The spells, or "utterances", of the pyramid texts are primarily concerned with protecting the pharaoh's remains, reanimating his body after death, and helping him ascend to the heavens, which are the emphasis of the afterlife during the Old Kingdom. The spells delineate all of the ways the pharaoh could travel, including the use of ramps, stairs, ladders, and most importantly flying. The spells could also be used to call the gods to help, even threatening them if they did not comply.
The texts were first discovered in 1881 by Gaston Maspero, and translations were made by Kurt Heinrich Sethe (in German), Louis Sleepers (in French), Raymond O. Faulkner, and Samuel A. B. Mercer.
The oldest version consists of 228 spells and comes from the Pyramid of Unas, the last king of the 5th Dynasty. Other texts were discovered in the pyramids of the 6th Dynasty kings Pepi I, Pepi II and three of his queens, and Teti. Kurt Sethe's first edition of the pyramid texts contained 714 distinct spells; after this publication additional spells were discovered bringing the total to 759. No single collection uses all recorded spells.