Menkauhor Kaiu

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Menkauhor Kaiu (also Menkaouhor and in Greek known as Mencheres) was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the seventh ruler of the 5th dynasty at the end of the 25th century BC or early in the 24th century BC, during the Old Kingdom period.[5] Menkauhor enjoyed a reign of 8 or 9 years, succeeding king Nyuserre Ini and in turn succeeded by the longer lived Djedkare Isesi. Very few attestations datable to Menkauhor's reign have survived to this day and Menkauhor is thus one of the least known pharaohs of the 5th Dynasty.

Menkauhor sent an expedition to the mines of copper and turquoise in the Sinai and built a sun temple known as "Akhet-Ra", meaning The Horizon of Ra, the last of its kind. Menkauhor was buried in a pyramid in Saqqara called "Netjer-Isut Menkauhor" (The Divine Places of Menkauhor) and known today as the Headless Pyramid.


Historical sources[edit]

Menkauhor is well attested by historical sources. He is mentioned on the 3rd column, 23rd row of the Turin canon, a king list redacted in the early Ramesside period. His name is also given on the 31st entry of the Abydos king list, inscribed during the reign of Seti I, and on the 30th entry of the Saqqara Tablet, which dates to the reign of Ramses II.[8] Finally, Menkauhor is mentioned under the hellenized name Mencheres in Manetho's Aegyptiaca, an history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BC.[8]

Contemporaneous attestions[edit]

Drawing of a serpentine cylinder seal of Menkauhor Kaiu.[9]

Relatively few attestations dating to Menkauhor's reign have survived to this day compared to the other kings of the Fifth Dynasty.[8] After the ephemeral Shepseskare, Menkauhor is the second most obscure ruler of the dynasty. Contemporaneous attestations of Menkauhor are limited to a relief from the tomb of an official, named Tjutju, depicting him adoring the king and a small rock inscription at the Wadi Maghara in the Sinai showing his titulary. There is also a rough stele inscribed with his cartouche from Mastaba 904 at Saqqara.[8] A few reliefs dating to the New Kingdom, almost 1000 years after Menkauhor's reign, represent him standing or enthroned and demonstrate that his funerary cult endured long after his death.

The only two small artefacts known to date to Menkauhor's reign are a single cylinder seal with Menkauhor's horus name, from the pyramid complex of Nyuserre Ini in Abusir, and a small alabaster statue, probably from Memphis.[10] Two gold cylinder seals dating to the reign of Menkauhor's successor Djedkare Isesi also bear Menkauhor's cartouche as part of the name of his pyramid complex.


Owing to the paucity of contemporaneous sources for Menkauhor, his relation to his predecessor, Nyuserre Ini, and to his successor, Djedkare Isesi, cannot be ascertained. Menkauhor may have been a son of Nyuserre Ini: indeed reliefs from the mortuary temple of Khentkaus II may point to such a relationship, although this remains largely uncertain.

Similarly no consort for Menkauhor is known for certain: queen Meresankh IV has been suggested as a possibility. It is possible however that she was a wife of Djedkare Isesi instead. Another possible consort of Menkauhor is queen Khuit I although this is uncertain again. A tomb discovered in January 2015 belonging to a "King's mother" Khentkaus III of the mid-fifth dynasty might point to her being Menkauhor Kaiu's mother.[7]

Menkauhor's successor Djedkare Isesi could possibly be Menkauhor's son. Other possible children include the princes Raemka and Khaemtjenent, but it is also possible they are sons of Djedkare Isesi, so they could be his grandsons instead.



The Turin canon credits Menkauhor with 8 years of reign, while Manetho gives him 9 years on the throne. Remarkably, the small alabaster statue of Menkauhor represent him dressed with the ceremonial robe of the Sed festival.[8] Usually, this festival is only celebrated after 30 years of reign. In spite of this and given the scarcity of contemporaneous attestations for Menkauhor, Egyptologists consider his reign to have been between 8 and 9 years long, as indicated by the historical sources.[8]


Relief of Menkauhor Kaiu from the Wadi Maghara.[11]

Thanks to a large inscription showing the titulary of Menkauhor in the Wadi Maghara, it is known that Menkauhor sent an expedition there to exploit the mines of turquoise and copper.[8]

Menkauhor had a sun temple built in Abu Gorab,[8] it would be the last of the 5th Dynasty. Its ancient name was "Akhet-Ra", meaning The Horizon of Ra. In addition, Menkauhor built a pyramid called "Netjer-Isut Menkauhor", The Divine Places of Menkauhor.[10] Records from Abusir contemporaneous with the Fifth Dynasty indicate that Menkauhor's pyramid was located either at Dahshur or at Saqqara. It is precisely in Saqqara that the German archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius discovered a pyramid in 1842, which he listed under the number XXIX in his pioneering list. Owing to the ruined state of the structure, Lepsius called it the "Headless Pyramid", a name has since then been retained. The pyramid was lost under shifting sands in the 19th century and its attribution to Menkauhor was debated.[12] Indeed it was proposed that the Headless Pyramid was in fact the Pyramid of Merikare, a pyramid dating to the First Intermediate Period and which has yet to be found.[13] However in 2008, Lepsius' Headless Pyramid was rediscovered and excavations at the site quickly established a Fifth Dynasty datation for it.[14][15] Since Menkauhor is the only king of this dynasty whose pyramid had not yet been formally recognized, the Headless Pyramid must belong to him.

Funerary cult[edit]

18th dynasty stele from the tomb of the chief of artisans, Imeneminet, depicting Menkauhor Kaiu, Musée du Louvre.

Menkauhor enjoyed a funerary cult after his death and several agricultural domains were established to provide the necessary goods. Several priests serving this cult are known thanks to their tombs, located in Saqqara North and Abusir South.[16] The funerary cult of Menkauhor seems to have continued into the New Kingdom period (1550– 1077 BC), as evidenced by reliefs showing Menkauhor in the tombs of Imeneminet and Thuthu in Saqqara-North, both of which lived during the 18th Dynasty (1550–1292 BC).[16]

An inscribed block dating to the later Ramesside period (1292–1077 BC) and now in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, was uncovered in Saqqara and shows Menkauhor enthroned besides four other enthroned kings of the Old Kingdom: the name of the first is partially lost but is probably Sneferu. He is then followed by Djedefre, Menkaure, Menkauhor and finally Pepi II. The owner of the tomb stands before the kings, in worship.[17] A lintel from the tomb chapel of Mahy from Saqqara North shows a similar scene: four deified kings of the Old Kingdom are shown, all of whom built their pyramid at Saqqara: Djoser, Teti, Userkaf and Menkauhor.[16]


  1. ^ Proposed dates for Menkauhor's reign: 2422–2414,[2] 2421–2414 BC,[3][4] 2389–2380 BC,[5] 2373–2366 BC[6]


  1. ^ Borchardt 1911, pp. 37–38.
  2. ^ a b Clayton 1994, pp. 60–61.
  3. ^ Malek 2000, p. 100.
  4. ^ Rice 1999, pp. 107–108.
  5. ^ a b von Beckerath 1999, pp. 58–59 & 283.
  6. ^ Hornung 2012, p. 491.
  7. ^ a b Charles University Press Release 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Baker 2008, pp. 198–199.
  9. ^ Petrie 1917, seal 5.7 plate IX.
  10. ^ a b Verner 2001, p. 405.
  11. ^ Lepsius Denkmäler II, p. 39.
  12. ^ Berlandini 1979.
  13. ^ Malek 1994, pp. 203–214.
  14. ^ Wright 2008.
  15. ^ Kratovac 2008.
  16. ^ a b c Vymazalová & Coppens 2008, pp. 32–39.
  17. ^ Wildung 1969, pp. 197–198.


  • Cecil Mallaby Firth, Report on the excavations of the Department of antiquities at Saqqara (November 1929–April 1930), Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte 30 (1930), pp. 393–396.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Nyuserre Ini
Pharaoh of Egypt
5th Dynasty
Succeeded by
Djedkare Isesi