Pyramid of Neferirkare

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Pyramid of Neferirkare
Neferirkare Kakai
Coordinates 29°53′42″N 31°12′09″E / 29.89500°N 31.20250°E / 29.89500; 31.20250Coordinates: 29°53′42″N 31°12′09″E / 29.89500°N 31.20250°E / 29.89500; 31.20250

Step pyramid (originally)

True Pyramid (converted into one)
Height 72.8 metres (239 ft)[1] (Original)
Base 105 metres (344 ft)[1] (Original)
Slope 54°30'[1]
Abousir Neferirkare 01.jpg

The Pyramid of Neferirkare (also known as The Ba of Neferirkare) is the second pyramid to be built at the necropolis site of Abusir, south of the Giza plateau, in Egypt. The pyramid of Neferirkare is the tallest of all pyramids constructed in Ancient Egypt during its Fifth Dynasty.

The Pyramid of Neferirkare was built between 2477 BCE and 2467 BCE for the Pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai, who was the third king of the Fifth Dynasty. The pyramid, in a deviance from tradition, was not finished before the ruler's untimely death. Despite such a setback, the pyramid still yields a plethora of information concerning this dynasty of kings.[Tour Egypt 1]

Although incomplete at the time of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai's death, the pyramid nevertheless reached a height of 72.8 metres (239 ft) in its original state, and even now stands some 50 metres high, despite significant deterioration in its external structure.

Isometric view of the pyramid of Neferirkare taken from a 3d model


The Pyramid of Neferirkare is situated at the necropolis of the site Abusir, located to the south of Egypt’s Giza plateau. The pyramids in this site hold the tombs of kings from Old Kingdom Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 BC) and are sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten Pyramids” because great portions of the monuments were vandalized and stolen during the Roman Period.[2] The Pyramid of Neferirkare lies in the center of the Abusir site and to the north of this pyramid are the principal royal mortuary monuments of 5th dynasty pharaohs Sahure and Neuserra and to the south lies the monument to Neferefre. The Abusir necropolis was chosen specifically as the site for the Pyramid of Neferirkare in large part because of its proximity to one of the most prominent Ancient Egyptian cities, Memphis. The Abusir necropolis was located less than four kilometers from the center of the assumed location of ancient Memphis during the Old Kingdom. This close distance to Memphis meant better access to necessary resources and manpower.[3]

The Layout/Schematics of the Pyramid of Neferirkare[edit]

The Pyramid of Neferirkare is estimated to be one of fourteen constructed pyramids located in funerary site at Abusir. Standing roughly 70 meters tall and 106 meters wide, the Pyramid of Neferirkare is the largest at the site.[4] Originally, Neferirkare’s pyramid utilized the step pyramid style which was inconsistent with the construction style of the fourth and fifth dynasties. Eventually, the pyramid’s limestone steps were filled in with granite stone to make it appear like the Pyramids of Giza, which were smooth on all sides. However, neither the original step pyramid nor the granite fillings of the pyramid were completed during Neferirkare’s lifetime. Much of the main aspects of the pyramid stand due to Neferirkare’s son, Neuserre, who completed the pyramid and linked it with his own.[5] “Neferirkare’s Valley Temple” contains two distinct entrances lined by numerous columns which both lead into four separate rooms. Consisting of limestone, “an unusual feature”- dado of black basalt, and colored reliefs Neferirkare’s pyramid. Another aspect of the pyramid was “The Mortuary Temple” with “five niches, the storerooms, the anterooms, and the sanctuary." This particular feature attests to the Egyptian belief in the soul requiring sustenance even after death to maintain a good afterlife especially for the pharaohs.[4]


The construction of the Pyramid of Neferirkare wasn’t actually completed during his reign, but rather during the reign of his son, Neferefre. The original plan was for Neferirkare’s pyramid to be based on the pyramid complex of Sahure, but on larger.[6] The base of the completed structure measured 106 m on each side; while the height measured around 70 m. The slope of the pyramid was about 53°. The pyramid was constructed of coarse local limestone cased with white limestone.[4] Sand was used in between the walls. It was originally designed as a step pyramid, with 4 of the 6 steps remaining today. At some point though it was converted into a true pyramid by filling in the steps. The temple was set up with elements similar to the Temple of Sahure. It started with a long hallway called the House of the Great Ones. Then it would go to an open court called the Royal Offering of the Court. These structures were intended to be built with stone, but due to Neferirkare’s death they were finished with mud brick.[7] Both entrances to the temple led into four small rooms originally made with granite and white limestone.[4] Each room in the temple served a specific purpose for honoring the dead.

Excavation and importance[edit]

The Pyramid of Neferirkare Kakai is the largest pyramid built in Egypt’s Fifth dynasty. Aside from its size its lasting importance comes from the "Abusir Papyri" found in Neferirkare Kakai’s mortuary complex. The papyrus was the most important discovery of Old kingdom Egypt and became the basis of current knowledge of royal estates in the old kingdom.[8] In 1893 local farmers found 300 broken fragments of papyrus. The fragments were sold and distributed around the world in the antiquities market.[2] Ludwig Borchardt tracked down the papyri fragments and consolidated the collection. Neferirkare Kakai’s pyramid was first investigated by Karl Richard Lepsius and John Shae Perring. It was then excavated by Ludwig Borchardt in the early 1900s. It was later studied by Vito Maragioglio and Celeste Rinaldi in the 1960s and more recently by the Czech Expedition directed by Miroslav Verner in 1975.[9] The papyrus was found in storerooms located in the southwest part of Neferirkare Kakai mortuary complex. The collection was written in ink in hieratic, a cursive form of the hieroglyphic script, but remained unpublished for 75 years. The papyrus tells the history of bureaucracy of the Old Kingdom. It contains a list of inventories, accounts and records of building work, as well as priestly duties and daily offerings. The archive represents a great deal of important knowledge about the economic history of the Old Kingdom pyramid cults.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Arnold, Dieter (2003). The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture. I.B Tauris & Co Ltd. p. 160. ISBN 1860644651. 
  2. ^ a b Davies, Friedman (1998). Egypt Uncovered. New York: Tabori & Chang. pp. 89–90. 
  3. ^ Brta, Miroslav (2005). "Location of the Old Kingdom Pyramids in Egypt.". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 15 (2): 177–191. doi:10.1017/s0959774305000090. 
  4. ^ a b c d Fakhry, Ahmed (1969). The Pyramids. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 176–177. 
  5. ^ Kinnaer, Jacques. "The Pyramid of Neferirkare.". Retrieved 2013-10-19. 
  6. ^ Edwards (1985). The Pyramids of Egypt. Harmondsworth, Middlesex. London: Penguin. pp. 147–148. 
  7. ^ Kinnaer, Jacques. [<>. "The Pyramid of Neferirkare."] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 2013-10-19. 
  8. ^ Kemp, Barry J. (1989). Ancient Egypt. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 112–113, 141–142. 
  9. ^ Grimal., Nicolas-Christophe (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. pp. 115–116. 
  10. ^ ""Egyptian Monuments." Egyptian Monuments.". 


  1. ^ Dunn, Jimmy. [<> "Egypt: Neferirkare Kakai, Third King of the Old Kingdom 5th Dynasty."] Check |url= value (help). Tour Egypt. Retrieved 2013-11-19.