Pyramid of Userkaf

Pyramid of UserkafUserkaf, founder of the 5th Dynasty, not only chose to return to Saqqara but also chose to build his funerary complex within the closest possible vicinity to the complex of Djoser, at its northeastern corner. The layout of Userkaf's pyramid complex is also uncharacteristic, with a separate offering chapel along the eastern face of the pyramid and the funerary temple to the south of it. This may reflect the special regard for the sun characteristic of the 5th Dynasty kings, but may also simply have been the result of limitations in space as a result of existing structures or a desire to imitate the architecture of the nearby complex of Djoser.

The pyramid, robbed of its outer casing of limestone and now resembling a mound of rubble, seems to have been very messily constructed, though this was more likely the result of the quality of the local limestone than of a change in building techniques. The interior apartments of the pyramid were all constructed in a subterranean shaft, excavated before the pyramid was constructed above. In the pit, accessible from the north by means of a sloping passage, a horizontal corridor leads past a massive portcullis to an antechamber beneath the summit of the pyramid, with a side passage leading to a T-shaped storage chamber to the east. The burial chamber to the west of the antechamber was lined with limestone slabs and featured a saddle roof of huge limestone beams. Here a plain but empty basalt sarcophagus was found. Outside, both the offering chapel and the mortuary temple featured black basalt floors and walls of fine white Tura limestone on a pink granite dado. The main elements of the temple consisted of a large rectangular court surrounded by monolithic granite pillars on all but the longer southern side. Beyond that wall, where remains were found of a colossal statue of the king facing the pyramid, lay a corridor that provided access to magazines and to a small hypostyle hall in front of a cult chapel with five niches for statues. Other elements of the complex were a causeway, which entered the enclosure at the southern end of the eastern wall, a small satellite pyramid at the southwestern corner of the enclosure and a queen's pyramid just outside the enclosure to the south; both pyramids featured internal apartments similar to those of the king's pyramid.

The factfiles below are based on M. Lehner's 'The Complete Pyramids', London, 1997 and P.A. Clayton's 'Chronicle of the Pharaohs', London, 1994.

Pyramid
          Userkaf
   

Pharaoh
:
Userkaf
      Birth name
:
User-ka-f ('His Soul is Powerful')
Dynasty
:
5
           
Location
:
Saqqara
      Father
:
?
Ancient name
:
'Pure are the Places of Userkaf'
      Mother
:
Neferhotep
            Wife
:
Khentkawes
Base
:
73.3 m
      Son(s)
:
?
Height
:
49 m
      Daughter(s)
:
?
Volume (cu.m) : 87.906
           
            Burial
:
Pyramid, North Saqqara