in low relief which are of the highest quality; the subject matter is also of considerable interest, showing labourers working on the royal estates, hunting scenes, craftsmen engaged in various manufacturing activities, and bearded *Asiatics arriving in ships, perhaps coming from a trading expedition to *Byblos.
    There are also ships that bring granite columns and architraves from the quarries at Aswan for the king's mortuary temple. One scene of special interest is the so-called 'famine relief which depicts emaciated people who are dying of hunger. There is no obvious explanation for this, although it has been suggested that the people were not Egyptians and that, if the sequence was more completely preserved, it would probably show that they were the recipients of Unas' bounty.
BIBL. Hussein, A.S.M. Fouilles sur la chausee d'Ounas, 1941-43. Ann. Serv. 43 (1943) pp. 439-48; Hassan, S. The causeway of Wnis at Saqqara. ZAS 80 (1955) pp. 136-9; Drioton, E. Une representation de la famine sur un bas-relief egyptien de la Ve Dynastic. BIFAO 25 (1942-3) pp. 45-54; Mercer, S.A.B. The Pyramid Texts in translation and commentary. (four vols) New York: 1952; Stevenson Smith, W. The Art and Architecture of ancient Egypt. Harmondsworth: 1958 pp. 75, 76 and p. 262 nn. 28, 29.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 2375–2345 BC)
   Final ruler of Dynasty 5 and successor of Djedkare. His name has also been transcribed as Wenis. He is principally known for his pyramid tomb at Saqqara, opened in 1881, which is the earliest pyramid to be inscribed on the inside walls with the religious texts now known as pyramid texts. The causeway to his mortuary templewas also decorated with fine reliefs. His pyramid complex has been the subject of excavations from 1899–1901, in 1903, and during the 1930s and 1940s. It has been examined more recently from 1971–1981 and 1986–1990 by succesive teams from the Egyptian Antiquities Service.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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