Abusir Pyramid Of Neferirkare
About The Famous King
The Dynasty V pyramid of Neferirkare is the second pyramid at the southern end of Abusir, slightly to the north-east of Neferefre’s unfinished monument. Now the most imposing and the tallest structure at Abusir with an estimated intended height of about 70m (it is even now about 45m) and a base of about 105m each side, the pyramid was built on Abusir’s highest point. The monument’s ancient name was ‘Pyramid of the Ba of Neferirkare’ and it was also unfinished during the king’s lifetime. His pyramid complex may have been completed by his successors but we know that part of the causeway and the valley temple were usurped by Niuserre.
Neferirkare was the first ruler to write his name in a double cartouche, one with his prenomen Kakai, and the other with a ‘sa-Re’ (‘son of Re’) name, Neferirkare, a custom which was then followed by all Egyptian kings.
There is evidence to suggest that Neferirkare’s pyramid was planned as a step pyramid and today four of the original six steps remain. At some point there was a change in design and the steps were filled with loose masonry and then converted to become a ‘true’ pyramid, enlarged and provided with a casing of red granite. The pyramid’s entrance is in the centre of its northern side and a straight descending passage then took two turns before arriving at the vaulted antechamber and a burial chamber. The substructure was very badly damaged by stone robbers and no trace of a sarcophagus or burial equipment has been found.
A mortuary temple for the king, on the eastern side of the pyramid, seems to have been hastily finished, and like that of Neferefre, the original stone offering hall and chapels or statue niches were enlarged and completed in mudbrick and enclosed within large mudbrick walls. The entrance to the mortuary temple led through a vestibule with six pairs of columns to a large central porticoed courtyard which in turn led to the inner areas and magazines. In 1893 portions of rare Dynasty V hieratic papyri texts began to appear on the antiquities market and Ludwig Borchardt subsequently tracked down a few stray texts found by local villagers at Abusir.
During excavations of Neferirkare’s mortuary complex, it was discovered that the temple archive, dating mainly to the reign of Djedkare-Isesi, had been stored in administrative buildings here. The collection is known as the ‘Abusir Papyri’ and describes the cult administration, inventories, accounts and records of building work, as well as priestly duties and daily offerings. The archive represents a great deal of important knowledge about the economic history of the Old Kingdom pyramid cults. It was from this record that the pyramid complex of Neferefre, Neferirkare’s eldest son, was discovered, as well as details describing six sun-temples at Abu Ghurob.
Neferirkare’s own sun temple had been completed within his lifetime and seems to have been the largest of these structures to the north of Abusir, but so far has not been found. When Neferirkare died his causeway and valley temple had not been completed and they were usurped by Niuserre later in Dynasty V, who incorporated them into his own burial complex.