Splendor among the Ruins: the Pyramid of Teti


The hieroglyphic inscriptions were beautiful when I first saw them, like the most intricate wallpaper. The subterranean walls of the horizontal passage, antechamber and burial chamber were covered with them. They were a complete surprise because the pyramid of Teti is a pile of rubble above ground, thanks to robbers who quarried the stone for other uses.

These so-called pyramid texts are ‘spells’ or utterances to protect and guide the deceased’s soul in his or her afterlife journey and refer to an entire corpus of texts that appear in many pyramids of the Saqqara necropolis.

The hieroglyphs on the walls and stars on the gabled ceilings owe their magical effect in large part to artificial lighting. Surfaces seem to have extra texture and vitality—a pop.

In the burial chamber is a basalt or greywacke sarcophagus. It’s damaged likely from vandalism. With the help of several smartphone flashlights, we could make out a single band of text, the first time such an inscription was carved inside a sarcophagus.

Hieroglyphs in the sarcophagus of Teti

Teti reigned roughly two centuries after Khufu. It’s obvious that the golden age of pyramid building had long gone. Yet, the subterranean chambers of his pyramid have a clear wow factor.