The Pyramid of Teti at Saqqara in Egypt

About Egyptian Pyramids

Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston


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The Name of Plan of Teti's Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt


The small hill in the main Saqqara pyramid field with a panoramic view of the whole necropolis is actually the pyramid of Teti, the first ruler of Egypt's 6th Dynasty, even though he was possibly the son of Unas, the last ruler of the 5th Dynasty. It is called "Teti's (cult) places are enduring", though this pyramid has not endured very well.




The original investigators on this monument are now familiar to us, beginning with Perry in 1839 followed by Lepsius in 1842 through 1843. Maspero, who was in search of pyramid text entered the pyramid in 1882, while the German, Emile Brugsch, the Frenchman, Urbain Bouriant and an American, Cahrles Wilbour, copied the inscriptions from inside the pyramid. Between 1905 and 1908 Quibell made a thorough investigation of the pyramid. Between 1920 and 1924, Firth uncovered major parts of the mortuary temple, and since the 1950s, Sainte Fare Garnot, Lauer and Leclant have continued excavations.


Teti's valley temple and the three hundred meter long causeway leading to the mortuary temple have not been archaeologically investigated, but are located not to the east but to the southwest of the pyramid. Part of the causeway is visible however, as it meets the mortuary temple.


Plan of Teti's Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt

Plan of Teti's Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt


Though there are more storerooms, the basic components and layout of the mortuary temple are also very similar to those of Djedkare and Unas. However, there is a small courtyard along the southern part of the east facade that was connected to the causeway. The actual entrance to the mortuary was in the middle of this courtyard and had a heavy, single paneled wooden door over a quartzite doorstep. The entrance corridor had a high, vaulted ceiling decorated with stars and lighted by only a small opening in the east wall. It had an alabaster floor and the walls were also decorated, though little remains of these reliefs.


This corridor leads to the mortuary temple courtyard that had eighteen pink granite pillars, all of which were square except for those in the corners. As usual, the king's name and titles were inscribed in deep relief. The ambulatory over the pillars was originally inscribed and had scenes painted in polychrome on bas relief. in the middle of the courtyard once stood a low stone alter.


To either side of the entrance hall and courtyard are symmetrically arranged storage annexes, and just behind the courtyard is the transverse corridor that we so frequently find dividing the outer part of the mortuary temple from the inner sanctums. The walls of the corridor were originally decorated with scenes showing the king and gods, the sed festival and the smiting of Egypt's enemies. From here, the five niche chapel is accessed from a low stairway in the middle of the west wall.


Burial Chamber in Teti's  Pyramid

Burial Chamber in Teti's Pyramid



Behind the chapel is the required offering hall with its false door on the west wall (the wall next to the main pyramid), but all that is left of the false door is the huge, monolithic, quartzite base. The false door's function was to allow the deceased king entrance into the offering hall for his symbolic meals. Originally, the offering hall was decorated with scenes of sacrifice, though only fragments remain. Like the outer part of the mortuary complex, storage annexes are found on either side of the chapel and offering hall.




The cult pyramid stand on the southeast corner of the main pyramid and has its own enclosure wall. As customary, there is an open courtyard around the main pyramid with its own enclosure wall. In the northwest part of this courtyard is a forty meter deep shaft that was probably used as a well by the original builders of this complex.


This main pyramid has a core of five steps, with subterranean corridors and chambers similar to those of Djedkare's and Una's pyramids. Rather than in the wall, the entrance was in the pavement of the courtyard of the mortuary temple dug into the pavement along the pyramid's north wall. The entrance corridor had a barrier made up of three granite plugging blocks in the middle of its level section, and both the beginning and the end of the corridor was sheathed with pink granite.


The corridor connects with an antechamber with a right 90 degree turn towards the burial chamber. Both of these rooms had gabled ceilings made from three layers of huge limestone blocks. The top of the lowest level of the three layers was slightly above the base of the pyramid. The walls of the burial chamber are covered with limestone. Both the walls of burial chamber and antechamber are inscribed with the pyramid text and have astronomical ceilings (with stars).


Pyramid Text from Teti's  Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt

Pyramid Text from Teti's Pyramid



The sarcophagus stood on the west wall of the burial chamber along with the funerary equipment, but is now gone. On the southwest corner of the location where the sarcophagus stood is a small hole in the floor that must have once held a canopic chest. Though decorated with inscriptions, the sarcophagus was never finished. An arm and shoulder of a mummy who we presume to be Teti was found on the burial chamber floor. There was also fragmentary remains of an alabaster tablet with the names of the "seven sacred oils". To the east of the antechamber (left) is a serdab, with three deep niches.


Outside the main Teti complex are various other ruins from the necropolis of his family. These include the small pyramid complexes of Khuit and Iput I, Teti's consorts, as well as the tombs of Mereruka and Kagemni who were viziers. These latter tombs have beautiful reliefs that have been well preserved.



  • Height: 52.5m

  • Base: 78.5m

  • Slope: 53o 13'

  • Height of Cult Pyramid: 15.7m

  • Base of Cult Pyramid: 15.7m

  • Slope of Cult Pyramid: 63o


See Also:







Reference Number

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Pyramids, The

Verner, Miroslav


Grove Press

ISBN 0-8021-1703-1