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Pyramid of Nyuserre

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Pyramid of Nyuserre
A photograph of the pyramid's north and east faces. It has the appearance of a rubble mound.
The corner of the north and east faces of the Pyramid of Nyuserre
Nyuserre Ini
Coordinates29°53′44.4″N 31°12′12.8″E / 29.895667°N 31.203556°E / 29.895667; 31.203556Coordinates: 29°53′44.4″N 31°12′12.8″E / 29.895667°N 31.203556°E / 29.895667; 31.203556
Ancient name

Men-sut Ni-user-Re[1]
"Enduring are the places of Nyuserre"[2]
Alternatively translated as "The places of Nyuserre Endure"[3] or
"Established are the places of Nyuserre"[4]
ConstructedFifth Dynasty (c. 25th century BC)
Height51.68 m (169.6 ft; 98.63 cu)[5]
Base78.9 m (259 ft; 150.6 cu)[5]
Volume112,632 m3 (147,317 cu yd)[6]
Slope51° 50' 35[5]
Pyramid of Nyuserre is located in Egypt
Pyramid of Nyuserre
Location within Egypt

The Pyramid of Nyuserre (in ancient Egyptian Men-sut Ni-user-re meaning Enduring are the places of Nyuserre) is the pyramid complex built for the pharaoh Nyuserre Ini[7] of the Fifth Dynasty in the mid 25th century BC.[8][a] The complex, located in the Abusir necropolis, sits between the complexes of Neferirkare and Sahure. It is noted for its unusual location and many deviations from contemporary architectural designs.

Prior to building his own monument, Nyuserre first completed the unfinished monuments of his father, Neferirkare Kakai, mother, Khentkaus II, and brother, Neferefre. Nyuserre's monument was comparable in size to Sahure's. It was built from stone and sheathed in limestone. The main pyramid is part of a larger complex encompassing a valley temple, built on Abusir Lake; a mortuary temple, built on the east face of the main pyramid; a causeway that links the valley temple to the mortuary temple; and a cult pyramid.

The complex has several unusual features. First, the mortuary temple was constructed into an L-shape rather than the typical T-shape of the time; an alteration caused by the presence of mastabas east of the site of the temple. Second, incorporated into the design of the temple was an innovative type of new room, the antichambre carrée, that became a standard feature of later monuments. Third, there is an unexplained square platform in the temple which has led archaeologists to suggest that there may be an obelisk pyramidion nearby to it. This is unusual as obelisks were central features of Egyptian sun temples, but not of pyramid complexes. Finally there are two structures found in the north- and south-east corners of the complex which appear to have been pylon prototypes. These, too, became staple features of temples and palaces in a later period.

Two other pyramid complexes are found in the vicinity of Nyuserre's. These pyramids, named Lepsius XXIV and Lepsius XXV, may have belonged to the consorts of Nyuserre, particularly Queen Reputnub, or of Neferefre. Further north-west of the complex are mastabas built for the pharaoh's children. The tombs of the priests and officials associated with the king's funerary cult are located in the vicinity as well. Whereas the funerary cults of other kings died out in the First Intermediate Period, Nyuserre's cult may have survived this transitional period and into Middle Kingdom, although this remains a contentious issue among Egyptologists.

Location and excavation[edit]

The pyramid of Nyuserre is situated in the Abusir necropolis, located between Saqqara and the Giza Plateau.[14] Abusir assumed great import in the Fifth Dynasty after Userkaf, the first ruler, built his sun temple and, his successor, Sahure inaugurated a royal necropolis there with his funerary monument.[15][16] Sahure's immediate successor and son,[16] Neferirkare Kakai became the second king to be entombed in the necropolis.[17][18][19][20] Nyuserre's monument completed the tight architectural family unit that had grown and centered around the pyramid complex of his father, Neferirkare, alongside his mother's pyramid and brother's mastaba.[21][22][23] He was the last king to be entombed in the Abusir necropolis.[24]

A map showing the locations, from south to north, of Neferefre's, Neferirkare's, Nyuserre's, Sahure's and the Unfinished pyramids of Abusir, along with the sun temples of Userkaf and Nyuserre.
Map of the Abusir necropolis

In contrast to his predecessors, Nyuserre's mortuary complex is not seated on the Abusir-Heliopolois axis.[25] This is unusual, but can be explained as the result of other factors. First, upon taking the throne, Nyuserre undertook the task of completing the three unfinished monuments of his predecessors and closest family members: his father, Neferirkare; his mother, Khentkaus II; and his brother, Neferefre.[2] The burden of the cost to complete these monuments therefore fell onto him.[26] Second, in order to respect the necropolis' axis, Nyuserre's monument would have had to have been placed south-west of Neferefre's complex, deep in the desert and at least 1 km (0.62 mi) from the Nile valley.[2][26] The cost of this project would have exceeded tolerable limits.[26] Third, the chosen location of the pyramid constrained the construction area to a region around 300 m (984 ft 3 in) by 300 m (984 ft 3 in) allowing for maximum economy of the labour force and material resources.[27] Lastly, Nyuserre wanted to remain with his family[7] and so chose to insert his complex in the space north-east of Neferirkare's complex,[2] between its and Sahure's pyramids.[7][26] The Egyptologist Miroslav Verner succinctly describes Nysuerre's siting as "the best compromise that the circumstances would permit".[8]

In 1838, the Egyptologist John Shae Perring cleared the entrances to the pyramids of Sahure, Neferirkare and Nyuserre.[28] Five years later in 1843, the Egyptologist Richard Lepsius explored the Abusir necropolis and catalogued Nyuserre's pyramid as XX.[28] 1902–8, the Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt, working for the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft or German Oriental Society, resurveyed the Abusir pyramids and had their adjoining temples and causeways excavated.[28][29] His results are published in Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Ne-User-Re (1907).[30] The Czech Institute of Egyptology has had a long term excavation project going at the site since the 1960s.[29][31]

Mortuary complex[edit]


3 dimensional model of how the pyramid would have looked in its original completed state. From the east is the planned layout of the mortuary temple adjoining the main pyramid. In the north-east and south-east corners are the pylons. West of the south-eastern pylon is the small cult pyramid surrounded by a small walled enclosure. Surrounding the main pyramid is an enclosing wall that represents the courtyard.
A digital reconstruction of Nyuserre's pyramid complex: main pyramid, mortuary temple, cult pyramid, and part of the causeway.

Old Kingdom mortuary complexes consisted of five essential components: (1) a valley temple; (2) a causeway; (3) a pyramid, or mortuary,[32] temple; (4) a cult, or satellite,[33] pyramid; and (5) the main pyramid.[34] Nyuserre's monument has all of these elements. The main pyramid constructed from seven steps of limestone.[35] A cult pyramid near the south-east corner of the main pyramid.[36] An unusual L-shaped mortuary temple placed on the southern end of the pyramid's eastern face.[5][36] The valley temple and causeway originally intended for Neferirkare's monument which were co-opted by Nyuserre for his own complex instead.[7][37]

Main pyramid[edit]

Though Nyuserre had a long reign of around thirty years,[7] he chose to build a smaller pyramid comparable in size to Sahure's.[2][7] Considering the burden of fronting the costs to complete the monuments of his family, Nyuserre compromised and put his pyramid in the only free space available not located in the desert.[2] The pyramid, therefore, found itself seated against the south wall of Neferirkare's mortuary temple and with the ground to the north falling steeply towards Sahure's monument.[26] It was further hemmed in by a group of mastabas to the east that had been built during Sahure's reign.[2][26] This combination of factors may have constricted the size of Nyuserre's pyramid.[7]

The core of the structure was built into seven steps with the cornerstones of the lowest layer being specially anchored to improved the structure's stability. This was then encased with fine white Tura limestone.[35] The stone used for the casing most likely came from limestone quarries west of the village of Abusir.[35] On completion, it had a base length of 78.9 m (259 ft; 150.6 cu) sloping inwards at approximately 52° resulting in a summit height of around 52 m (171 ft; 99 cu)[5] and a total volume of approximately 113,000 m3 (148,000 cu yd).[6] The pyramid was smooth-sided.[38][39][40]

Nyuserre's pyramid, as with all other Abusir pyramids, was constructed in a drastically different manner to the pyramids of the preceding dynasty. The core of the pyramid was built from inferior roughly cut limestone between the frames of the outer casing and the inner chambers. Only the outer casing was constructed using high quality limestone. This method while less time and material consuming was careless and unsafe.[41] The chambers of the Abusir pyramids and their mortuary temples were ransacked for valuables during the unrest of the First Intermediate Period, but the dismantling of the pyramids themselves took place during the New Kingdom.[42] Once the limestone casing of the pyramid was removed – for reuse in lime production[43] – the core was exposed to further human destruction and natural erosion which has left it in a ruinous, formless mound.[41]

The pyramid is surrounded by an open courtyard paved with limestone blocks 0.4 m (1.3 ft) thick.[44][45] The blocks under the pyramid cladding are themselves up to 0.6 m (2.0 ft) thick.[45] Unusually, the south wing of the courtyard is significantly narrower than the north wing.[44] The enclosure wall of the pyramid courtyard was about 7.35 m (24 ft; 14 cu) high.[45]


Map of Nyuserre's substructure. The captions 1-6 tend from north to south and then from 6-7 from east to west.
Layout of Nyuserre's substructure. In order: (1) North facing entry; (2) Vestibule; (3) Pink granite portcullises; (4) Passageway; (5) Antechamber; (6) Burial chamber. Granite presented in red, limestone presented in orange.
A photograph of the slumped core of the north face of the pyramid.
The north face of Nyuserre's pyramid with the caved in entrance into the substructure

The substructure of the pyramid follows the basic design adopted by earlier Fifth Dynasty kings in their pyramids, such as those of Neferirkare and Sahure.[2] The burial- and ante- chambers and access corridor were dug out, rather than constructed through a tunnel.[35] The ceiling of the chambers formed three gabled layers of limestone.[35] The beams disperse the weight from the superstructure onto either side of the passageway preventing collapse.[46] Each stone in this structure is about 10 m (33 ft) long and weighs 90 t (99 short tons).[7] Between each layer of blocks, limestone fragments were used to create a filling which would help shift the weight of the structure on top of it, particularly in the event of earthquakes.[35] At the time, this was considered the optimal use of the blocks to construct the ceiling.[35] Stone thieves have plundered the underground chambers of much of its high-quality limestone considerably weakening the structure and making it dangerous to enter.[47]

Access to the substructure is granted by a north-south running, downwards sloping corridor located on the north face of the pyramid.[2][5] The corridor was lined with fine white limestone and reinforced with pink granite at both ends.[48] It follows an irregular path first inclined up to the vestibule.[48] Here, at around the midway point, two,[48] or three,[5] large granite blocks acted as a portcullis which blocked the passage when lowered.[48] Immediately behind the blocks, the corridor deflects to the east and is declined by about 5°.[48] The corridor terminates at the antechamber, connected to the burial chamber, almost directly underneath the pyramid's summit.[2][5] The damage to the interior structure caused by stone thieves makes accurate reconstruction of its architecture nigh-on-impossible.[48][b]

Valley temple[edit]

Map of Nyuserre's valley temple. The map is oriented east to west. 1 is at the eastern end of the temple leading west through an entrance into 3. In the south-west, 2 leads through an entry into a vestibule directly south of 3. Heading north from 3 is another vestibule, angled south-west, leading through an entrance into 4 with 5 directly at its start.
Layout of Nyuserre's valley temple. In order: (1) Main entrance court; (2) Secondary entrance court; (3) Chamber with three niches; (4) Causeway with (5) limestone figures of captive enemies.

Nyuserre co-opted the valley temple and causeway that had been under construction for Neferirkare's monument.[7] As with Sahure's temple, there were two columned entrances into the valley temple.[52][53] In contrast with Sahure's temple, the columns here depicted papyrus stalks, not palm trees.[54] The main entrance was through a portico which had two colonnades of four pink granite columns.[7][52][53] The second entrance, found in the west,[53] could be accessed from the outside via staircase, landing on a portico adorned with four granite columns. Each column was shaped to resemble a six-stemmed papyrus and bore the names and titles of the king as well as images of Wadjet and Nekhbet.[52]

The temple was paved withblack basalt, the walls were made from Tura limestone with relief decorated red granite dado.[55][54] The central chamber of the valley temple had significant religious importance. Three niches, one large and two small, in its west wall, may have held statues of the king. Few remnants of the reliefs decorating the walls, such as one that depicts massacres of Egypt's enemies, have been preserved. Other statues were present in the temple, such as one of Queen Reputnub and one of a pink granite lion.[52] The chambers preceding the causeway were angled to meet a short stretch of pavement connecting to the causeway.[56] Limestone figures of enemy captives appear to have stood at the exit of the temple at the base of the causeway.[5]


The causeway's foundation had been laid about two-thirds of the way from the valley temple to the mortuary temple when Neferirkare died.[37] As a result, when Nyuserre took over the site, the causeway had to be diverted from its original destination to its new one.[57] As a result, it travels in one direction for more than half its distance then bends away to its destination for the remainder of its length.[5][57] The causeway is 368 m (1,207 ft) long.[58] Based on preserved sections of the causeway at its start and end, Borchardt determined that the walls of the causeway were 2.1 m (7 ft) thick. The core of the wall was made of yellow brickwork, and encased in white limestone lightly sloped at ~ 8° (1:7).[59] Borchardt sketched a cross-section of the causeway. The walls reached a peak height of nearly 6 m (20 ft; 11 cu), with a ceiling protruding from both sides of the wall and a 1 m (3.3 ft) wide slit left in the ceiling. It had a walkway 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide.[60]

Completion of the causeway was complicated[37] because the remaining construction had to surmount a difference in elevation of 28 m (92 ft), negotiate uneven terrain, and avoid older mastabas.[5][37] To achieve this, the latter part of the causeway required a high base.[37] Parts of this base were reused in the Twelfth Dynasty to build tombs for priests who had served Nyuserre's funerary cult.[61] The dado of the causeway walls were lined with black basalt, above which they were lined with Tura limestone decorated with reliefs.[5][54] One notable large figure relief from the causeway has been preserved. It depicts seven royal sphinxes pinning the king's enemies under their paws.[62] The ceiling was painted blue with a myriad of golden stars evoking the night sky.[5]

Mortuary temple[edit]

A photograph of the paved courtyard of Nyuserre's mortuary temple taken from the south-west facing east/north-east. Identifiable features include: (1) the black basalt paving of the courtyard; (2) the rounded bases which once held the pink granite columns that supported the ambulatory of the courtyard; and (3) a section of the north wall of the courtyard. Other fragments of the room litter the area ranging from small rocks to large boulders. One of the boulders just left of image centre contains hieroglyphic carvings. The partial text reads: di-ˀnḫ-ḏt meaning "may he live forever". A sliver of a cartouche is present on the block.
The open colonnaded courtyard of Nyuserre's mortuary temple

The basic design of Nyuserre's mortuary temple differs from others built in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty. Verner describes thee layout of a typical mortuary temple for the period as resembling the letter "T" and contrasts this with the "L" shaped layout of Nyuserre's.[63] This alteration was a result of the presence of mastabas built during Sahure's reign to the east.[5][64] Despite this aesthetic difference, the temple retained all of the fundamental elements established by Sahure's mortuary temple and incorporated new features concurrently.[63]

The initial entry point to the temple is angled towards the south-east.[36] This is followed by a long entrance hall which is flanked on both the north and the south by groups of five storage rooms.[65] These made up the bulk of the storage space in the temple.[54] The entrance hall was originally vaulted with black basalt paving, limestone walls covered in reliefs and with the dado on the side walls made from pink/red granite.[65] Fragments of the wall reliefs from the temple are often exhibited in German museums.[63] For example, an intricate wall relief from the temple relating a scene from the throne room has been displayed at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.[66][c] In the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, the ruler Taharqa, had reliefs from various Old Kingdom mortuary temples, particularly those of Nyuserre, Sahure and Pepi II, reproduced for use in the restoration of the temple of Kawa in Nubia.[67] The hall terminates into a courtyard paved with black basalt and with a roofed ambulatory that was supported by sixteen six-stemmed papyrus pink granite columns.[65][53]

Map of Nyuserre's mortuary temple. The captions from 1-7 tend from east to west and describe the layout of the entrance hall to chapel. From 7-11 the captions tend north, and describe the chapel through offering hall. The remaining captions, 12-17, describe the location of various features.
Layout of Nyuserre's "L-shaped" mortuary temple. In order: (1) Entrance hall with (2a and b) storage rooms north and south; (3) Courtyard with sixteen granite columns with a (4) sandstone basin for collecting rainwater and (5) an altar; (6) Transverse corridor; (7) Chapel with (8) a set of storage rooms; (9) Antichambre carrée with central column; (10) Offering hall with (11) a final set of storage rooms; (12) Alternate entrance; (13) Deep niche housing of the pink granite lion statue; (14) Corridor to the cult pyramid; (15) Approximate location of the square platform; (16a and b) Pylon prototypes and; (17a and b) Part of the courtyard surrounding the main pyramid.

The courtyard was designed to communicate the image of a marshy papyrus grove; a place which, for ancient Egyptians, signified renewal. To evoke this image the bases of the columns, for example, were decorated with wavy bas-reliefs which produced the illusion of papyrus growing in water. The middle portions of the columns were decorated with various inscriptions detailing material such as the king's name and titles to the courtyard's protection by the gods Wadjet and Nekhbet.[65] These columns supported the ambulatory of the courtyard.[54] The ambulatory ceiling was decorated with stars representing the night sky of the underworld. In the centre of the courtyard was a small sandstone basin to collect rainwater. A highly decorated alabaster altar was once located in the north-west corner of the courtyard. Exiting the courtyard to the west leads into the transverse (north-south) corridor.[65]

From the transverse corridor the temple takes on a northerly direction: a result of the L-shape. In the north-west corner of the transverse corridor separating the public, outer, and intimate, inner, parts of the temple is a deep niche occupied by a large pink granite statue of a lion who served to symbolically guard the pharaoh's privacy.[68] Beyond the transverse corridor lies the chapel, which had been displaced southwards, another result of the temple shape.[53] It is damaged to the point that an accurate reconstruction cannot be made, but it is known that the chapel contained five statue niches.[65] Connected to the chapel was another group of storage rooms.[68] North of the chapel is a square chamber – which the architect Jean-Philippe Lauer named the antichambre carrée; a reference to its square shape – decorated with various reliefs, an elevated floor, and a central column.[63][69] This chamber is one of two new features introduced into temple design, with this particular feature becoming a permanent element of the layout of future mortuary temples[63] until the reign of Senusret I.[68] Antecedents to the room's consummate form have been traced to the mortuary temples of Sahure, Neferirkare, and Neferefre.[70][d] Nyuserre's antichambre carrée is entered through the north wall of the five niche chapel which, with the exception of the pyramid belonging to Djedkare's unknown queen, is the only such chamber to be entered from the north.[70] The central column of the chamber has not been preserved. The floor and column base were made from limestone, and the floor was elevated by 1 cu (0.52 m; 1.7 ft). The room measured 10 cu (5.2 m; 17 ft) square, with this size becoming the standard for most antichambres of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. In the north-west corner of the room, Borchardt found a fragment of a limestone statue that had been fixed to the floor using mortar.[72] Borchardt also found several fragments of relief decorations nearby which may have originated in the antichambre. These fragments depicted anthropomorphised deities with animal heads including Sobek, Horus, and three deities, one of which had a human head, which possessed was-sceptres and ankh symbols.[73]

A depiction of a column taken based on renderings of the column from Borchardt (1907), pp. 68 & Blatt 5; and Verner (2001d) p. 317.
A depiction of a pink granite papyrus column taken from the mortuary temple of Nyuserre Ini. It bears four columns of hieroglyphic text. The columns from left to right read:
(1) Beloved of Nekhbet, given life, health
(2) Give enduring life to Nyuserre, king of Upper and Lower Egypt
(3) Life, stability, and prosperity for the favourite of the Two Lands of Egypt[e]
(4) The favourite of the Two Ladies, Nekhbet and Wadjet,[f] the divine golden falcon,[g] may he live forever

The antichambre carrée leads through a vestibule into the sacrificial,[63] or offering, hall.[69][72] The vestibule would be removed in later renditions allowing direct access to the offering hall.[72] The offering hall was set along the east-west axis for religious reasons,[h] and located in its traditional place in the centre of the east face of, and adjoining the, main pyramid. The offering hall was equipped with a false granite door and an altar for performing ritual sacrifices.[5][68] As with the entrance hall, the walls of the offering hall were decorated with reliefs; these depicted scenes related to the ritual sacrifices performed there.[69] Comparably to the ambulatory of the courtyard, the vaulted ceiling of the hall was decorated with bas-relief stars evoking the night sky of the underworld. Under the east wall was a canal connected to a drainage system east of the temple. Exiting the hall to the north leads to a final group of storage rooms.[68] Lastly, there is an alternate entrance point that sits near the intersection between the outer and inner sanctuaries that can be accessed from the outside.[63]

The mortuary temple displays two other significant innovations.[68] One architectural modification can be found incorporated into the design of the temple and has had a marked influence on ancient Egyptian architecture. Tall tower-shaped buildings with slight slopes were erected on the north- and south-east corners of the temple. The tops of these towers formed a flat terrace, topped with a concave cornice, which could be accessed via staircase.[68][86] Verner refers to these towers as the "prototype of pylons" which became staple features of later ancient Egyptian temples and palaces.[87] The second addition is more complex and, as yet, unexplained. In the north-east corner of the temple, adjoining the wall, Borchardt discovered a square platform with sides of approximately 10 m (33 ft) in length.[37] Excavations by a Czech team at Ptahshepses', the vizier to the pharaoh and head of all royal works,[29][88] mastaba discovered a large pink granite pyramidion, taken from an obelisk, resting next to a similar square platform in the south-western corner.[37] Verner proposes several hypotheses for the purpose of the square platform in Nyuserre's mortuary temple: (1) The square platform may once have been occupied by a similar pyramidion; evidence supporting this conjecture are a large granite obelisk found in the pyramid complex and stone blocks containing the inscription "Sahure's sacrifice field".[89][i] (2) The blocks could either be remnants of the building material used for Sahure's sun temple, or, be taken from the sun temple itself. This led to conjecture (3) that the sun temple may be located near Nysuerre's complex and/or (4) that Nyuserre may have either dismantled or usurped the sun temple for himself.[37]

Cult pyramid[edit]

The purpose of the cult pyramid remains unclear. It had a burial chamber but was not used for burials, and instead appears to have been a purely symbolic structure.[90] It may have hosted the pharaoh's ka,[75] or a miniature statue of the king.[91] It may have been used for ritual performances centering around the burial and resurrection of the ka spirit during the Sed festival.[91]

Borchardt erroneously ascribed the structure found in the south-east corner of the complex to Nyuserre's consort; it was, in fact, the cult pyramid.[48] The pyramid has its own enclosure and bears the standard T-shaped substructure of passage and chambers.[5] The pyramid had a base length of approximately 15.5 m (51 ft; 29.6 cu) and a peak approximately 10.5 m (34 ft; 20.0 cu) high.[58]

Other significant structures[edit]

Conjectural: wives' tombs[edit]

Nyuserre's wife, Reputnub, was not buried within the pyramid complex of Nyuserre.[17] Two small pyramids found on the southern margin of the pyramid cluster, designated Lepsius XXIV and Lepsius XXV, are conjectured to belong to his consorts. These structures are very badly damaged, and Verner expects that no exceptional finds will be made during excavations.[87]

Photograph of the ruined structure of Lepsius XXIV, it is a mound of rubble.
Remains of Lepsius XXIV, possibly the tomb of Nyuserre's consort.

The first of these pyramids, Lepsius XXIV, consisted of the pyramid, mortuary temple and small cult pyramid.[88] Extensive damage to the tomb's structure,[92] due to stone thieves in the New Kingdom, has left the structure in ruins, though some details can be discerned.[93] The mortuary temple was intended to be built on the east face of the pyramid, a feature which confirms that the tomb belonged to a queen. The upside to its destruction is that the interior has been laid bare for archaeologists to study. The pyramid was constructed during Nyuserre's reign, as evidenced by Ptahshepses' name[j] appearing on blocks amidst many other masons' marks and inscriptions.[88] Inside the wreckage of the burial chamber lie the remnants of a pink granite sarcophagus, shards of pottery, and the mummified remains of a young woman, between twenty-one and twenty-five years of age.[88][95]

The mummy is fragmented, likely due to the activities of tomb robbers and stone thieves.[95] No name is found inscribed anywhere in the complex, leaving the mummy remains unidentified.[88] Dating suggests that the mummy was either the consort to Nyuserre, or possibly, his short lived pharaoh brother, Neferefre.[88] Queen Reputnub is a potential candidate for the identity of the mummy, though the possibility of other wives remains feasible.[96] Unusually, this mummy has undergone excerebration,[k] a procedure which Verner states was not known to have been conducted prior to the Middle Kingdom.[93] Professors Eugen Strouhal, Viktor Černý, and Luboš Vyhnánek challenge this, stating that some mummies from the Eighth Dynasty and one from the Sixth Dynasty are confirmed to have undergone the procedure.[97]

Photograph of the remaining mound of rubble of Lepsius XXV
Lepsius XXV: A double pyramid built during Nyuserre's reign.

The sister tomb, Lepsius XXV, is in close proximity to Lepsius XXIV. A superficial study of the tomb revealed that it was built during Nyuserre's reign.[88] Excavations were conducted by Verner's archaeological team between 2001 and 2004.[98] Verner had originally believed that the mortuary temple for this tomb was built on the western face of the pyramid, instead of the usual eastern one.[88] However, his later excavations definitively showed that the pyramid lacked a mortuary temple altogether. It was revealed that the monument consisted of two pyramid tombs placed adjacent to each other. Both tombs are oblong shaped, though the eastern tomb has larger dimensions than the western one. The tombs are oriented along a north-south axis. The owners and relations of these tombs remain unknown.[98] To the north-west of Nyuserre's pyramid is a tomb constructed for three of the ruler's children,[3] which was identified by Borchardt as the "Mastaba of the Princesses".[87]

Later history[edit]

Nyuserre was the last king to build his funerary monument at Abusir. His successors Menkauhor, Djedkare Isesi and Unas abandoned the site in favour of sites elsewhere.[29][99][100] Abusir ceased to be the royal necropolis.[101]

Funerary cult[edit]

The records of the Abusir papyri evidence that the funerary cults at Abusir remained active at least until the reign of Pepi II in the late Sixth Dynasty.[99] The continuation of these cults in the period following the Old Kingdom, however, is a matter of significant debate.[102] Verner believes that these cults ceased activities by the First Intermediate Period.[29] He proposes that the reunification of Egypt and subsequent stabilization at the end of the Eleventh Dynasty allowed the mortuary cults of Abusir to reform, but only temporarily before dying out permanently.[103] The Egyptologist Jaromír Malek draws the distinction between surviving estates, which form the economic foundation of the funerary cult, and survival of the cult itself and notes that reliable evidence for the continuation of these cults is absent, except for the cults of Teti and, possibly, Nyuserre.[104] The Egyptologist Ladislav Bareš suggests that only Nyuserre's cult persisted through the period, albeit in a very reduced form.[105] Professor Antonio Morales considers two forms of cultic activities, the official royal cult and popular veneration of the king, and believes that in the case of Nyuserre both forms of cultic worship survived the transition from the Old Kingdom, throughout First Intermediate Period, and into the early Middle Kingdom.[106] He argues that archaeological trace evidence, including from near Nyuserre's monument, support the survival of cultic activity honouring Nyuserre from the Fifth Dynasty to the Middle Kingdom.[107]

The tombs of two estate chiefs and overseers of the pyramid temple, Harshefhetep I and II,[l] may serve as evidence for the continuity for Nyuserre's cult. The tombs of these two officials are given plausible dates between the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties – the Herakleopolitan period[109] – or the Eleventh Dynasty.[110][111] If the two priests were from the Herakleopolitan period that would indicate that Nyuserre's funerary cult and the estates of his pyramid were functioning and intact during the First Intermediate Period.[112] Moreover, if this is the case, then Nyuserre's cult survived through to at least the Twelfth Dynasty, under the priest Inhetep.[110][m] The false door from the tomb of a female[114] priest or official, Satimpi,[n] found near the causeway, may be dated to the First Intermediate Period. The burial of priests in this period may be another indicator for the maintenance of the cult.[115]


From the end of Nyuserre's reign through to the Middle Kingdom, the areas around his monument's causeway and funerary temple[117] became home to other tombs.[99] Djedkare Isesi buried various members of his family and officials on the slope south-east of the mortuary temple.[101] The members of the royal family buried there are Khekeretnebty with her daughter Tisethor, Hedjetnebu, and Neserkauhor, along with the officials Mernefu, Idut and Khenit, and one unnamed tomb.[118] This cemetery gradually expanded east toward the edge of the Nile valley, reaching its peak in the Sixth Dynasty, but Abusir was being used only as a local cemetery by this time.[119] Many of the tombs discovered here belong to employees of the mortuary cult, such as Fetekta and Hetepi who administered the stores.[120]

The tomb of Inemakhet and Inhetep (I)[o] are south-east of the mortuary temple's entrance. From within the tomb, an inscription reading "honored before Osiris, lord of life, and Iny, lord of reverence" was discovered on some funerary equipment. Two other tombs bearing similar names, those of Inhetep (II) and Inhetepi,[p] are in the area.[121] The venerated status of Nyuserre is evidenced in the onomastica of the buried individuals who took their names from Nyuserre's birth name, Ini.[122][123]

To the north of Nyuserre's monument is a cemetery split into two regions. The northwestern sector contains tombs built at the end of Nyuserre's reign. The northeastern sector located just north of the mortuary temple, established between the First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom,[124][125] contains tombs of individuals associated with the funerary cult of the king.[124] Other tombs of the priests of Nyuserre's cult are concentrated around the eastern facade of the mortuary temple and at the upper end of the causeway.[105]

The monument site was used for occasional burials in the Late Period.[99] East of the mortuary temple, German Egyptologists unearthed thirty-one Greek burials dated between c. 375–350 BC, from 1901 to 1904.[126] This dating is in dispute with an alternate view being that the tombs were built after Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt. According to Verner, the construction of these tombs mark the end of the history of the Abusir cemetery.[127]


  1. ^ Proposed dates for Nyuserre's reign: c. 2474–2444 BC,[8] c. 2470–2440 BC,[3] c. 2453–2422 BC,[9] c. 2445–2421 BC,[10] c. 2420–2389 BC,[11] c. 2416–2388 BC,[12] c. 2359–2348 BC.[13]
  2. ^ The destruction of the substructure is so substantial that Borchardt assumed for "Schönheitsrücksichten" (aesthetic considerations) the existence of the "Vorkammer" (antechamber) to explain the change in direction of the corridor, noting that "Wie die Aufnahme zeigt, konnten wir von dieser Kammer nichts sehen" (as shown in the image, we could see nothing of this chamber).[49] The Abusir pyramids were entered for the last time at the end of the 1960s by Vito Maraglioglio and Celeste Rinaldi who refused to speak while conducting their work there out of a concern that the vibrations could cause a cave-in.[50] The blocks of the second layer of the ceiling were on average 9 m (30 ft) long, 2.5 m (8.2 ft) thick, and 1.75 m (5.7 ft) wide making them about 40 m3 (1,400 cu ft) and weighing over 90,000 kg (200,000 lb).[51]
  3. ^ Äegyptiches Museum und Papyrussammlung[66]
  4. ^ Sahure and Neferirkare's pyramids had a rectangular room preceding the offering hall, while in Neferefre's a small square chamber was discovered during excavations.[71]
  5. ^ Setib-tawy is Nyuserre's Horus name meaning "The favourite of the Two Lands".[74]
  6. ^ Setib-Nebty is Nyuserre's Nebty name translating to "The favourite of the Two Ladies".[74]
  7. ^ Bik-Nebu-Netjeri is Nyuserre's Golden Horus name meaning "The divine golden falcon".[74]
  8. ^ The mortuary temple functioned as a symbolic resting place for the pharaoh. Here, priests tending to cult would perform daily rituals and processions for the god king.[75] It was believed that when an individual died, their ka, ba and body became separated. The ka, which can be approximated to mean life force, was sustained with food, hence the food offerings in the offering hall. This room was the most significant in the temple.[76][77] The ba, which can be approximated to a soul, is the individual which travels into the afterlife in search of the ka. The body itself ceases to function, but, must not decay or else the ba will be unable to function.[78] In the afterlife, when the parts are reunited, the individual became an akh. The pyramid was an instrument which served the purpose of enabling this union to happen.[79] An akh is the approximate equivalent to a ghost in corporeal terms and represents the resurrected form of the king. It is free to roam the earth and the sky. As an akh, the king was second only to the gods. The purpose of the burial rites and offerings was to allow the akh to form.[80] The king would pass through the false door, have his meal, and then return to his tomb.[81] The ka itself was no longer in this world, and the food wasn't physically eaten, rather, the food was a token of a meal shared between the living in this world, and the deceased in the next.[82] The corridor leading to the chambers in the pyramid served twin functions: first, to allow passage into the pyramid for the burial and second to allow passage back out of the pyramid for the king. The corridor was ascending, for the king, into the region of the sky in the north referred to as "the Imperishable Ones". This was the king's destination, and the place where he would be united with the goddess of the sky Nut. The goddess would eat the Sun at sunset and rebirth it at sunrise. She would, effectively, do the same with the king transforming him into a sun god.[83][84] Because of this, the complex took on an east-west orientation.[85]
  9. ^ "Sahure's sacrifice field" is the name of Sahure's sun temple. Obelisks were the architectonic midpoints of sun temples, but not mortuary temples. The discovery of an obelisk in Nyuserre's pyramid complex is unique.[89]
  10. ^ Ptahshepses' had been the overseer of all the works in the royal necropolis of Abusir. He had his own tomb constructed at a point near equidistant from Sahure's and Nyuserre's pyramids, a deliberate selection.[94]
  11. ^ A procedure to remove the brain through the nasal septum.[88]
  12. ^ transl. Ḥry–š.f–ḥtp[108]
  13. ^ transl. 'In–ḥtp[113]
  14. ^ transl. Sʒ.t–jmpj[115] or Sʒt-impy[116]
  15. ^ transl. Jn–m–ʒḫ.t and Jn-ḥtp[121]
  16. ^ transl. Jn–ḥtp and Jn–ḥtpj[121]


  1. ^ Borchardt 1907, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Verner 1994, p. 80.
  3. ^ a b c Altenmüller 2001, p. 599.
  4. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 116.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Lehner 2008, p. 149.
  6. ^ a b Bárta 2005, p. 180.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lehner 2008, p. 148.
  8. ^ a b c Verner 2001c, p. 589.
  9. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 30.
  10. ^ Shaw 2003, p. 482.
  11. ^ Allen et al. 1999, p. xx.
  12. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 8.
  13. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 288.
  14. ^ Arnold 2003, p. 3.
  15. ^ Verner 2001b, p. 5.
  16. ^ a b Bárta 2017, p. 6.
  17. ^ a b Verner 2001b, p. 6.
  18. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 302.
  19. ^ Dodson 2016, p. 27.
  20. ^ Bárta 2015, Abusir in the Third Millenium BC.
  21. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 77 & 79–80.
  22. ^ Verner 2002, p. 54.
  23. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 145.
  24. ^ Bárta 2017, p. 8.
  25. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 79–80.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Verner 2001d, p. 311.
  27. ^ Verner 2001a, p. 396.
  28. ^ a b c Edwards 1999, p. 98.
  29. ^ a b c d e Verner 2001b, p. 7.
  30. ^ Borchardt 1907, Titelblatt & Inhaltsverzeichnis.
  31. ^ Krejčí 2015, Térenní projekty: Abúsír.
  32. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 293.
  33. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 146.
  34. ^ Bárta 2005, p. 178.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Verner 2001d, p. 312.
  36. ^ a b c Verner 2001d, p. 314.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h Verner 2001d, p. 318.
  38. ^ Gros de Beler 2000, p. 119.
  39. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 149 image.
  40. ^ Bard 2015, General statement about pyramids on p. 145.
  41. ^ a b Verner 1994, p. 73 & 139–140.
  42. ^ Verner 1994, p. 89.
  43. ^ Edwards 1975, p. 178.
  44. ^ a b Verner 2001d, pp. 312–313.
  45. ^ a b c Borchardt 1907, p. 96.
  46. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 144.
  47. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 80–81.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g Verner 2001d, p. 313.
  49. ^ Borchardt 1907, pp. 101–102.
  50. ^ Verner 1994, p. 81.
  51. ^ Borchardt 1907, p. 103.
  52. ^ a b c d Verner 2001d, p. 319.
  53. ^ a b c d e Arnold 2003, p. 163.
  54. ^ a b c d e Edwards 1975, p. 187.
  55. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 149–150.
  56. ^ Wilkinson 2000, p. 123.
  57. ^ a b Verner 1994, pp. 81–82.
  58. ^ a b Verner 2001d, p. 464.
  59. ^ Borchardt 1907, pp. 35 & Blatt 6.
  60. ^ Borchardt 1907, p. Blatt 6.
  61. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 318–319.
  62. ^ Allen et al. 1999, p. 92.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g Verner 1994, p. 82.
  64. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 80 & 82.
  65. ^ a b c d e f Verner 2001d, p. 315.
  66. ^ a b Allen et al. 1999, pp. 91–92.
  67. ^ Grimal 1992, pp. 347–348 & 394.
  68. ^ a b c d e f g Verner 2001d, p. 316.
  69. ^ a b c Verner 2001d, pp. 315–316.
  70. ^ a b Megahed 2016, p. 240.
  71. ^ Megahed 2016, pp. 240–241.
  72. ^ a b c Megahed 2016, p. 241.
  73. ^ Megahed 2016, pp. 241–242.
  74. ^ a b c Leprohon 2013, p. 40.
  75. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 18.
  76. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 23 & 28.
  77. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 52.
  78. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 23.
  79. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 20.
  80. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 24.
  81. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 52–53.
  82. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 28.
  83. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 28–29.
  84. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 36.
  85. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 46.
  86. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 82–83.
  87. ^ a b c Verner 1994, p. 83.
  88. ^ a b c d e f g h i Verner 2001d, p. 321.
  89. ^ a b Verner 2001d, pp. 316 & 318.
  90. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 53.
  91. ^ a b Arnold 2005, p. 70.
  92. ^ Strouhal, Černý & Vyhnánek 2000, p. 543.
  93. ^ a b Verner 2001d, pp. 320–321.
  94. ^ Verner 1994, p. 178.
  95. ^ a b Strouhal, Černý & Vyhnánek 2000, p. 544.
  96. ^ Strouhal, Černý & Vyhnánek 2000, p. 550.
  97. ^ Strouhal, Černý & Vyhnánek 2000, p. 549.
  98. ^ a b Verner 2007, p. 8.
  99. ^ a b c d Goelet 1999, p. 87.
  100. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 19, 80 & 86.
  101. ^ a b Verner 1994, p. 86.
  102. ^ Morales 2006, p. 311.
  103. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 90–92.
  104. ^ Malek 2000, pp. 244–245.
  105. ^ a b Bareš 2000, p. 5.
  106. ^ Morales 2006, pp. 312–314.
  107. ^ Morales 2006, pp. 314–316.
  108. ^ Malek 2000, p. 245.
  109. ^ Bard 2015, p. 38.
  110. ^ a b Malek 2000, pp. 245–246 & 248.
  111. ^ Morales 2006, p. 317 & 336.
  112. ^ Morales 2006, p. 336.
  113. ^ Malek 2000, p. 248.
  114. ^ Daoud 2000, p. 203.
  115. ^ a b Morales 2006, p. 329.
  116. ^ Daoud 2000, p. 202.
  117. ^ Morales 2006, p. 324.
  118. ^ Verner 1994, p. 82 & 86.
  119. ^ Verner 1994, p. 87.
  120. ^ Verner 1994, pp. 87–89.
  121. ^ a b c Morales 2006, p. 326.
  122. ^ Daoud 2000, p. 199.
  123. ^ Morales 2006, p. 337.
  124. ^ a b Morales 2006, pp. 325–326.
  125. ^ Daoud 2000, pp. 194–195.
  126. ^ Smoláriková 2000, p. 68.
  127. ^ Verner 1994, p. 96.


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