King Userkaf

King Userkaf ( “his soul is strong”) was the founder of the Fifth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, and may have been the grandson of djadfire, however, the exact identity of his parents is in doubt, At the time, she was the son of Shepskaf and Khentkus I, who may have been a lady known as Reddit in the story of Khufu and the wizards who blogged the Westkar Papyrus Tour in Egypt .

King Userkaf

It is now generally accepted that he was the father of Sahure and possibly also the father of NeferraKare, and he was the first pharaoh to build a temple of the sun at Abu Sir, north of Saqqara, and his solar temple included an altar to the sun and Benben. (Severed obelisk). King Userkaf built his pyramid near the stepped pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara.

king Userkaf,Userkaf
king Userkaf,Userkaf

The Khentkaus Problem

It was originally believed that Sahure and neferirkare were the sons of Khenkaus I, who had a tomb in Giza known as the Fourth Pyramid, where she bore the title “Mother of the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt” and she was probably the wife of King Userkaf However, none of this has ever been proven. If this theory is correct, then Khentkaus I may be the lady named Reddjedet in the story of Khufu and the witches recorded in the Westcar papyrus.

However, the same title “Mother of the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt” was found in a pyramid in Abu Sir of a queen of the same name, Khentkaus, which had long been thought to be similar to the King of Giza. Recent excavations revealed that they are two different queens with the same title and that Queen Abu Sir , Now known as Kentkaus II, is the wife of Neferirkare and the mother of his son Raneferef and possibly of Nyuserre, and some Egyptologists do not consider these two kings to be brothers, Another queen, Khentkaus III, adds to the confusion and is now believed to be Ranferef’s wife. This is what Egyptologists know of the Khentkauos problem.

Solar Temple of Userkaf

Although Userkaf built his funerary monument at Saqqara, he chose to build a new type of temple, dedicated to sun worship, on a site several kilometers to the north, at Abu Sir, Not only did this make him the first king to build this type of temple, but it also made him the first king to start building activity in Abu Sir, an example that many kings of the Fifth Dynasty would follow. The choice of Userkaf’s site was probably dictated by the fact that Saqqara, which already had some construction activities, became overcrowded with this new type of temple and the fact that a few kilometers north, there was a lake that made the temple easily accessible.

Solar Temple of Userkaf
Solar Temple of Userkaf

King Userkaf’s solar temple was built in various stages. There is evidence that the monument was first built of adobe, before it was rebuilt with actual stone, In the first phase, the temple was nothing more than a symbolic mound built within a closed wall. This is reflected in the earliest inscription of the monument’s name: its markers represent a mast protruding from a mound, This mast may have been the symbolic perch of the sun god in the shape of a falcon.

The second stage was completed during the reign of Neferirkare, who erected a granite obelisk on a building on a pedestal that replaced King Userkaf’s original mound, The obelisk, a new type of monument, consists of the top of a small pyramid, called the pyramid, on a tall column.
A winding staircase leads to the roof of the building, which is supported on a pedestal to allow access to the obelisk. During this stage, two statue shrines were placed in front of the statue building as well.

A bridge connecting the Solar Temple to the Wadi Temple, which was built on the banks of Abu Sir Lake. It was not directed at any of the cardinal points, but rather towards Heliopolis, the city of sun worship on the eastern bank of the Nile, It was severely damaged when found, but archaeological research has shown an open court, framed by columns, and about 5 or 7 small chapels. The front section is lost but will definitely have an entrance and possibly some magazines.

Pyramid of King Userkaf

Location Userkaf’s pyramid complex, called wab-s.wt, is located roughly in the northeast corner of the Third Dynasty complex of Netjerikhet in Saqqara.

The return to northern Saqqara, and, more precisely, to the site chosen for the complex of Netjerikhet, is interesting and perhaps symbolic, Userkaf’s predecessor, Shepseskaf , the last king of the Fourth Dynasty, had already chosen to return to Saqqara, but his funerary monument was built in southern Saqqara, several kilometers south of the complex of Netjerikhet, after his predecessors preferred the northern sites of Saqqara, Giza and Abu Rawash.

King Userkaf’s direct successors continued to move their predecessor northwards and built their funerary monuments at Abu Sir, two kilometers north of Saqqara, a site that had already been inaugurated by Userkaf himself, when his solar temple was built there.

Userkaf's funerary complex
Userkaf’s funerary complex


The structure of King Userkafs funerary complex deviates from tradition. It consists of all the traditional parts, but is arranged in a somewhat unusual way, with the funerary temple facing south instead of east, This has been interpreted by some as a result of choosing the place where King Userkaf wanted to build his monument, or by others as a short-lived theological experience.

The complex consists of a main pyramid, to the east of which is a small offering chapel. The main pyramid and the offering church are surrounded by a closed wall, The satellite pyramid of King Userkaf is located in the southwest and the temple is to the south of the main pyramid. The smaller pyramid to the south of the temple was interpreted as the Queen’s pyramid.

  pyramid of king userkaf

The main pyramid measures 73.3 m apart, With a slope of 53 degrees, it originally rose to a height of 49 meters, Thus it was much smaller than the pyramid of Mykerinos at Giza or than the terraced pyramid near Netjerikhet, The smaller size of the pyramid is often interpreted as a sign of diminishing power for the king and the central government, after the heavy losses that were supposed to have been caused by the construction projects of the Fourth Dynasty at Giza and Dahshur.

Userkaf's funerary complex plane
Userkaf’s funerary complex plane

The pyramid consisted of an outer shell of fine limestone, around a built core that was placed in an irregular manner so that when the shell was stripped, the pyramid core collapsed into a large pile of rubble. It now offers a desolate view contrasting sharply with the nearby terraced pyramid, King Userkaf’s architects may have deliberately chosen to build the pyramid in this way, either because it would take less time, resources, and effort, or because of the specific geology of Saqqara formation.

The entrance to the pyramid is located in the middle of its northern side and opens to a completely underground infrastructure, An 18.5-meter landing walkway descended into a horizontal lane, which was partially covered with granite blocks and in the center of it was a massive slab, Almost immediately behind the portcullis, a short passage to the east opened onto a T-magazine.

Further down the main corridor was a waiting room measuring 4.14 x 3.12 meters. To the west, this antechamber opened up to the actual burial chamber, which measures 7.87 x 3.13 meters (see cutting the pyramid).
The burial chamber of King Userkaf was originally completely lined and paved with fine limestone, Its suspended ceiling consisted of massive limestone beams leaning on each other. None of the inner walls of the pyramid are decorated, as was customary in this period,the basalt coffin was found empty.

The sacrificial chapel east of the pyramid

Only traces of the sacrificial chapel were left, which was located to the east of the pyramid. It consisted of a small central chamber containing a false quartzite door in front of which were placed offerings,On either side of the room was a narrow room.

The floor of this edifice is made of black basalt, Its walls had a granite base, but it was completed in fine limestone, which was once carved with high-quality bas-reliefs showing the usual offerings scenes, King Userkaf’s pyramid complex is the only complex where the offering church is separated from the funerary temple.

Titulary of Userkaf

Titulary of Userkaf
Titulary of Userkaf

Horus Name

  1. Hr ir mAa.t
    Horus, who has created the cosmical order

Nebti Name

  1. ir mAa.t
    The Two Ladies, the one who has created the cosmical order

Golden Falcon Name

  1. nfr bik nbw
    The golden falcon is beautiful


  1. wsr kA=f
  2. wsr kA=f


  1. wsr kA ra


  • Africanus: Usercherês
  • Eusebius: Eusebius does not mention this king.

Alternative names in modern-day literature

  • Ouserkaf, Oeserkaf


  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Clayton, Peter A (1994) Chronicle of the Pharaohs
  • Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
  • Lehner, Mark (1997) The Complete Pyramids
  • Malek, J (2000) “The Old Kingdom”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
  • Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt

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