The Performative Structure

Ritualizing the Pyramid of Pepy I


In The Performative Structure: Ritualizing the Pyramid of Pepy I, Nils Billing investigates the ancient Egyptian pyramid complex as a performative structure, ritualized through the operative faculty inherent in monumental architecture, text, and image. The main body of research is given over to an analysis of the Pyramid Texts found in the pyramid of king Pepy I of the Sixth Dynasty (ca 2300 BCE). It is demonstrated that the texts were distributed on distinct space-bound thematic and ritual levels in order to perpetuate a cultic activity from which the lord of the tomb could be transformed by moving through the different chambers and corridors towards the exit. Just as the decoration program of the mortuary temple once delineated the ritual and ideological structure of the royal mortuary cult, the corpus of texts distributed in the pyramid provided a monumentalized performative structure that effectuated the perennial rebirth for its owner.
Restricted Access


EUR €140.00USD $168.00

Biographical Note

Nils Billing, Ph.D., Th.D. (1965), is Associate Professor of the History of Religions at the Faculty of Theology, Uppsala University, Sweden. His main field is Egyptology in which he has published a number of monographs, translations and articles.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Abbreviations

Part I The Performative Structure

1 Iconicity and Monumentality  1.1  Language and Image  1.2  Monumental Architecture  1.3  Operative Architecture—Some Notes on Performativity  1.4  The Performative Structure
2 Image and Architecture—Ritualizing the Pyramid Complex in the Old Kingdom  2.1  Valley Temple  2.2  Causeway  2.3  Mortuary Temple  2.4  The Ritual and Ideological Structure of the Mortuary Temple
3 Monumentalizing the Beyond—The Pyramid  3.1  The Pyramid before the Pyramid Texts  3.2  The Epigraphic Pyramids—The Pyramid Texts  3.3  Methodological Prolegomena

Part II The Pyramid of Pepy I

4 The Sarcophagus Chamber (P/F)  4.1  Western Sector  4.2  The North Wall (P/F/Ne)  4.3  The South Wall (P/F/Se)  4.4  The East Wall (P/F/E)
5 The Passage (P/F-A)  5.1  The South Wall (P/F-A/S)  5.2  The North Wall (P/F-A/N)  5.3  The Passage—Conclusion
6 The Antechamber (P/A)  6.1  The West Wall (P/A/W)  6.2  The South Wall (P/A/S)  6.3  The North Wall (P/A/N)  6.4  The East Wall (P/A/E)
7 The Corridor (P/C)  7.1  Inner Corridor  7.2  Middle Corridor  7.3  Outer Corridor  7.4  The Corridor—Conclusion
8 The Vestibule (P/V)  8.1  The South Wall (P/V/S)  8.2  The East Wall (P/V/E)  8.3  The West Wall (P/V/W)  8.4  The Vestibule—Conclusion
9 The Ascending Passage (P/D)  9.1  The Inner Passage  9.2  The Outer Passage  9.3  The Ascending Passage—Conclusion
10 The Performative Structure
Figures Plans: Thematic Distribution of Texts in the Pyramid of Pepy I Bibliography Index


All interested in the royal mortuary architecture of the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, and anyone with a special interest in the Pyramid Texts and their function when written on the walls in the king’s tomb.