Episode 16: An Indestructible Spirit

Pyramid-Texts-of-Unas

Djedkare Izezi (Part II) & Unas: the Cannibal Hymn

The burial chamber and sarcophagus of Unas (Source: Jon Bodsworth, via Wikipedia)

The reign of Djedkare comes to an end after nearly forty years of rule. His successor, Unas, oversees some important theological and artistic developments.

The Pyramid Texts make their appearance in this reign, carved on the walls of Unas’ tomb at Saqqara (Read them all, wall by wall, here). Most notable of these hymns is the Cannibal Hymn, a violent but fascinating litany extolling Unas’ power and status among the great gods.

Images of starving Bedouin (nomads) appear in the causeway of his pyramid complex. This hints at famines and drought sweeping the Near East, heralding a period of climate change that will ultimately destabilize and destroy the Old Kingdom royal power.

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An explorer in the Burial Chamber of Unas, drawn from a photograph (1881: Gutenberg.org)
An explorer in the Burial Chamber of Unas, drawn from a photograph (1881: Gutenberg.org)

The pyramid causeway of Unas (Source: Jon Bodsworth, via Wikipedia)

Starving Bedouin in the Causeway decorations (heralds of famine on the frontier?)
Starving Bedouin in the Causeway decorations (heralds of famine on the frontier?)

Bibliography

Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature Volume I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms, 1973 (2006 paperback edition).

Nigel Strudwick, Texts from the Pyramid Age, 2005 (Google Books).

Vincent Brown – Pyramid Texts Online.

Gaston Maspero, The History of Egypt (Gutenberg.org).

Ancient Egypt Online – Unas.