April 3, 2012

Userkaf Pharaoh Biography ( 2498 - 2491BC ) 5th Dyanasty

Now we will talk about the Fifth Dynasty but first of all let's introduce our kings :

  • Userkaf : 2498-2491
  • Sahure : 2491-2477
  • Neferirkare ( Kakai ) : 2477-2467
  • Shepseskare : 2467-2460
  • Neferefre : 2460-2453
  • Niuserre (Ini) : 2453-2422
  • Menkauhor (Kaiu) : 2422-2414
  • Djedkare ( Isesi ) :  2414-2375
  • Unas : 2375-2345
The origins of the kings of the 5th Dynasty are recounted in the Westcar Papyrus which is preserved in the Berlin Museum. Probably written down during the Hyksos Period (around 1600 BC), it seems to have been composed in the 12th Dynasty - over 500 years after the events it describes - and endeavours to give a reason for the change of kings that led to the founding of the 5th Dynasty. Essentially the text consists of a series of stories told by one Djedi, a magician or possibly lector priest, at the court of Khufu. As part of one of the stories, Djedi mentions that three children as yet unborn to the lady Reweddjedet (wife of the High Priest of Re at Heliopolis) will become kings. He hastens to assure Khufu, however, that his son and grandson - Khafre and Menkaure - will rule before this happens. Details are given of how the important goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet and Heket, with the creator god Khnum acting as their attendant, assist Reweddjedet in her labour. The first born was Userkaf, 'a child one cubit long, whose bones were firm, the covering of whose limb was of gold, and whose headdress was of real lapis lazuli'. The next two children, Sahure and Neferirkare, were both of similar form. Despite the Heliopolitan origins of the dynasty, Manetho maintained that it stemmed from Elephantine, which is difficult to reconcile with the few known facts.


Userkaf Pharaoh Biography
Userkaf was in fact the grandson of Djedefre, the short-lived successor of Khufu. His mother was Queen Nefer-hetep, his father is unknown, and he married Khentkawes, daughter of Menkaure. Thus by that marriage the two lines of descent from Khufu were once more united. It has been suggested that the name Reweddjedet was a pseudonym for Khentkawes, which would mean that there was not so great a change in the ruling royal line as might at first be thought.

Rejecting the tradition established by their 4th Dynasty predecessors of building at Giza, the 5th Dynasty kings moved the site of their funerary monuments south, first to Saqqara, where Userkaf built his pyramid just outside the north-east corner of Djoser's enclosure wall. Uniquely, its mortuary temple is located on the south side of the pyramid instead of the usual east, possibly because the ground was too difficult on the east. Considering, however, the supreme importance accorded to the Sun cult by Userkaf and his 5th Dynasty successors (the 'Sun Kings'), a more likely explanation might be that on the south side of the pyramid the temple would be bathed in the sun's rays throughout the day. Surviving fragments from the reliefs that decorated the temple walls show the high quality of the sculpture, especially in the depiction of birdlife. The impressive and much larger-than-life-size pink granite head of Userkaf (opposite) wearing the nemes headdress found in the temple courtyard is still the largest surviving Old Kingdom portrait head (if one excludes the Sphinx). The whole complex is terribly ruined and the interior of the pyramid inaccessible.

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