Nyuserre Ini

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Nyuserre Ini (also spelt Niuserre Ini or Neuserre Ini; in Greek known as ´Ραθούρης) was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He is frequently given a reign of 24 or 25 years[17] and is dated from ca. 2445 BC to 2421 BC.[18] His prenomen, Nyuserre, means "Possessed of Re's Power". Nyuserre was the younger son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai by Queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre.[19]

He is often thought to have succeeded his brother directly, but there is some evidence to suggest that Shepseskare reigned between the two, albeit only for a few weeks. Possibly, the latter had attempted to restore the lineage of Sahure who might have been his father, deposing the lineage of Neferirkare Kakai in the process, but was unsuccessful.


Historical sources[edit]

Nyuserre is attested in three ancient Egyptian king lists, all dating to the New Kingdom. The earliest of these is the Karnak king list, which was commissioned by Thutmose III (1479–1425 BCE) to honor some of his forebears and where Nyuserre is mentioned on the fourth entry. Nyuserre's prenomen occupies the 30th entry of the Abydos King List, written nearly 200 yers later during the reign of Seti I (1290–1279 BCE). Nyuserre's prenomen was most likely also given on the Turin canon (third column, 22nd row), dating to the reign of Ramses II (1279–1213 BCE), but it has since been lost in a large lacuna affecting the document. Yet, fragments of his reign length are still visible on the papyrus, indicating a reign of somewhere between 11 and 34 years.[20] Nyuserre is the only Fifth Dynasty king absent from the Saqqara Tablet.[21]

In addition to these lists, Nyuserre was mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II (283–246 BC) by the Egyptian priest Manetho. Even though no copies of the text survive, it is known through later writings by Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius. In particular, Africanus relates that the Aegyptiaca mentioned a pharaoh ´Ραθούρης, that is "Rathurês", reigning for forty-four years as the sixth king of the Fifth Dynasty.[22] "Rathurês" is believed to be the Hellenized form of Nyuserre.


Accession to the throne[edit]

Two competing hypotheses exist in Egyptology to describe the succession of events running from the death of Neferirkare Kakai to the coronation of Nyuserre Ini. Relying on Manetho's reconstruction of the Fifth Dynasty, were Nyuserre is said to have directly succeeded Neferefre, Egyptologists such as Hartwig Altenmüller have traditionally believed that Nyuserre became pharaoh after the unexpected death of his father.[3]

This view was challenged, most notably by Miroslav Verner, following excavations of the Abusir necropolis, which indicated that Neferefre's purported predecessor Shepseskare, credited with 7 years of reign in the Aegyptiaca, had most likely reigned for only a few months between Neferefre and Nyuserre Ini. In Verner's hypothesis, Neferefre and Nyuserre were brothers, both sons of Neferirkare Kakai. Neferefre succeeded his father at his death but died unexpectedly after a very short reign of about 2 years. Nyuserre was then still a child and his claim to the throne faced a serious challenge in the person of his possible uncle Shepseskare who, in this hypothesis, was a son of Sahure. Shepseskare apparently succeeded in seizing the crown for a short time. Nyuserre's claim however was backed by powerful courtiers and members of the royal family, foremost among whom where his mother Khentkaus II and the future vizier Ptahshepses and thus ultimately prevailed.[1]

Length of reign[edit]

Relief of Nyuserre celebrating his Sed festival, Egyptian Museum of Berlin

Manetho's Aegyptiaca related that Nyuserre reigned for 44 years, a figure which is rejected by Egyptologists owing to the lack of archaeological evidence for such a long reign. The entry of the Turin canon pertaining to Nyuserre is damaged and the duration of his rule is difficult to read with certainty. Following Alan Gardiner's 1959 study of the canon,[23] scholars such as Nigel Strudwick traditionally credited Nyuserre with 11[10] years of reign.[note 3] Gardiner's reading of the canon was then reevaluated from facsimiles, yielding a 24 to 25 years figure for Nyuserre's reign. This duration is accepted by some Egyptologists including Nicolas Grimal.[24] More recent analyses of the original papyrus conducted by Kim Ryholt have shown however that Nyuserre's reign length as reported on the document could equally be 11–14, 21–24, or 31–34 years.[note 4][20] The later figure is now favored by Egyptologists including Strudwick and Verner.

The hypothesis that Nyuserre reigned in excess of 20 years is supported by archaeological evidences, which point to a fairly long reign for him. Verner, who has been excavating the Abusir necropolis on behalf of the University of Prague since 1976 points to Nyuserre's "construction of his own pyramid complex and two small complexes Lepsius no.XXIV and no.XXV for his wives,... the completion of the unfinished funerary monuments of his direct relatives Neferirkara, Khentkhaus II and Neferefra" as well as the completion of this king's substantial sun temple building complex at Abu Gurab.

This is also indirectly supported by a relief discovered in Nyuserre's solar temple and showing him participating in a Sed festival. This festival was meant to rejuvenate the king and was normally first celebrated after 30 years of rule. Mere depictions of the festival do not necessarily imply a long reign however, [note 5] for example a relief showing pharaoh Sahure in the tunic of the Sed festival has been found in his mortuary temple,[25][26] although both historical sources and archeological evidence agree that he ruled Egypt for less than 14 full years.[27][8][9] Yet, in Nyuserre's case, the additional archaeological evidences have convinced Verner who concludes that "the sed-festival scenes from Abu Gurab [most probably reflect] the 30th jubilee of the king's accession to the throne"[11]

Domestic policies[edit]

Ptahshepses, vizier and son in law of Nyuserre Ini

The reign of Nyuserre Ini witnessed the unabated growth of the priesthood and state bureaucracy,[1][28] a phenomenon which had started in the early Fifth Dynasty[29] in particular under pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai.[30] Changes in the Egyptian administration during this period are manifested by a multiplication in the number of titles, reflecting the creation of new administrative offices.[30] These in turn, reflect a movement to better organise the administration of the state with the new titles corresponding to charges attached to very specific duties.[30]

In conjunction with the inflation of the bureaucracy was a slow weakening of the power of the king,[note 6] although he remained a living god in the eyes of his subjects.[1] This situation went unchecked until the reign of Nyuserre's second successor Djedkare Isesi, who implemented the first comprehensive reforms of the system of ranking titles and thus of the administration.[35]

During the Old Kingdom period, the Egyptian state was divided administratively into provinces, called nomes. These provinces were recognized as such since the time of Djoser, founder of the Third Dynasty, and probably harked back to the predynatic kingdoms of the Nile valley.[36] Yet, the earliest topographical lists of the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt date back to the reign of Nyuserre,[36] and it is also around this time that the nomarchs started to reside in their province rather than at the royal residence.[29]

Foreign expeditions[edit]

Relief of Nyuserre from the Wadi Maghareh

Nyuserre commissioned at least one expedition to the Wadi Maghareh in Sinai where mines of copper and turquoise were exploited during much of the Old Kingdom period.[37] This expedition left a large rock relief, now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.[note 7] The relief shows Nyuserre "smiting the Bedouins[note 8] of all foreign lands, the great god, lord of the two lands".[38] At the right of Nyuserre is a dedication to "Thoth, lord of the foreign lands, who has made pure libations".[38]

Trade contacts between Egypt and Byblos on the Levantine coast existed during much of the Fifth Dynasty and were indeed active during Nyuserre's reign, as shown by a fragment of cylindrical alabaster vase bearing his name uncovered in the city.[39]

Building activities[edit]

When he ascended the throne Nyuserre Ini faced an enormous task: both his father and brother had left their pyramids unfinished, his father's and grandfather's sun temples were unfinished too and he had to construct his own pyramid as well as those of his queens. By placing his pyramid on the North-Eastern corner of that of Neferirkare, Nyuserre concentrated all building activities in Abusir.

Pyramid of Nyuserre[edit]

The pyramid of Nyuserre Ini in Abusir

Nyuserre built a pyramid at Abusir named Mensut Nyuserre, variously translated as "Established are the places of Nyuserre"[40] and "The places of Nyuserre endure".[3] The pyramid is located between those of pharaohs Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai. Its initial height was around 52 m (171 ft), with a base of about 79 m (259 ft) along each side, and a slope of 52 degrees. The volume of stone was a total of about 112,000 m3 (4,000,000 cu ft). It was originally covered with fine limestone as shown by some remaining casing stones. The burial chamber and antechamber were both lined with fine limestone as well and roofed with 3 tiers of megalithic limestone beams 10 m (33 ft) long weighing 90 tons each.[41] His queen, Reptynub, was also buried nearby. His magnificent sun temple at Abu Gurab is called the Joy of Re. While military campaigns to Libya and Asia are mentioned in documents of this period, we have no specific evidence regarding the military activities of this ruler.

The pyramid complex is unusual as the outer sections of the mortuary temple are offset to the south of the eastern side of the complex so that Nyuserre could intercept and complete his father's causeway. Another unusual aspect is the use of two rectangular structures on the eastern corners. Both Lehner and Verner think these may be the precursor of the pylon. [41][42]


Nyuserre was probably a son of Neferirkare as indicated by the location of his pyramid in Abusir, as well as his reuse for his own valley temple of materials from Neferikare's unfinished constructions.[43]

Nyuserre's only known wife was Reptynub. A King's Daughter by the name of Khamerernebty was the daughter of Nyuserre. The identity of her mother is not known. Khamerernebty was married to the vizier Ptahshepses.[19]

A limestone fragment was found in the pyramid complex of Nyuserre's mother Khentkaus mentioning a King's Daughter Reputnebty, who is followed by a King's Son Khentykauhor. From context, Reputnebty was a daughter of Nyuserre and Khentykauhor a son.[44]

Funerary Cult[edit]

As pharaoh, Nyuserre Ini benefited from a funerary cult established at his death. Under the umbrella of the term "funerary cult" are regrouped various cultic activities of two different nature: the official cult of the royal ancestor figure, for which the funerary establishments provided the goods, and the more private cults of pious individuals venerating passed kings.[45] Nyuserre Ini benefited from both forms of cult until at least the end of the Middle Kingdom.[46] Furthermore, he is, with Unas, the only Fifth Dynasty king for whom there is evidence that these cults continued uninterrupted during the First Intermediate Period, when the central authority of the pharaohs had broken down and the Egyptian state was in turmoil.[45]

Notes, references and sources[edit]


  1. ^ Proposed dates for Nyuserre's reign: 2474–2444 BCE,[1][2] 2470–2444 BCE,[3] 2453–2422 BCE,[4] 2445–2421 BCE,[5][6] 2445–2414 BCE,[7] 2420–2389 BCE,[8] 2402–2374 BCE,[9] 2398–2388 BCE.[10]
  2. ^ The only certain absolute date known in relation with Nyuserre Ini comes from the Radiocarbon dating of a piece of wood discovered in the mastaba of Pthashepses, a vizier and son in law of Nyuserre. The wood was dated to 2465-2333 BCE.[11][12]
  3. ^ Between his 1985 book on the Egyptian administration and his 2005 book on Egyptian texts of the Old Kingdom, Nigel Strudwick has changed his opinion on Nyuserre's reign length and now credits him with 31 years on the throne.[7]
  4. ^ Ryholt writes "Nyuserre's reign is damaged. There is a distinct trace of a 10, 20 or 30, followed by a stroke after which the papyrus breaks off. Accordingly, the possibilities are 11–14, 21–24, and 31–34 years [for Nyuserre], and not just 24 years" as is conventionally assumed.[20]
  5. ^ Verner writes that such scenes are part of a standard decoration program for the funerary complex of the king: "Beautiful reliefs with the scenes of the sed-festival from this sun temple are occasionally considered as indirect evidence of a long reign for this king. Generally, the historical authenticity... of such reliefs is doubted since the sed-festival scenes very probably belonged in the Old Kingdom to the standard 'Bildprogram' of the royal funerary monuments.[11]
  6. ^ Joyce Tyldesley instead sees the reign of Djedkare Isesi as the very beginning of the decline in the importance of the king,[31] given the decentralization stemming from his reforms. Yet for Nigel Strudwick and Klaus Baer, these reforms were precisely undertaken as a reaction to the rapid growth of the central administration[32] which had amassed too much political or economic power[33] in the eyes of the king.[34]
  7. ^ Catalog number Cairo JE 38570.[38]
  8. ^ Egyptian Mnṯjw


  1. ^ a b c d Verner 2001b, p. 589.
  2. ^ Hawass & Senussi 2008, p. 10.
  3. ^ a b c Altenmüller 2001, p. 599.
  4. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 60.
  5. ^ Malek 2000, p. 100.
  6. ^ Rice 1999, pp. 141.
  7. ^ a b Strudwick 2005, p. xxx.
  8. ^ a b von Beckerath 1999, p. 283.
  9. ^ a b Hornung 2012, p. 491.
  10. ^ a b Strudwick 1985, p. 3.
  11. ^ a b c Verner 2001a, p. 404.
  12. ^ von Beckerath 1997, p. 56.
  13. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 61.
  14. ^ a b Leprohon 2013, p. 40.
  15. ^ Leprohon 2013, p. 40, see also footnote 59.
  16. ^ a b Leprohon 2013, p. 40, see also footnote 58.
  17. ^ Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, (Blackwell: 1992), p.77
  18. ^ Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  19. ^ a b Dodson, Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2004
  20. ^ a b c Ryholt 1997, p. 13.
  21. ^ Mariette 1864, p. 4, pl. 17.
  22. ^ Waddell 1971, p. 51.
  23. ^ Gardiner 1959.
  24. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 77.
  25. ^ Borchardt 1913, Blatt 45.
  26. ^ Richter 2013.
  27. ^ Rice 1999, p. 173.
  28. ^ Strudwick 1985, p. 338.
  29. ^ a b Altenmüller 2001, p. 597.
  30. ^ a b c Strudwick 1985, p. 337.
  31. ^ Tyldesley 2005, p. 238.
  32. ^ Strudwick 1985, p. 340.
  33. ^ Strudwick 1985, p. 341.
  34. ^ Baer 1960, p. 297 & 300.
  35. ^ Strudwick 1985, p. 339.
  36. ^ a b Grimal 1992, p. 58.
  37. ^ Mumford 1999, pp. 875–876.
  38. ^ a b c Strudwick 2005, p. 136, text 58.
  39. ^ Porter, Moss & Burney 1951, p. 390.
  40. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 116.
  41. ^ a b Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997)p. 148-9 ISBN 0-500-05084-8
  42. ^ Verner, Miroslav The Pyramids, New York: Grove Press (1997) p. 316 ISBN 0-8021-3935-3
  43. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 77–78.
  44. ^ M. Verner, Abusir III: The Pyramid Complex of Khentkaus, Czech Institute of Egyptology, Praha, 1995
  45. ^ a b Morales 2006, p. 313.
  46. ^ Morales 2006, p. 314.


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Preceded by
Pharaoh of Egypt
Fifth dynasty
Succeeded by
Menkauhor Kaiu