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Neferirkare Kakai
Pyramid of Neferirkare at Abusir
Pyramid of Neferirkare at Abusir
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign 2474–2464 BC,  5th Dynasty
Predecessor Sahure
Successor Neferefre/
Father Userkaf(?)
Died 2465 BC
Monuments Pyramid at Abusir

Neferirkare Kakai was the third Pharaoh of Egypt during the Fifth dynasty. His prenomen, Neferirkare, means "Beautiful is the Soul of Ra."[1] His Horus name was Userkhau,[2] his Golden Horus name Sekhemunebu and his Nebti name Khaiemnebty. Neferirkare was probably the brother of pharaoh Sahure and the son of pharaoh Userkaf, the founder of the dynasty.



Little is known about his reign. Manetho's Kingslist assigns Neferirkare a reign of 20 Years but verso 5 of the damaged Palermo Stone preserves the Year of his 5th Cattle Count (Year 9 on a biannual count).[3] His following years were lost in the missing portion of the document. The Czech Egyptologist Miroslav Verner maintains, however, that it cannot have been as long as 20 years due to the unfinished state of Neferirkare's Abusir pyramid complex. Since the annals in the Palermo stone terminate around Neferirkare’s rule, some scholars have suggested that they might have been compiled during his reign. However, evidence from the other side of the stela implies that the document covered the reigns of later Old Kingdom kings. Hence, it is possible that these Annals were composed during the time of Nyuserre Ini who had a long reign and was the third successor to Neferirkare, after the ephemeral Shepseskare Isi and the short-lived Neferefre.

A decree, exempting personnel belonging to some temple from doing compulsory labour, shows that taxation was imposed on everybody as a general rule. An important cache of Old Kingdom administrative papyri was discovered from Neferirkare's mortuary temple between 1893 and 1907 which date primarily to the reigns of Djedkare Isesi and Unas. One of the documents is an actual letter by king Djedkare to the Temple Priests provisioning Neferirkare's funerary temple.

Mortuary complex

From the large size of his mortuary complex at Abusir, he was an important king, but since the Palermo stone fragments after his rule, little is actually known about his reign. The Pyramid of Neferirkare Kakai (burial place) of the king was initially designed as a 6-step pyramid 52 m high, but later it was extended to the form of a typical pyramid and it reached a height of 72 m. The mortuary complex is unfinished, and only part of the lower mortuary temple was completed before, it is supposed, the abandonment of the project.


Neferirkare's reign was unusual for the significant number of surviving contemporary records which describe him as a kind and gentle ruler. When Rawer, an elderly nobleman and royal courtier, was accidentally touched by the king's mace during a religious ceremony—a dangerous situation which could have caused this official's death or banishment from court since the Pharaoh was viewed as a living God in Old Kingdom mythology—Neferirkare quickly pardoned Rawer and requested that no harm should occur to the latter for the incident.[4] As Rawer gratefully states in an inscription from his Giza tomb:

Now the priest Rawer in his priestly robes was following the steps of the king in order to conduct the royal costume, when the sceptre in the king's hand struck the priest Rawer's foot. The king said, "You are safe". So the king said, and then, "It is the king's wish that he be perfectly safe, since I have not struck at him. For he is more worthy before the king than any man."[5]

Similarly, Neferirkare gave the Priest of Ptah Ptahshepses the unprecedented honor of kissing his feet.[6] Finally, when the Vizier Weshptah suffered a stroke while attending court, the king quickly summoned the palace's chief doctors to treat his dying Vizier. When Weshptah died, Neferirkare was reportedly inconsolable and retired to his personal quarters to mourn the loss of his friend.The king then ordered the purification of Weshptah's body in his presence and ordered an ebony coffin made for the deceased Vizier. Weshptah was buried with special endowments and rituals courtesy of Neferirkare.[7] The records of the king's actions are inscribed in Weshptah's tomb itself and emphasize Neferirkare's humanity towards his subjects.


  1. ^ Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994. p.61
  2. ^ I. E. S. Edwards, ed., The Cambridge Ancient History, part Two, ISBN 0521077915, p.183
  3. ^ Miroslav Verner, Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology, Archiv Orientální, Volume 69: 2001, p.393
  4. ^ Erik Hornung, "The Pharaoh" in Sergio Donadoni's The Egyptians, University of Chicago Press, 1997, p.288
  5. ^ Bill Manley, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt, Penguin Books, 1996., p.28
  6. ^ Miroslav Verner, The Pyramids, Grove Press. New York, 2001, p.269
  7. ^ J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, University of Chicago Press: Part One, (1906) pp.243-249


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