Pyramid of Merikare

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Pyramid of Merikare
Stele Anpuemhat Quibell.png
Stele of the priest Anpuemhat, mentioning both the pyramids of Merikare and Teti.[1] From Saqqara.
Merikare, 10th Dynasty
Ancient name

Flourishing are the abodes of Merikare
Constructed c. 2040 BC

The Pyramid of Merikare is a still unidentified ancient Egyptian pyramid attested by inscriptions on funerary steles and possibly located in Saqqara.[2] The pyramid is presumably the burial place of the Herakleopolitan pharaoh Merikare, who ruled towards the end of the 10th Dynasty c. 2040 BC during the First Intermediate Period. The pyramid of Merikare is possibly to be identified with the Headless Pyramid in North Saqqara, although the latter is more likely to belong to pharaoh Menkauhor.[3][4]


Although undiscovered, the pyramid of Merikare is the only attested pyramid of a king belonging to the Herakleopolitan dynasties (9th and 10th). The pyramid is known by nine inscriptions, eight of which are from northern Saqqara; while the ninth is of unknown origin. From those inscriptions it is known that the ancient name of the pyramid was "Wadj Sut Merikare" variously translated as "Flourishing are the abodes of Merikare" or "The fresh places of Merikare".[2] All these inscriptions were found in the tombs of priests and at least four of these priests were responsible for the funerary cult of both kings Merikare and the earlier 6th Dynasty king Teti. The priests furthermore lived during the early 12th Dynasty (1991 BC - 1802 BC),[2] demonstrating that the funerary cults of these kings was still going during the Middle Kingdom and, above all, that Merikare's pyramid must have been in the vicinity of the Pyramid of Teti, in Saqqara.


Map of Saqqara. In red, the Headless Pyramid (Lepsius XXIX), which had been hypothetically identified with that of Merikare but has since then been recognized as that of Menkauhor Kaiu

Using the funerary steles of the 12th dynasty priests, Cecil Mallaby Firth believed to have found the pyramid of Merikare in 1926 on the southeast corner of that of Teti. Unfortunately, the structure identified by Firth later turned out that to be the small cult pyramid of Teti's pyramid complex.

Another hypothesis emerged in the second half of the 20th century which consists in identifying the pyramid of Merikare with the Lepsius pyramid no. XXIX, located in Saqqara-north and commonly known as the Headless Pyramid. This hypothesis was later rejected by some scholars such as Jocelyne Berlandini who proposed in 1979 that the Headless Pyramid is more likely to belong to the 5th Dynasty pharaoh Menkauhor,[3] the only 5th Dynasty ruler whose pyramid had not been formally identified.[2] Berlandini based her conclusion on the construction techniques featured in the pyramid as well as the fact that the priests of the funerary cult of Menkauhor were buried to a great extent in northern Saqqara.

In 1994 however, Jaromir Malek published a study arguing again that Merikare is the owner of the Headless Pyramid.[5] For example, Malek points out that no burials dating to the 5th Dynasty is located in the immediate vicinity of the Headless Pyramid.

In 2008, continuing excavations on the site of the Headless Pyramid under the direction of Zahi Hawass corroborated Berlandini's assignment of it to the 5th Dynasty. This conclusion was reached based on evaluations of the structure of the monument as well as the construction materials employed, both being typical of that era. Although no inscriptions naming a pharaoh were uncovered, Hawass attributed the pyramid to Menkauhor since he is the only pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty whose pyramid had not been identified.[4] If Berlandini and Hawass are correct then the real pyramid of Merikare still lies undiscovered somewhere in the sands of Saqqara.


  1. ^ James Edward Quibell: Excavations at Saqqara (1905-1906), Le Caire, Impr. de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale (1907), available copyright-free here pl. XV.
  2. ^ a b c d Mark Lehner: The Complete Pyramids, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 978-0-500-28547-3, p. 165.
  3. ^ a b Jocelyne Berlandini: La pyramide ruinée de Sakkara-nord et le roi Ikaouhor-Menkaouhor, Revue d'Egyptologie 31, (1979), pp. 3-28. Available online
  4. ^ a b Associated Press: Katarina Kratovac: Mystery of ‘Headless Pyramid’ solved, June 5, 2008
  5. ^ Jaromir Malek: King Merykare and his Pyramid, in C. Berger, G. Clerc and N. Grimal (eds) Hommages à Jean Leclant, Vol. 4., (Bibliothèque d'étude 106/4), Cairo 1994, pp. 203–214.


  • Christoffer Theis, Die Pyramiden der Ersten Zwischenzeit. Nach philologischen und archäologischen Quellen. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Bd. 39, 2010, pp. 321–339.