Userkaf was the founder of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. As per the Turin King List, he ruled Egypt only for seven years, from 2494 – 2487 B.C.. He is known to have started the new tradition of building royal necropolises called Sun temples at Abusir. He is also famous for constructing the Pyramid of Userkaf in Saqqara. His name meant 'His soul is strong' in old Egyptian, the word 'ka' meaning 'soul.' He succeeded Pharaoh Shepseskaf, the last king of the Fourth Dynasty. However, some Egyptologists believe that he grew up in Djedefptah, the son of Shepseskaf. Userkaf was succeeded by his son Sahure, whom some scholars believe to be his brother.
The Personal Life History of Userkaf
Userkaf's father remains unknown, but there have been disputes regarding his mother's name. According to some historians, Userkaf was a direct descendant of Djedefre, the third king of the Fourth Dynasty. These scholars believe that Neferhetepes, the daughter of Djedefre, was the mother of Userkaf. But, according to the ancient Egyptian story mentioned in the Westcar Papyrus, the mother of Userkaf was Raddjedet, whose connection with the royal family is still unknown. Some scholars even believe that Khentkaus I was the mother of Userkaf, the daughter of Menkaure. But most Egyptologists believe that Queen Khentkaus I was the wife of Userkaf, who married her before ascending the throne of Egypt. Sahure was known to be the only son of this ancient king, as the evidence of the presence of any other son is not yet found. Some historians believe that Neferirkare Kakai was also the son of Userkaf, though it is commonly accepted that he was the son of Sahure.
The buildings constructed by Userkaf
The Pyramid of Userkaf was built in 2490 B.C. in the royal necropolis of Saqqara, near the Step Pyramid of Djoser. But this building is almost destroyed and looks like a mound of sand among the desert sands. Hence, it is known as 'El-Haram el-Maharbish' in the local Egyptian language, which means the 'Heap of Stone.' It was discovered as an ancient royal pyramid in the 19th century by the archeologists of the European countries. This pyramid complex originally consisted of the Pharaoh's main pyramid, a mortuary temple, and a chapel for worship. A separate pyramid and mortuary temple was built for Queen Neferhetepes, which are now completely ruined. The design of this pyramid complex was almost the same as that of the pyramids built by the earlier kings of Egypt.
The Sun Temple of Abu Gorab was the most incredible architectural piece by Userkaf. Here, the king was depicted as the son of Re, the Sun God, instead of a mighty God himself. The setting sun was worshipped here, so the altar is arranged towards the west. The essential architectural characteristics of this Sun temple greatly resemble those seen in the pyramids of the Egyptian kings, as the Sun temple was comprised of a high temple, a valley temple, and a causeway, much like the pyramids.