Userkaf in Tour Egypt
USERKAF, FIRST RULER OF THE 5TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN.
Userkaf, traditionally the first ruler of the 5th Dynasty
is, like most of the other kings of the dynasty, not well
attested. We are even uncertain of his father, though he may
have been a priest. His mother was probably Neferhetep,
making him the grandson of Djedefre who succeeded Khufu. We
believe he was married to Khentkaues I, who is buried at
Giza. This marriage may have legitimized his claim to the
throne. We believe that Khentkaues I was probably Menkaure's
daughter and perhaps a half sister of Shepseskaf. Oddly,
nowhere in her tomb is Userkaf mentioned. There was
apparently another queen (possibly), who's pyramid lies
close to the pyramid of Userkaf's at Saqqara.
It should be noted that resources on Userkaf are rather
confusing. Some allow Neferhetep to be his wife, rather then
mother, while others even ascribe to Khentkaues I being his
mother, rather then his wife. However, the majority seem to
suggest the relationships as first set out above.
Userkaf was the kings birth name, meaning "His Soul is
Powerful. He was also known as Weserkaf and may possibly be
known in some literature as Ouserkaf, or Oeserkaf.. His
Horus name was Iry-maat, meaning "He who puts Maat into
Practice". It is interesting to note that having chose this
Horus name, he was burdening himself with the maintenance of
the whole of creation. He may have come to the throne as an
older man, for we are told his reign only lasted seven
years, though as usual, the actual dates of his reign very
from Egyptologist to Egyptologist. His seven year reign is
attested to in the Turin King list and seems to be confirmed
on the Palermo Stone.
As the 4th Dynasty progressed into the 5th Dynasty and the
rule of Userkaf, there seems to have been no major changes
in the country or much in its administration. Several high
officials of the 4th Dynasty continued in their positions
after Userkaf took the throne.
He is given credit for establishing Egypt's first contact
with the Aegean world. An inscribed stone vessel from his
mortuary temple was found on Kythera. Apparently later kings
of this dynasty would continue the Aegean relationship.
Perhaps Userkaf is best known for building the first of the
5th Dynasties solar temples at Abusir. It was named Nekhen-
Re, meaning "Stonghold of Re". Eventually, this line of
rulers would build four other solar temples, of which all
but two have not been discovered, or perhaps, no longer
exist. Here, he built a platform of mudbrick and limestone
with a smaller podium on its west end where a short obelisk
(benben) stood. It was probably a forerunner of the tall
obelisks of the New Kingdom. In front of the obelisk was a
sun alter, a feature that would later be incorporated into
the sun temple of Akhenaten. But then again, it is said that
Userkaf's solar temple was a replica of an earlier temple at
Heliopolis. There was a causeway leading from the solar
temple to a valley temple where a statue of Userkaf wearing
the Red Crown was discovered.
He is also credited with enlarging the temple of Monthu at
Tod, but little else is known, other then perhaps the
arrival of 70 foreign women during his reign and some cult
activity that seems to indicate he had an active interest in
the Delta. He is attested to (mentioned) in the tombs of
Sekhemkare and Nisutpunetjer, both at Giza, and his name is
found on a weight currently at the Museum of Modern Art.
There also blocks from a chapel built during Userkaf's reign
near the temple of Montu in el Tod (ancient Djerty).
It is interesting to note that Userkaf's funerary cult
apparently collapsed at the end of the 5th Dynasty, never to
be renewed. Userkaf was succeeded by his son (possibly by
Khentkaues I), Sahure.
Userkaf in Wikipedia
Userkaf was the founder of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt and
the first pharaoh to start the tradition of building sun
temples at Abusir.. Userkaf's name means "his Ka (or
soul) is powerful." He ruled from 2494-2487 BC and
constructed the Pyramid of Userkaf complex at Saqqara.
Userkaf's mother was thought by some to have been queen
Neferhetepes. Recent discoveries at Sahure's causeway in
Abusir show however that Neferhetepes was the mother of
Sahure and hence a wife of Userkaf.. It is possible that
queen Khentkaues I was Userkaf's mother. His father is
unknown, although Userkaf was a grandson of Djedefra, the
immediate successor of Khufu.
A bust of Userkaf is displayed in the Egyptian Museum. The
head was found in the first (of five) sun temples at Abu
Ghurob built by the rulers of the fifth dynasty. The head of
Userkaf is 45 cm high and carved from greywacke stone. The
sculpture is considered particularly important as it is
among the very few sculptures in the round from the Old
Kingdom that show the monarch wearing the Deshret (Red
Crown) of Lower Egypt. The head was uncovered in 1957 during
the joint excavation expedition of the German and Swiss
Institutes of Cairo.
It is believed that he was father of two pharaohs: Sahure
and Neferirkare Kakai. Another less common view, in
concordance with a story of the Westcar Papyrus, is that the
first three rulers of the fifth dynasty were all brothers-
the sons of queen Khentkaus I.
He is given a reign of 7 years by both the Turin Royal Canon
and Manetho's Epitome.
Egyptian Nobel Prize for Literature-winner Naguib Mahfouz
published a short story in 1938 about Userkaf entitled Afw
al-malik Usirkaf: uqsusa misriya. This short story was
translated by Raymond Stock as King Userkaf's Forgiveness in
the collection of short stories Voices From the Other World