Shepseskare Isi

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S42 N28 G43
serekh or Horus name
Hiero Ca1.svg
R8 G43 F12 S29 D21
Hiero Ca2.svg
praenomen or throne name
Hiero Ca1.svg
N5 A51 S29 S29 D28
Hiero Ca2.svg
nomen or birth name
Shepseskare Isi
in hieroglyphs

Shepseskare Isi[pronunciation?], also spelt Shepseskare, (in Greek known as Sisiris), was a Pharaoh of Egypt during the Fifth dynasty, who is thought to have reigned from around 2455 to 2448 BC.[1] His throne name means "Noble is the Soul of Re."[2] However, he is the most ephemeral ruler of this dynasty and some Egyptologists such as Miroslav Verner have strongly argued that Shepseskare's reign lasted only a few months at the most based upon the evidence of an unfinished fifth dynasty royal pyramid at Abusir, whose base was barely completed before it was abandoned as well as the very small number of objects identifying this king. The state of the unfinished Abusir pyramid tells us that this king's reign was unexpectedly cut short. However, both the Turin King List and Manetho state that Shepseskare ruled Egypt for seven years.

An ephemeral king[edit]

The only artifacts known for Shepseskare's reign are several clay sealings from Abusir, where the king may have been buried, and two cylinder seals, according to the respected Czech Egyptologist Miroslav Verner.[3] Verner advocates the hypothesis that Shepseskare succeeded, rather than preceded, Neferefre based upon the archaeological context of the 1982 discovery of several new clay seal impressions bearing this king's name--Horus Sekhemkau--"in the oldest part of Neferere's mortuary temple [at Abusir], which was not built" until Neferefre's death.[4] This appears to show that Shepseskare ruled after--rather than before--Neferefre. As Verner observes, while Shepseskare is noted as the immediate predecessor of Neferefre in the Egyptian king-lists, "this slight discrepancy attributed to the [political] disorders of the time and its dynastic disputes."[5] Shepseskare may have been a son of Sahure who briefly seized power after the premature death of Neferefre.[6] Verner stresses that the progress of Shepseskare's intended pyramid at Abusir, which is unfinished and is situated just north of Sahure's own pyramid,

"was interrupted [and] corresponds to the work of several weeks, perhaps no more than one or two months. In fact, the place was merely levelled and the excavation of the pit for the construction of the underground funerary apartment had only commenced. Moreover, the owner of the building obviously wanted to demonstrate by his choice of place(half-way between Sahure's pyramid and the sun temple of Userkaf) his relationship to either Sahure or Userkaf. Theoretically, only 2 kings of the 5th Dynasty whose pyramids had not yet been identified can be taken into consideration – Shepseskara or Menkauhor. However, according to a number of contemporaneous documents, Menkauhor ... probably completed [his] pyramid elsewhere, in North Saqqara or Dahshur. Shepseskara, therefore, seems to be the likelier owner of the unfinished platform for a pyramid in North Abusir. Anyway, the builder of the platform [ie: Shepseskare] must have reigned for a very short time." [7]

In Verner's view, Shepseskare was a son of Sahure who attempted to continue his family's royal line; hence, the close proximity of his pyramid next to Sahure's. His claim to the throne was thwarted by Niuserre, Neferefre's younger brother and the younger son of king Neferirkare and Queen Khentkaus II. Khentkaus II's pivotal role in Niuserre's eventual accession to the throne might explain her high esteem in Egyptian folklore and "the additional enlargement and upgrading of her mortuary temple" by Nyuserre.[8]

The contemporary sources also show that this king's reign was extremely short: the stela of the 5th dynasty official Khau-Ptah lists an uninterrupted sequence of kings whom he served under namely Sahure, Neferirkare, Neferefre and Niuserre.[9] No mention whatsoever occurs for a king "Shepseskare" between Neferirkare and Neferefre. Since the Turin King-list was a later New Kingdom document from the reign of Ramesses II while the Manetho's Epitome dates from the 3rd century BC under Ptolemy II, Khau-Ptah's contemporary account can be regarded as a more accurate reading of the political situation during the 5th dynasty. If Shepseskare had ruled Egypt for 7 years between Neferirkare and Neferefre, it seems inconceivable that Khau-Ptah would have failed to list his service under this king--especially since Neferefre had a reign of only between 1 to 2 years. Consequently, the monumental record points to a reign lasting no more than a few months for Shepseskare.


  1. ^ Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  2. ^ Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames and Hudson, 1994. p.61
  3. ^ Miroslav Verner, Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology, Archiv Orientální, Volume 69: 2001, p.396
  4. ^ Miroslav Verner, The Pyramids, Grove Press: 2001, New York, p.310
  5. ^ Verner, The Pyramids, p.310
  6. ^ Verner, Archaeological Remarks, p.399
  7. ^ Verner, Archaeological Remarks, p.399
  8. ^ Verner, Archaeological Remarks, pp.399-400
  9. ^ Patrick F. O'Mara, Manetho and the Turin Canon: A Comparison of Regnal Years, GM 158 (1997), p.51. O'Mara's source on Khau-Ptah comes from Auguste Mariette's "Mastabas de l'ancien empire," (Paris:1889) p.295


  • Miroslav Verner, Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology, Archiv Orientální, Volume 69: 2001, pp.395-400

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Neferirkare Kakai
Pharaoh of Egypt
Fifth dynasty
Succeeded by