LONG REIGN, SHORT TOMB
After Pharaoh Menkaure, pyramids were builtoften
shoddilyon a much smaller scale and often of inferior materials. And the focus of pyramid building moved from
Giza to Saqqara, site of the first Egyptian pyramid, and Abusir. This
trend continued under the last of the great ancient Egyptian pyramid builders.
At six years old, Pepi II became the second ruler of the 6th dynasty (time line). By the time
of his ascension to the throne, the Old Kingdom, pharaonic power, and tax revenues were on the wane. And by the end
of his 94- or 64-year reign (scholars differ on the number), the kingdom was plagued by foreign and domestic conflicts
as well as by famine and unrest caused by drought.
Pepi II's long reign is juxtaposed by his short pyramid, which was probably finished in the 30th
year of his reignperhaps 60 years before he died.
Inside the pyramid, Pepi II's burial chamber protects a black granite sarcophagus under a
ceiling sparkling with painted stars. Pyramid Textsa late Old Kingdom developmentare carved into the
walls. As incantations to assure the ascension of a pharaoh's soul, these texts would have been one more effort
to perpetuate the glory of Egypt.
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Pyramid photograph by Kenneth Garrett