Statue of Sahure, Metropolitan Museum of Art
|Reign||2487–2475 BC (5th Dynasty)|
|Children||Ranefer (later Neferirkare Kakai?)
Netjerirenre (later Shepseskare?)
Horemsaf, Khakare and Nebankhre
|Monuments||Pyramid at Abusir|
Sahure was a son of Queen Neferhetepes, as shown in scenes from the causeway of Sahure's pyramid complex in Abusir. His father was Userkaf. Sahure's consort was Neferetnebty and he had several sons. Ranefer and Netjerirenre are shown with Sahure and Nefertnebty and are thought to be her sons. Horemsaf, Khakare and Nebankhre are also shown in Sahure's mortuary temple, but the identity of their mother is not known. He was succeeded by Neferirkare Kakai, the first king known to have used separate names. Miroslav Verner speculates that Ranefer took the throne as Neferirkare and Netjerirenre may have later take the throne as Shepseskare.
Sahure ruled Egypt from around 2487 BC to 2475 BC. The Turin King List gives him a reign of twelve years while the contemporary Palermo Stone Annal preserves Years 2-3, 5-6 and the final year of Sahure's reign. The document notes six or seven cattle counts, which would indicate a reign of at least 12 full years if the Old Kingdom cattle count was held biennally (i.e.: every 2 years) as this Annal document implies for the early Fifth Dynasty. If this assumption is correct and Sahure's highest date was the Year after the 6th count rather than his 7th count as Wilkinson believes, then this date would mean that Sahure died in his 13th Year and should be given a reign of 13 Years 5 months and 12 days. This number would be only one year more than the Turin Canon's 12 year figure for Sahure.
Historical records and Egyptian art show that Sahure established an ancient Egyptian navy and sent a fleet to the Land of Punt and traded with cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean. His pyramid had colonnaded courts and relief sculptures which illustrated his naval fleet and recorded his military career consisting mostly of campaigns against the Libyans in the western desert. He is credited with having begun the cemetery complex at Saqqara and he also used a diorite quarry just west of Abu Simbel.
His pyramid complex was the first built at the new royal burial ground at Abusir, a few kilometres north of Saqqara (though Userkaf had probably already built his solar temple there) and marks the decline of pyramid building, both in terms of size and quality, though many of the surviving fragments of reliefs which decorated the temple walls of both Sahure's and other Fifth Dynasty's kings are of high quality.
His pyramid provides us most of the information we know of this king. The reliefs in his mortuary and valley temple depict a counting of foreigners by or in front of the goddess Seshat and the return of a fleet from Asia, perhaps Byblos. This may indicate a military interest in the Near East, but the contacts may have been diplomatic and commercial as well. As part of the contacts with the Near East, the reliefs from his funerary monuments also hold the oldest known representation of a Syrian bear.
When it was excavated in the first years of the 20th century, a great amount of fine reliefs were found to an extent and quality superior to those from the dynasty before. Some of the low relief-cuttings in red granite are masterpieces of their kind and still in place at the site. The construction of the pyramid was made (like the others from this dynasty) with an inner core of roughly hewn stones in a step construction held together in many sections with a mortar of mud.
While this was under construction, a corridor was left into the shaft where the grave chamber was erected separately and later covered by leftover stone blocks and debris. This construction strategy is clearly visible from two unfinished pyramids and reflects the older style from the Third dynasty now coming back into fashion after being temporarily abandoned by the builders of the five great pyramids at Dahshur and Giza during the Fourth dynasty.
Today, only the inside construction remains of his pyramid and remain partly visible in a pile of rubble originating from the crude filling of debris and mortar behind the casing stones taken away a thousand years ago. The whole inner construction is badly damaged and not possible to access today. The entrance at the north side is a short descending corridor lined with red granite followed by a passageway ending at the burial chamber. It has a gabled roof made of big limestone layers. Fragments of the sarcophagus were found here when it was entered in the early 19th century. The colossal roof blocks of Suhare's temple weighed up to about 220 tons based on estimates by J.S. Perring. He estimated the size of the largest blocks at 35 feet by 9 feet by 12 feet. One end of these blocks was tapered so the estimated volume is 95 cubic meters or 2.4 tons. There were a total of at least 12 blocks the smallest of which was less than 100 tons. All but 2 of these are now broken. The Valley building of Sahure's Pyramid at Abu Sir included 8 monolithic granite columns with leafs on their capitals. These were probably not more than about 10 tons each but what makes them worth noting is that over a portion 2.6 meters long they taper from 91.2 cm to 79.8 cm with the error from the mean diameter never more than 8 millimetres.
Few depictions of the king are known, and in a sculpture he is shown sitting on his throne with a local nome deity by his side.
Most foreign interactions during the reign of Sahure were economic, rather than military. In one scene in his pyramid, there are great ships with Egyptians and representatives from the Middle East on board. It is believed they are returning from the port of Byblos in Lebanon with huge cedar trees. There is corroborating evidence for this in the form of his name on a piece of thin gold stamped to a chair, as well as other evidence of the Fifth dynasty king's cartouches found in Lebanon on stone vessels. Other scenes in his temple depict what seem to be Syrian bears.
There is also the first documented expedition to the land of Punt, which apparently yielded a quantity of myrrh, along with malachite and electrum, and because of this, Sahure is often credited with establishing an Egyptian navy. There are also scenes of a raid into Libya which yielded various livestock and showed the king smiting the local chieftains. The Palermo stone also corroborates some of these events and also mentions expeditions to the Sinai and to the exotic land of Punt, as well as to the diorite quarries northwest of Abu Simbel in Nubia.
However, this same scene of the Libyan attack was used two hundred years later in the mortuary temple of Pepi II and in a Kawa temple of Taharqa. The same names are quoted for the local chieftain. Therefore, there is the possibility that Sahure was also copying an even earlier representation of this scene.
He apparently built a sun temple—as did most of the 5th Dynasty kings—called Sekhet-re, meaning "the Field of Re" but thus far its location is unknown. His palace, called Uetjesneferusahure ("Sahure's splendor soars up to heaven"), is known from an inscription on tallow containers recently[when?] discovered in Neferefre's mortuary temple. It may have been located at Abusir as well. Under Sahure, the turquoise quarries in the Sinai were exploited (probably at Wadi Maghara and Wadi Kharit), along with the diorite quarries in Nubia.
Sahure is further attested by a statue now located in New York's Metropolitan Museum, in a biography found in the tombs of Perisen at Saqqara and on a false door of Niankhsakhment at Saqqara. He is also mentioned in the Twelfth dynasty tombs of Sekhemkare and Nisutpunetjer, in Giza.
Sahure's successor to the throne was not his eldest son and intended heir, Netjerirenre, but rather Neferirkare Kakai whose origins are unknown. On some reliefs from Sahure's mortuary temple, a secondary inscription gives one of the persons depicted in this king's entourage Neferirkare's name, royal insignia and royal titles. On this basis, some Egyptologists have concluded that Neferirkare and Sahure were brothers. If true, this would be evidence that Neferirkare usurped the throne at the expense of his nephew Netjerirenre, who was apparently still a child at Sahure's death. This may indicate certain dynastic and internal political problems with the royal succession during this time.
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- Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994. p.61
- Archaeogate Egittologia: Sahure's Causeway
- Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. ISBN 0-500-05128-3
- Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-19-815034-2.
- Toby Wilkinson, Royal Annals of Ancient Egypt, (Columbia University Press:2000 - ISBN 0-7103-0667-9), p.259
- Wilkinson, p.168
- Clayton, p.61
- Dr. I.E.S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt 1986/1947 pp.175-76, 180-81, 275
- Miroslav Verner, The Pyramids, Grove Press. New York, 2001, p.268
- Verner, p.268