Pepi I's reign is marked by an aggressive expansion into Nubia, and he continued trade to far-flung areas such as Lebanon and the Somalian coast. The decline of the Old Kingdom arguably began with the reign of Pepi I, as nomarchs became more
powerful and exerted more authority.
The Pyramid of Pepi I
The Pyramid of Pepi I, at South Saqqara, is badly damaged and the burial chamber has collapsed. His pyramid had a height of about 172 feet. This pyramid's substructure was very similar to that of Teti's pyramid. This pyramid was entered by a covered entrance chapel which was located at ground-level in the center of the north side of the pyramid. From there, a descending passage climbed down into the rock to a horizontal corridor chamber.
A horizontal passage, once blocked by three portcullis slabs, continued toward the antechamber, to the west of which was located the king's burial chamber. In this burial chamber, a pink granite canopic chest was found, sunk into the floor in front of the sarcophagus. The sarcophagus itself was found empty. It was made of a hard, dark stone and inscribed with a line from the Pyramid Texts. The burial chamber ceiling had white stars painted on a black background. To the east of the antechamber was located a small chamber with three niches or magazines. Pyramid texts covered the walls of the antechamber, burial chamber, and corridors.
The Mortuary Temple
Pepi's mortuary complex, Mennefer Pepy, eventually became the name for the entire city of Memphis after the 18th Dynasty. Like his pyramid, Pepi I’s badly damaged mortuary temple was built according to a standardized ground-plan. After the entrance, a transverse corridor led to magazines and to a long entrance hall. The entrance hall opened onto a columned open court, to the west of which was the inner
The inner temple had a transverse hall, followed by five statue niches. To the south of these niches, a doorway led to a chamber that gave access to an antechamber with one single column. The antechamber led to the sanctuary. Several limestone statues of bound and beheaded enemies were found in this temple. The causeway itself, like the valley temple, has never been cleared. The satellite pyramid was located at its traditional place, to the south-east of the main pyramid. There are five or possibly even six smaller pyramids that once belonged to Pepi I's Queens.
The cult for Pepi I continued well into the Middle Kingdom. An inscription left behind by Khaemwaset, the illustrious son of the even more famous Ramesses II, described how, by his time, this complex had suffered and decayed.
The Portraits of the Pharaoh
A large copper statue of Pepi I and his son, Merenre, was discovered at Hierakonpolis, the same location as the Narmer Palette. This is the earliest known life size sculpture in copper. The king lacks a crown and a midriff where his kilt would have been. This was probably made of a softer material, most likely gilded plaster. Another great statue was discovered with Pepi I kneeling while offering wine to a god. This green slate statue is beautifully crafted and is the earliest example of the genre of statuary that was to become extremely popular, even into the Late Period.
Pepi I also had a small alabaster statuette featuring the Horus falcon. This is similar to Khafre's Horus statue that we covered earlier, but instead of enfolding the king's head in protective wings, the bird stands aloof on the back of the throne.
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