The Pyramid Texts of UNAS

by Wim van den Dungen

Burial-Chamber l Passage-way l Corridor l Serdab

introduction l English text l plan of the tomb l commentary


ca. 3.08m (N/S) x 3.75m (E/W)


Sethe's Edition l Translation l Central Plan

Overall textual distributions :

In the antechamber, a total of 60 spells are found : 7 spells discuss the cosmic, Solar appearance of Osiris king Unas emerging from the Duat (West Gable), 15 West-to-South-Wall texts dealing with the Horus-king in the horizon (5 West Wall texts) and the ascent of the king via Osiris (10 South Wall texts). The ascension texts on the North Wall call for 11 spells, while the 3 texts on the East Gable have the "Cannibal Hymn" and one protective spell introducing the East Wall. The antechamber texts end with the 24 protective spells of the East Wall, forming a magical circle with the West Gable of the burial-chamber.

Structural parts :


1. Awakening

The West Wall texts underline the fruits of the Duat Voyage and calls on the "Lord of the Horizon" to make ready a place for Unas. The prospective is used to build up tension. The reborn king, sitting on the throne of Horus, is identified with Re. This Horus King is an Osiris headed to the sky.


2. On his way to the sky ...

At the beginning of the South Wall, an enjambment occurs. Apart from a few short sentences at the end of the West Wall, the remainder of the text initiates the actual movement towards the sky as indicated by the South Wall texts. The Osiris king who "went and came back" (cf. the Duat Voyage) is vindicated by truth and with the power of the Eye of Horus he is, as a lightning flash, on his way to the sky. He identifies with Osiris to reach Re and meets the spirits of the dead. After the arrival of his Ka, the censing, the suckling, the summoning of the ferryman, etc. the king is prepared to fly up to the sky, for the "Gate of Nun" is opened to him. The South Wall is thus concerned with preparing the king's ascent, the crossing of the Field of Rushes (not mentioned in the burial-chamber) and the overcoming of various dangers.


. Book of Ascension : the flier flies.

These 11 North Wall texts stand out as a separate grouping. The reversal of the hieroglyphs being a clear indication of their importance. After the texts on the preparation of the king's ascent, we now find the various means of ascension to the Great Bear : as a goose, a kite, a ferry, a ladder, bread etc. The king is a Wild Bull for whom the daughters of the gods bow naked. He warns the gods and wants to see Re and is seen by Re.


4. Cannibal Hymn

Here, the final apotheosis is described. The divine king is not just another Akh, but a divine power by nature. Indeed, the king was already a god and so the living Horus is already an Akh on Earth (whereas the Akhs of the other deities remain in the sky and dispatch their Bas and Kas to assist the divine king and his representatives). Hence, the transformation at hand in this hymn, moves beyond the transformation of a Ba into an Akh (as would be the case later, when simple mortals had a Ba), but of the superlative of efficiency and divinity. Indeed, the divine king swallows the knowledge of every deity. He cannibalizes the deities and so becomes the "power of powers", the "image of images". His lifetime is as Re's eternal repetition of the cycle of life. His limit is the endlessness of the time of Nun and Osiris ("neheh" versus "djedet"). As such, he is, as his father Re, the supreme god of gods ! Here, on the East Gable, we find the culmination of the Solar aspect, involving a complete assimilation of all deities and the triumph of the creator-god Re and his "avatar", the "son of Re", the divine Unas. After having moved into the darkness and rejuvenated there, he now emerges as the star of stars of the East, one with Re. But he is not necessarily dead. Quite on the contrary. His ascent is followed by the descent of the god Unas to Earth.

5. Protecting the East

Twenty-four difficult snake-spells close the protective field.

6. Final Texts

At the end of the antechamber texts, the two poles of the spiritual spectrum are repeated :

  • Lunar / Osiris : the Reborn Horus identifies with Sokar & his desert land in which, according to New Kingdom sources, the rejuvenation of the Ba of Re occurs ;

  • Solar / Re : the Living Horus knows the name of his father, is brought to life every day and embarks upon the everlasting spiritual journey with "the Eternal, Lord of the Year". This would imply the constant illumination of the divine king while alife.

Comments :

The Akhet or horizon appears as a land of light, the locus of Solar rebirth. The movement suggested is upward. The images of the ladder and the boat are pertinent. The king stands between the Lunar and the Solar powers. They take his hand and lift him up. He is bound to travel to the sky, for he is by birth divine. Apparently, in this heavenly voyage, king Unas, who is a master of wisdom possessing understanding, makes use of magic and eats the magic and knowledge of the other gods. His arrival in the sky is unique and feared by the pantheon. Like Re, King Unas is unique. The illumination of Unas moves beyond the order of nature and is equalled by Re. Like the creator-god, who withdrew in his own abode (cf. the Book of the Heavenly Cow), the divine king is beyond good (Horus) and evil (Seth). He integrates duality in himself, fully realizing his luminous & ever-efficient essence or Akh, unique among the Akhs.

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initiated : 18 VI 2006 - 14 XII 2010 - version n°3

© Wim van den Dungen