Pyramid of Pepi I
021 Pepi I 2.jpg
A computer model of Pepi I's pyramid
Pepi I
CoordinatesCoordinates: 29°51′16″N 31°13′8″E / 29.85444°N 31.21889°E / 29.85444; 31.21889
Ancient name
"Pepi's splendor is enduring"[1] Alternatively translated as "The perfection of Pepi is established"[2]
ConstructedSixth Dynasty (c. 24th/23rd century BC)
TypeTrue (now ruined)
Height52.5 m (172 ft; 100.2 cu)[2] (original)
12 m (39 ft; 23 cu) (current)[4]
Base78.75 m (258.4 ft; 150.29 cu)[2]
Volume~ 107,385 m3 (140,454 cu yd)[5]
Pyramid of Pepi I is located in Egypt
Pyramid of Pepi I
Location within Egypt

The Pyramid of Pepi I (in ancient Egyptian Men-nefer-Pepi meaning Pepi's splendour is enduring) was built in the 24th or 23rd century BC for the Egyptian pharaoh Pepi I, the third king of the Sixth Dynasty.[6][a] It is situated in the southern archaeological complex of Saqqara, Egypt. It was excavated in the 1960s by the French Archaeological Mission of Saqqara (MafS) which, all around the main pharaoh's pyramid, discovered about ten new pyramids for the queens and family of this pharaoh.[18] Several have Pyramid Texts (Akhenespepy II, Behenou, Reherichefnakht)

Mortuary complex

Main pyramid

The pyramid was constructed in the same fashion as other pyramids since Djedkare Isesi's reign:[3] a core built six steps high using small limestone blocks bound together with clay mortar, and then encased with fine white limestone blocks.[19] The limestone casing has been stripped away for the production of lime, and is intact only at the lowest steps.[20][21] A fragmentary inscription found by MAFS in 1993 belonging to Khaemwaset, High Priest of Memphis and son of Ramesses II,[22] from the Nineteenth Dynasty indicates that the pyramid was in relatively good condition at this time, needing only minor improvements.[23]

The pyramid is now destroyed, and original dimensions are estimates. The length of the base of the pyramid was 78.75 m (258 ft; 150 cu), converging towards the apex at ~53° giving the pyramid a peak 52.5 m (172 ft; 100 cu) high on completion.[2] The remaining ruins leave a mound about 12 m (39 ft; 23 cu) tall,[1][4] with a pit in its centre dug by stone robbers.[24]


A north chapel once stood over the entrance corridor on the north face of the pyramid. The entry leads into a descending corridor built from limestone. This descending corridor terminates at a vestibule that leads into the horizontal passage. Midway along the horizontal passage is the main barrier of three pink granite portcullises. The corridor is further reinforced with granite in three places.[25] The layout of the chambers in Pepi I's pyramid are the same as those in his predecessor's pyramids:[21][26] the antechamber sits on the pyramid's vertical axis, with a room containing three recesses – called the serdab – to its east, and the burial chamber to its west. The ante- and burial- chambers had gabled roofs made from limestone blocks set three layers deep with sixteen blocks for each layer. The ceilings are estimated to have weight around five thousand tons.[26]

The ceiling was painted with white stars, oriented to the west, against a black background. A sarcophagus was found on the west wall of the burial chamber; though examination indicates that this was a substitute sarcophagus, not the original. The archaeologist Audran Labrousse [fr] suggests that the original was either damaged during transportation, or otherwise contained flaws that were revealed in the stone used.[26] The "French Archaeological Saqqara Mission" (MAFS) made a rare discovery while conducting restorative work in the chamber:[2] a pink granite canopic chest, sunk into a niche at the foot of the sarcophagus, along with a bundle of viscera, once contained inside an alabaster jar and retaining its shape, presumed to belong to the king.[21][2] The provenance of a mummy fragment and fine linen wrappings found in the burial chamber are unknown, but are hypothesized to belong to Pepi I. Other components of burial equipment found in the chamber are: fragments of canopic vessels made from yellowish alabaster; a sandal made from reddish, possibly sycamore, wood; a small flint knife; some pleated linen; and a fragment of linen bearing the inscription "Linen for the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, may he live forever".[26]

The walls of Pepi I's antechamber, burial chamber, and corridor were inscribed with vertical columns of green painted hieroglyphic text.[26][2] The corridor texts in Pepi I's pyramid are the most extensive, covering the whole horizontal passage, the vestibule, and even a section of the descending corridor.[27][28][b] The serdab was left uninscribed, as it had been in Unas's and Teti's pyramid.[2]

Pyramid Texts of Pepi I

The Pyramid Texts originally appeared in the Pyramid of Unas at the end of the Fifth Dynasty[30][31] initiating a tradition that carried on in the pyramids of the kings and queens of the Sixth through Eighth Dynasty,[32][33] until the end of the Old Kingdom.[30] The texts in Pepi I's pyramid, comprising 2,263 columns and lines of text, are the most extensive such corpus of texts from the Old Kingdom.[15] Though the tradition of writing pyramid texts had started in Unas's pyramid,[30] they were originally discovered in Pepi I's pyramid in 1880.[2][34]

Ancient Egyptian belief held that the individual consisted of three basic parts; the body, the ka, and the ba.[35] When the person died, the ka would separate from the body and return to the gods from where it had come, while the ba remained with the body.[35] The body of the individual, interred in the burial chamber, never physically left;[36] but the ba, awakened, released itself from the body and began its journey toward new life.[37][36] Significant to this journey was the Akhet: the horizon, a junction between the earth, the sky, and the Duat.[38] To ancient Egyptians, the Akhet was the place from where the sun rose, and so symbolised a place of birth or resurrection.[38][39] In the texts, the king is called upon to transform into an akh in the Akhet.[40][41] The akh, literally "effective being", was the resurrected form of the deceased,[35][42] attained through individual action and ritual performance.[43] If the deceased failed to complete the transformation, they became mutu, that is "the dead".[35][38] The function of the texts, in congruence with all funerary literature, was to enable the reunion of the ruler's ba and ka leading to the transformation into an akh,[44][42] and to secure eternal life among the gods in the sky.[45][46][47]

Mortuary temple

The mortuary temple has been severely damaged by stone thieves who harvested the limestone used in construction for lime production.[48][2] A lime furnace had even been set up by the thieves in the temple grounds.[48] Despite the state of the temple, the archaeological work of MAFS has allowed the plan and features of the temple to be better understood.[49] The temple was laid out according to a standard plan[50] that is near exactly like the temples of Djedkare Isesi, Unas, and Teti.[21]

The temple had an entrance hall leading into an open columned courtyard. These were flanked by storage magazines. The inner temple contained a chapel with five statue niches. It also contained an offering hall and other core chambers.[49] Limestone statues of kneeling captives with hands tied behind their backs were discovered[48] in the south-western section of the inner temple, where they were planned to be thrown into the lime furnace.[2][49] The statues were broken at the neck and waist.[2] The Egyptologist Miroslav Verner states that these statues once lined open columned courtyard, and possible also the entrance hall, where they served to ward off anyone who threatened the tomb.[48] The architect Jean-Phillipe Lauer postulates that the statues once lined the causeway representing the subjugated people of the north and south.[29] The Egyptologist Richard Wilkinson notes that the original location of these statues is unknown.[49]

The antichambre carée in Pepi I's temple has been nearly totally destroyed, though an entrance door on its east side has been identified on the basis of granite remains. The room originally had a roof 6.29 m (20.6 ft; 12.00 cu) high. Discoveries inside the room include sections of pavement along with the base of the central column which remains in situ in the chamber's centre. The typical granite column had been replaced with an octagonal pillar. Fragments of the relief, which are awaiting publication but which Jean Leclant describes as having motifs like those found in Pepi II's chamber, were collected by Labrousse.[51]

Valley temple, causeway, cult pyramid and pyramid town

The valley temple, pyramid town, and the causeway, except for a few metres near to the mortuary temple, have not yet been excavated. The cult pyramid is in a better state of preservation than the mortuary temple. Fragments of statues, stelae and offering tables indicate the continuation of the funerary cult into the Middle Kingdom. In spite of this, the pyramid was falling into ruin by the New Kingdom.[2]

Queen's pyramids

The most significant finds at Pepi I's complex are the queens pyramids.[52][48] As of 2017, a total of nine pyramids have been discovered in an area to the south-west of Pepi I's pyramid. These pyramids belong to: Nebuunet, Inenek-Inti, Meritites IV, Ankhesenpepi II and Ankhesenpepi III, Mehaa with a tomb belonging to her son Hornetjerikhet to its north, Behenu, Reherichefnakht and one anonymous.[53][54][55]

Pyramid of Nebuunet

Nebuunet was one of the wives of Pepi I, buried in a pyramid adjacent to his.[56] The complex is the easternmost one so far discovered, containing a ruined pyramid and small mortuary temple.[57] Its pyramid, constructed from limestone,[58] had a base length of about 20 m (66 ft; 38 cu).[52] The pyramid entrance was set into the pavement of the north chapel. The entry led into a descending corridor that transitioned into a horizontal passage through a faux vestibule. A single granite portcullis guarded the burial chamber, which was located south of the pyramid's vertical axis.[58] The substructure was had the same lay-out as Inenek-Inti's pyramid, with the distinction that her sarcophagus was made of pink granite, rather than greywacke.[59][58] East of the burial chamber was the serdab which contained fragments of funerary equipment including a cylindrical wooden weight and wood fashioned into ostrich feather, potentially the feathers of Maat.[58]

The complex was once entered through a limestone door facing Pepi I's pyramid. The door was nearly wholly reassembled from components that had been rediscovered. Each doorjamb has a complete image of the queen depicting her as a slender woman, wearing a wig that frames her face, equipped with a scabbard and large necklace dangling around her neck.[60] In one hand she holds a lotus flower breathing in its scent, while the other hangs back.[61][62] Her name and title are inscribed on the doorjambs: "the wife of the king, his beloved, Nebuunet" (translated from the French: l'épouse du roi, son aimée, Noubounet). On the upper part of the jamb, beneath the hieroglyph for sky, a royal falcon with spread wings clutches an ankh pointing it at a cartouche bearing Pepi's name, itself part of a unit of three columns of text.[62]

The limestone door of the complex leads into an antechamber from which the courtyard surrounding the pyramid, and a small mortuary temple of the east face of the pyramid, could be accessed.[58] The temple is in complete ruins, except for the offering hall and asection of wall about 1 m (3.3 ft) thick, which have been better preserved.[59] There was a chapel with three niches north of the offering hall.[58] Inside the hall, fragments of sculptures depicting the queen on a podium with lions facing a goddess with a was scepter and the ankh sign.[59] Very little of the relief decoration of the temple has been preserved.[58]

Pyramid of Inenek-Inti

Inenek-Inti was one of the wives of Pepi I, buried in a pyramid adjacent to his.[56] The pyramid had a base length of 21 m (69 ft; 40 cu), converging towards the apex at ratio of 1/2. The base area of Inenek-Inti's pyramid is thus 1/14th that of Pepi's pyramid, and its volume 1/10th.[63] In contrast, both her pyramid and its mortuary temple are larger than that belonging to Nebuunet to the east.[64] Inenek-Inti's pyramid is encased in a perimeter wall[58] 1.5 m (4.9 ft) thick.[59]

Entrance into the pyramid is gained beyond a small entrance chapel on its north face. The entry leads into a short descending passage which terminates at a vestibule that opens onto the main corridor.[65] The corridor, guarded by a single granite portcullis, leads towards the burial chamber[65] under the pyramid's vertical axis.[66] To the east of the burial chamber is a small storeroom, and on the west side of the chamber is a greywacke sarcophagus.[65] The chamber is in ruins, and only fragments of funerary equipment have been preserved: pieces of stone hardware in various colours, a containers with limestone covers meant to protect funerary provisions.[67]

The mortuary temple of the complex is cramped and spreads along the north, east and south sides of the pyramid.[66] Two granite pillars facing north towards the king's pyramid serve as the door into the temple. The pillars are engraved with Inenek-Inti's name, and the queen is depicted sitting breathing in the scent of a lotus flower. Two obelisks of gray limestone are present here which depict the queen standing. These too are engraved with her name, one with Inenek and one with Inti, but they also bear her titles.[59] The outer temple consists of a hall and a pillared courtyard in the north-east.[59][66] South of the courtyard,[53] on the east face, were the offering hall and a room containing three niches[66] for holding statues.[59] A group of storerooms flanked these on the north and south.[66] In the south-east corner,[53] was a small cult pyramid.[66] This satellite pyramid had a base length of 6 m (20 ft; 11 cu).[59]

Western pyramid

The identity of this pyramid's owner is preserved on an obelisk in front of her pyramid only as "the eldest daughter of the king".[68] This was the first pyramid unearthed by MAFS in 1988.[62] The pyramid had a base length of around 20 m (66 ft; 38 cu),[52] the same as Nebuunet's, and the ruins stands a paltry 3 m (9.8 ft; 5.7 cu) tall.[66] Entry into the substructure is gained on the north face.[53] The burial chamber is located under the vertical axis of the pyramid.[66] The location of the serdab is unusual, being to the south of the burial chamber instead of east.[66][62][53] Substantial remains of funerary equipment were found inside, but no name:[69] wooden weights and ostrich feathers, copper fish hooks, and fired-clay vessels. It has a hastily built mortuary temple, with an offering hall and room with two statue niches. Relief fragments discovered are of scenes of processions and estates, along with an incomplete cartouche of Pepi I's name.[66]

Pyramid of Meritites IV

Meritites IV was one of the wives of Pepi I.[56] Her pyramid lies to the south of the anonymous "Western pyramid".[70][53] Her identity, image and titles were recorded on in a courtyard with five pillars.[71]

Pyramid of Akhesenpepi II

Ankhesenpepi II was a wife of Pepi I and mother to Pepi II.[72] Her pyramid lies south-west of Meritites IV's pyramid.[73]

The burial chamber of Akhesenpepi II's pyramid contains a massive, carefully dressed basalt sarcophagus. The walls of the pyramid contain pyramid texts.[74]

Pyramid of Akhesenpepi III

Akhesenpepi III was a daughter of Merenre I Nemtyemsaf and a wife of Pepi II.[72] Her pyramid is located north of Akhesenpepi II's pyramid, and south-west of Mehaa's.[53]

The burial chamber of the pyramid is badly damaged, and contains a sarcophagus made from a single sandstone block buried in the floor, with a lid of roughly cut granite.[70] The sarcophagus bears her name and titles, and contained bone fragments.[72] Fragments of a decree from Pepi II honouring her were found north of the complex's enclosure wall.[75]

Pyramid of Mehaa and Hornetjerikhet's tomb

Mehaa, a wife of Pepy I,[56] was buried in a pyramid at the end of "Queen's street" (translated from the French: rue de reines).[62][53] In front of the pyramid is a building, which bears the name and image of Prince Hornetjerikhet,[62] a son of Pepi I.[56]

See also


  1. ^ Proposed dates for Pepi's reign: c. 2354–2310 BC,[7][8] c. 2332–2283 BC,[9] c. 2321–2287 BC,[10][11][12] c. 2289–2255 BC,[13][14][15] c. 2265–2219 BC.[16] Pepi I is accorded a reign of 50 years in both Manetho's Aegyptiaca and the Turin Canon, and according to the Egyptologist Nicolas Grimal must have been at least 40 years.[17]
  2. ^ Unas' pyramid constrained the texts to the south section of the corridor,[29] as did Teti's.[27] The texts in Merenre I's and Pepi II's pyramids covered the entire corridor and the vestibule.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d Verner 2001d, p. 351.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Lehner 2008, p. 158.
  3. ^ a b Verner 2001d, p. 352.
  4. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 157.
  5. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 17.
  6. ^ Altenmüller 2001, pp. 602–603.
  7. ^ Altenmüller 2001, p. 602.
  8. ^ Verner 2001b, p. 590.
  9. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 30.
  10. ^ Malek 2003, p. 104.
  11. ^ Shaw 2003, p. 482.
  12. ^ Hays 2012, p. xxxiii.
  13. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 8.
  14. ^ Allen et al. 1999, p. xx.
  15. ^ a b Allen 2005, p. 97.
  16. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 288.
  17. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 82.
  18. ^ Labrousse and Albouy, Les pyramides des reines, une nouvelle nécropole à Saqqarâ, Hazan, 1999
  19. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 325 & 352–353.
  20. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 325 & 353.
  21. ^ a b c d Hellum 2007, p. 107.
  22. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 155.
  23. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 353.
  24. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 157–158.
  25. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 353–354.
  26. ^ a b c d e Verner 2001d, p. 354.
  27. ^ a b c Allen 2005, p. 12.
  28. ^ Hays 2012, p. 111.
  29. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 154.
  30. ^ a b c Malek 2003, p. 102.
  31. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 125.
  32. ^ Allen 2001, p. 95.
  33. ^ Verner 2001c, p. 92.
  34. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 39–40.
  35. ^ a b c d Allen 2005, p. 7.
  36. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 33.
  37. ^ Allen 2001, p. 96.
  38. ^ a b c Janák 2013, p. 3.
  39. ^ Hays 2009, p. 195.
  40. ^ Hays 2009, pp. 209–212.
  41. ^ Hays 2012, pp. 212–213.
  42. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 24.
  43. ^ Janák 2013, p. 2.
  44. ^ Allen 2005, pp. 7–8.
  45. ^ Verner 1994, p. 57.
  46. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 126.
  47. ^ Hays 2012, p. 10.
  48. ^ a b c d e Verner 2001d, p. 355.
  49. ^ a b c d Wilkinson 2000, p. 129.
  50. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 344 & 355.
  51. ^ Megahed 2016, p. 249.
  52. ^ a b c Lehner 2008, p. 159.
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h Legros 2017, p. 212 fig. 1.
  54. ^ Dodson 2016, p. 34.
  55. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 356–359.
  56. ^ a b c d e Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 76.
  57. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 356.
  58. ^ a b c d e f g h Verner 2001d, p. 357.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h Leclant & Labrousse 1998, p. 485.
  60. ^ Leclant & Labrousse 1998, pp. 485–486.
  61. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 160.
  62. ^ a b c d e f Leclant & Labrousse 1998, p. 486.
  63. ^ Leclant & Labrousse 1998, pp. 483–484.
  64. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 357–358.
  65. ^ a b c Leclant & Labrousse 1998, p. 484.
  66. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Verner 2001d, p. 358.
  67. ^ Leclant & Labrousse 1998, pp. 484–485.
  68. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 159–160.
  69. ^ Leclant & Labrousse 1998, pp. 486–488.
  70. ^ a b Verner 2001d, p. 359.
  71. ^ Leclant & Labrousse 1998, p. 489.
  72. ^ a b c Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 74.
  73. ^ Legros 2017, p. 212 fig 1..
  74. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 360.
  75. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 74–76.


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