Egyptian sun temple

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The sun temple of Nyserre Ini at Abusir

Egyptian Sun Temples were temples that were first created by the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom at Abu Gorab and Abusir. The Fifth Dynasty[1] was marked by an especially strong devotion to the sun cult, which was based at Heliopolis. The founder of this dynasty, Userkaf started the fashion of attaching sun temples with his mortuary temple and pyramid complexes at Abusir. This practice was followed by most of his Fifth Dynasty successors particularly Sahure and Nyuserre Ini. Only the solar temples of Userkaf and Nyuserre survive today, but Nyuserre's temple contains a large catalogue of invaluable inscriptions and reliefs from this king's reign. The city of Abu Gorab is located on the western bank of the Nile, in the pyramid fields of the north. It lies between Abusir and Giza.


Each temple was designed after the one at Heliopolis with an altar in front of an obelisk with a pyramid tip. The obelisk, called a benben, stood on a low platform at one end of the temple and was 70 meters tall. The exact purpose of these sun temples is unclear. Because they were architecturally built to contain a mortuary temple, a valley temple, and a connecting causeway, they may have been used to worship the god Re.

The temple of Nyuserre is the best preserved in history. Its platform is still intact with pieces of the benben still lying on the ground. Nine of the ten offering basins are also intact. The offering basins were used to hold sacrificial animal blood, which ran through channels cut into the paving. Contemporary Egyptian records tells us of the names of six sun temples ascribed to six pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty. While the locations of five of these temples have been discovered, only two of the six aforementioned structures have been identified and investigated thus far. Both of them are situated in North Abusir. The surviving remains of these temple complexes reflect peculiar similarities within royal mortuary complexes as far as their architecture is concerned.


  1. ^ Robert G Morkot, The Egyptians: An Introduction. pp. 223