Nyuserre Ini

Nyuserre Ini (also Niuserre Ini or Neuserre Ini; in Greek known as Rathurês, ´Ραθούρης) was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He is credited with a reign of 24 to 35 years depending on the scholar, and likely lived in the second half of the 25th century BCE. His prenomen, Nyuserre, means "Possessed of Ra's Power". Nyuserre was the younger son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai by Queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre.

He is often thought to have succeeded his brother directly, but there is some evidence to suggest that Shepseskare reigned between the two, albeit only for a few weeks. Possibly, the latter had attempted to restore the lineage of Sahure who might have been his father, deposing the lineage of Neferirkare Kakai in the process, but was unsuccessful.


Contemporaneous sources

Nyuserre Ini is well attested in sources contemporaneous with his reign,[note 3] for example in the tombs of some of his contemporaries including Nyuserre's manicurists Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, the high officials Khufukhaf II, Ty, Rashepses, Neferefre-ankh and Khabawptah,[28][29] and the priests of his funerary cult Nimaatsed and Kaemnefert.[30][31]

Historical sources

Nyuserre is attested in three ancient Egyptian king lists, all dating to the New Kingdom. The earliest of these is the Karnak king list, which was commissioned by Thutmose III (fl. 1479–1425 BCE) to honor some of his forebears and where Nyuserre is mentioned on the fourth entry. Nyuserre's prenomen occupies the 30th entry of the Abydos King List, written nearly 200 yers later during the reign of Seti I (fl. 1290–1279 BCE). Nyuserre's prenomen was most likely also given on the Turin canon (third column, 22nd row), dating to the reign of Ramses II (fl. 1279–1213 BCE), but it has since been lost in a large lacuna affecting the document. Yet, fragments of his reign length are still visible on the papyrus, indicating a reign of somewhere between 11 and 34 years.[32] Nyuserre is the only Fifth Dynasty king absent from the Saqqara Tablet.[33]

In addition to these lists, Nyuserre was mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II (fl. 283–246 BC) by the Egyptian priest Manetho. Even though no copies of the text survive, it is known through later writings by Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius. In particular, Africanus relates that the Aegyptiaca mentioned a pharaoh ´Ραθούρης, that is "Rathurês", reigning for forty-four years as the sixth king of the Fifth Dynasty.[34] "Rathurês" is believed to be the Hellenized form of Nyuserre.[35]


Neferefre, Nyuserre's elder brother, died unexpectedly in his early twenties after a short reign

Accession to the throne

Two competing hypotheses exist in Egyptology to describe the succession of events running from the death of Neferirkare Kakai, third king of the Fifth Dynasty, to the coronation of Nyuserre Ini. Relying on historical sources, where Nyuserre is said to have directly succeeded Neferefre, many Egyptologists such as Jürgen von Beckerath and Hartwig Altenmüller have traditionally believed[36] that Nyuserre became pharaoh after the unexpected death of his father who, in this scenario, would be Neferefre.[3][37] The latter would himself be the successor of pharaoh Shepseskare, credited with seven years of reign in Manetho's Aegyptiaca after Neferirkare Kakai.[34]

This view was challenged, most notably by Miroslav Verner, following excavations of the Abusir necropolis, which indicated that Neferefre's purported predecessor Shepseskare, had most likely reigned for only a few months between Neferefre and Nyuserre Ini. In Verner's hypothesis, Neferefre and Nyuserre were brothers, both sons of Neferirkare Kakai. Neferefre succeeded his father at his death but died unexpectedly after a very short reign of about 2 years. Nyuserre was then still a child and his claim to the throne faced a serious challenge in the person of his possible uncle Shepseskare who, in this hypothesis, was a son of Sahure. Shepseskare apparently succeeded in seizing the crown for a short time. Verner then proposes that Nyuserre ultimately prevailed because he was backed by powerful high officials and members of the royal family,[38] foremost among whom were his mother Khentkaus II and Ptahshepses.[1] This hypothesis is motivated by the exalted positions that both individuals seem to have enjoyed. Notably, the mortuary temple of Khentkaus II was designed to imitate that of a king, for example by incorporating its own satellite pyramid and having an alignment on an east-west axis.[39] These features, together with Khentkaus II peculiar title of Mwt Nisw bity Nisw bity, originally translated by "Mother of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt [exercising office as] the king of Upper and Lower Egypt" led some scholars, including Verner, to propose that she might have reigned in her own right.[39] This hypothesis is now deemed unlikely, in particular her title is now translated as "Mother of two kings of Upper and Lower Egypt". As for Ptashepses he became vizier under Nyuserre,[40] married this pharaoh's daughter, received the honorary title of "King's son"[note 4] and was burried in one of the largest private tombs in Egypt.[42] According to Verner and Nigel Strudwick, the architectural elements[43] of this tomb such as its lotus-bud columns similar to those used in Nyuserre's own temple, boat pits and layout of the burial chamber,[44][42] demonstrate "the favor shown by that king to his son-in-law".[44][42][45]

Length of reign

Fragmentary statue of a Fifth Dynasty king, likely Nyuserre[24]

Historical and archaeological evidences

Manetho's Aegyptiaca related that Nyuserre reigned for 44 years, a figure which is rejected by Egyptologists owing to the lack of archaeological evidence for such a long reign. The entry of the Turin canon pertaining to Nyuserre is damaged and the duration of his rule is difficult to read with certainty. Following Alan Gardiner's 1959 study of the canon,[46] scholars such as Nigel Strudwick traditionally credited Nyuserre with 11[14] years of reign.[note 5] Gardiner's reading of the canon was then reevaluated from facsimiles, yielding a 24 to 25 years figure for Nyuserre's reign. This duration is accepted by some Egyptologists including Nicolas Grimal.[47] More recent analyses of the original papyrus conducted by Kim Ryholt have shown however that Nyuserre's reign length as reported on the document could equally be 11–14, 21–24, or 31–34 years.[note 6][32] The later figure is now favored by Egyptologists including Strudwick and Verner.[48]

The hypothesis that Nyuserre reigned in excess of 20 years is supported by archaeological evidences, which point to a fairly long reign for him. Verner, who has been excavating the Abusir necropolis on behalf of the University of Prague since 1976 points in particular to Nyuserre's numerous constructions, amounting to no less than three new pyramids, the completion of a further three, the construction of the largest sun temple built during the Old Kingdom period and further smaller works such as the refurbishment of Menkaure's mortuary complex.[note 7]

Nyuserre's Sed festival

Relief of Nyuserre celebrating his Sed festival, Egyptian Museum of Berlin

The hypothesis of a reign more than three decades long for Nyuserre Ini is supported, albeit indirectly, by reliefs discovered in his solar temple showing him participating in a Sed festival. This festival was meant to rejuvenate the king and was normally first celebrated after 30 years of rule. Mere depictions of the festival do not necessarily imply a long reign however, [note 8] for example a relief showing pharaoh Sahure in the tunic of the Sed festival has been found in his mortuary temple,[49][50] although both historical sources and archeological evidence agree that he ruled Egypt for less than 14 full years.[51][11][12] Indeed, representations of the festival were part of the typical decorations of temples associated to the king during the Old Kingdom period.[16] Yet, in Nyuserre's case, these reliefs taken together with the archaeological evidences have convinced most Egyptologists that Nyuserre enjoyed over 30 years of reign and that "the sed-festival scenes from Abu Gurab [most probably reflect] the 30th jubilee of the king's accession to the throne"[16]

Interestingly, the reliefs of Nyuserre Sed festival offer a rare glimpse into the ritual acts actually carried out during this ceremony. In particular, the festival seems to have involved a procession in a bark over a body of water,[52][53] a detail either not represented or lost in all subsequent representations of the festival until the reign of Amenhotep III (fl. c. 1390–1350 BCE), over 1000 years after Nyuserre's lifetime.[53]

Domestic activities

Ptahshepses, vizier and son in law of Nyuserre Ini

The reign of Nyuserre Ini witnessed the unabated growth of the priesthood and state bureaucracy,[1][54] a phenomenon which had started in the early Fifth Dynasty[55] in particular under pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai.[56] Changes in the Egyptian administration during this period are manifested by a multiplication in the number of titles, reflecting the creation of new administrative offices.[56] These in turn, reflect a movement to better organise the administration of the state with the new titles corresponding to charges attached to very specific duties.[56]

In conjunction with the inflation of the bureaucracy was a slow weakening of the power of the king,[note 9] although he remained a living god in the eyes of his subjects.[1] This situation went unchecked until the reign of Nyuserre's second successor Djedkare Isesi, who implemented the first comprehensive reforms of the system of ranking titles and thus of the administration.[61]

Evidence of administrative activities during Nyuserre's reign is found in the fact that the Old Kingdom royal annals, of which only fragments subsist, are believed to have been composed during his reign. The annals, which give details on the reigns of kings from the First Dynasty onwards on a year-by-year basis,[62] are damaged and breaks off following the reign of Neferirkare Kakai.

During the Old Kingdom period, the Egyptian state was divided administratively into provinces, called nomes. These provinces were recognized as such since the time of Djoser, founder of the Third Dynasty, and probably harked back to the predynatic kingdoms of the Nile valley.[63] Yet, the earliest topographical lists of the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt date back to the reign of Nyuserre,[63] a procession of personified nomes being depicted on reliefs from Nyuserre's sun temple.[64] It is also around this time that the nomarchs started to reside in their province rather than at the royal residence.[55]

Activities outside Egypt

Trade and mining expeditions

Relief of Nyuserre from the Wadi Maghareh

To the North of Egypt, trade contacts with Byblos on the Levantine coast, which existed during much of the Fifth Dynasty, were seemingly active during Nyuserre's reign, as suggested by a fragment of cylindrical alabaster vase bearing his name uncovered in the city.[65][66]

East of Egypt, Nyuserre commissioned at least one expedition to the Wadi Maghareh in Sinai,[67] where mines of copper and turquoise were exploited during much of the Old Kingdom period.[68] This expedition left a large rock relief, now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.[note 10] The relief shows Nyuserre "smiting the Bedouins[note 11] of all foreign lands, the great god, lord of the two lands".[69] At the right of Nyuserre is a dedication to "Thoth, lord of the foreign lands, who has made pure libations".[69] This expedition departed Egypt from the port of Ain Sukhna, on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez, as revealed by seal impressions bearing Nyuserre's name found on the site.[70] The port comprised large galleries carved into the sandstone serving as living quarters and storage places. The wall of one such gallery was inscribed with a text in ink mentioning the expedition to Sinai and dating it to the year of the second cattle count–possibly Nyuserre's fourth year on the throne.[71]

To the extreme south of Egypt, in Lower Nubia, Nyuserre exploited the gneiss quarries of Gebel el-Asr near Aswan, which provided material for buildings and statues,[note 12] as shown by a fragmentary stone stela inscribed with Nyuserre's Horus name. The stela was indeed discovered in a settlement adjacent to the quarries.[72]

Military activity

There is little evidence for military action during Nyuserre's reign. The Egyptologist William C. Hayes proposed that a few fragmentary limestone statues of kneeling and bound prisoners of war discovered in his mortuary temple[73][74] possibly attest to punitive raids in Libya to the west or the Sinai and Palestine to the East during his reign.[75] The art historian William Stevenson Smith has pointed out however, that such statues were customary[73] elements of the decoration of royal temples and mastabas, suggesting that they may not be immediately related to actual military campaigns. Indeed, similar statues as well as small wooden figures of kneeling captives were discovered in the mortuary complexes of Neferefre,[76] Djedkare Isesi,[77] Unas,[78] Teti,[79] Pepi I[80] and Pepi II[73] as well as in the tomb of vizier Senedjemib Mehi.[81][82]

Main building activities

When he ascended the throne Nyuserre Ini faced an enormous task: his father, mother and brother had all left their pyramids unfinished,[83] his father's sun temple was unfinished too and he had to construct his own pyramid as well as those of his queens. Nyuserre met this challenge by placing his pyramid in the immediate vicinity of the unfinished ones, on the North-Eastern corner of that of Neferirkare, thereby concentrating all pyramid building activities in Abusir south.[83] This however, meant that his pyramid was out of the alignement formed by the preceding ones and changed the layout of his mortuary complex.

Pyramid of Nyuserre

The pyramid of Nyuserre Ini in Abusir

Nyuserre built a pyramid for himself at Abusir named Mensut Nyuserre,[note 13] which is variously translated as "Established are the places of Nyuserre"[85] and "The places of Nyuserre endure".[3] The pyramid is located between those of pharaohs Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai. Once completed its height reached around 52 m (171 ft), with a base of 78.8 m (259 ft) along each side,[86] a slope of 52 degrees and a total volume of stone circa 112,000 m3 (4,000,000 cu ft). This means that in spite of having enjoyed one of the longest reigns of the Fifth Dynasty, Nyuserre's pyramid was smaller than that of his father and closer in size to that of his grandfather Sahure.[87] It was originally covered with fine limestone as shown by some remaining casing stones. The burial chamber and antechamber were both lined with fine limestone as well and roofed with three tiers of gigantic limestone beams 10 m (33 ft) long weighing 90 tons each.[87] His queen, Reptynub, was also buried nearby.

The pyramid complex is unusual as the outer sections of the mortuary temple are offset to the south of the eastern side of the complex so that Nyuserre could intercept and complete his father's causeway. Another unusual aspect is the use of two rectangular structures on the eastern corners. Both Lehner and Verner think these may be the precursor of the pylon.[88]

Pyramid Lepsius XXIV

Ruins of the pyramid Lepsius XXIV
Main article: Lepsius XXIV

South of the pyramid of his mother Khentkaus II, Nyuserre built a pyramid for a queen, either a consort of himself or of his brother Neferefre.[89] The pyramid is known today as Lepsius XXIV, after its number in Lepsius' pioneering list of pyramids.[90] It originally reached circa 27 m (89 ft) high with a base of 31.5 m (103 ft), its core made of limestone and clay mortar organized in horizontal and accretion layers.[91]

Today the pyramid is heavily ruined, its outer casing of fine white limestone long gone, and stands only 5 m (16 ft) tall. While graffiti left by the builders indicate that the construction of this pyramid dates to the later part of Nyuserre's reign and took place under the direction of vizier Ptahshepses,[91] the name of the queen to whom the pyramid was destined is lost.[90] Reptynub has been cited as a likely candidate. In the burial chamber, which is reached via a straight north-south passageway, the broken up mummy of a young woman was discovered. She stood around 160 cm (5.2 ft) tall and died between 21 and 23 years of age.[92] It is unclear whether the mummy is that of the original owner of the pyramid or dates to a later period as the mummification method employed could suggest.[91] Excavations of the burial chamber yielded fragments of a pink granite sarcophagus as well as pieces of large calcite canopic jars and smaller funerary equipment.[91]

On the eastern side of the pyramid, the ruins of a small satellite pyramid as well as of a mortuary temple have been discovered. Both have been heavily affected by stone robbing, which started as early as the New Kingdom period and reached a climax during the Saite (664–525 BCE) and Persian (525–402 BCE) periods, making a modern reconstruction of the temple layout impossible.[91]

Lepsius XXV

Ruins of Lepsius XXV in Abusir
Main article: Double Pyramid

The ruins known today as Lepsius XXV constitute not one but two large adjacent tombs built as a single monument on the south-eastern edge of the Abusir necropolis. The peculiar construction, which Verner has called a "double pyramid", was known to Ancient Egyptians as "The Two are Vigilant".[note 14] The pyramids, both truncated, had rectangular bases of 27.7 m × 21.5 m (91 ft × 71 ft) for the eastern one and 21.7 m × 15.7 m (71 ft × 52 ft) for the western one, their walls reaching an inclination of about 78 degrees. This means that the construction resembled a pair of mastabas more than a couple of pyramids,[89] in fact so much so that the Egyptologist Dušan Magdolen proposed that Lepsius XXV is indeed a mastaba.[94]

A further peculiarity of the structure is the lack of associated mortuary temple.[89] Instead, the eastern tomb boasts a small offering chapel built of undecorated white limestone and situated within the tomb superstructure. Its ceiling reached 5 m (16 ft) high. Excavations revealed small pieces of papyrus inscribed with a list of offerings as well as fragments of an alabaster statue of a woman clothed in a simple robe. The burial chamber revealed scant remains of the female owner and a few pieces of funerary equipment.[89]

The western tomb was built subsequently to the eastern one and seems to have served to bury another woman. Builders graffiti undercovered during the Czech excavations demonstrate in all likelihood that the monument was built under Nyuserre, its owners possibly amongst the last members of the broader royal family to be buried in Abusir, the necropolis being abandoned by Nyuserre's successor Menkauhor.[89]

Sun Temple

Red granite entrance portico bearing Nyuserre's titulary, likely from his sun temple, Egyptian Museum

Nyuserre was the penultimate Egyptian pharaoh to build a sun temple, in doing he was following a tradition established by Userkaf reflecting the paramount importance of the cult of Ra during the Fifth Dynasty. Sun temples built during this period were meant to play for Re the same role that the pyramid played for the king, that is they were funerary temples for the sun god where his renewal and rejuvenation necessary to maintain the order of the world could take place.[95] Cults performed in the temple were thus primarily concerned with Re's creator function as well as his role as father of the king.[96] During his lifetime, the king would appoint his closest officials to the running of the temple. Given that they would benefit from the temple income, this was a way of ensuring their loyalty through the cult of Re. After the pharaoh's death, this income would be associated with the pyramid complex, enabling the funerary cult of the deceased ruler.[96]

Located in Abu Ghurob, North of Abusir, Nyuserre's sun temple is the largest and best preserved of its kind,[3] leading some Egyptologists such as von Beckerath to see Nyuserre's reign as the peak of cult of the solar cult,[97] an assertion which, according to Grimal, is exaggerated.[98] Called Shesepibre by the Ancient Egyptians,[note 15] which is variously translated as "Joy of the heart of Re",[3] "Re’s Favorite Place",[99] or "Place agreeable to Ra",[85] Nyuserre's sun temple is the only such structure built entirely of stone,[98][97] and consequently much of its architectural elements and reliefs have survived to this day.[98]

The temple was entered from the eastern side following a long causeway which departed from a valley temple located closer to the Nile. It comprised a large, open rectangular courtyard at the western end of which was a giant obelisk symbolizing the resting place of Ra. The obelisk is built on a pedestal with sloping sides and a square top, which was 20 m (66 ft) high and was constructed of red granite and limestone. The obelisk topping it was another 36 m (118 ft) high,[100] this time made of bricks.

An altar was located in the center of the courtyard, near the eastern side of the base of the obelisk, and can still be seen today. It was constructed from five large blocks of alabaster, arranged so as to read Ra Hotep, that is "May Ra be satisfied", from the four cardinal points.[99] The sign for Hotep also means "offering" or "offering table" in Ancient Egyptian, so that the altar was literally an offering table to Ra.[100] The associated temple was adorned with numerous reliefs showing Nyuserre's Sed festival as well as a "chapel of seasons", decorated with depictions of human activities throughout the seasons.

Completion and restoration works

Pyramid complex of Neferirkare

The pyramid of Neferirkare in Abusir

The pyramid of Neferirkare was planned to be significantly larger than that of his Fifth Dynasty predecessors, with a square base side of 105 m (344 ft) and a height of 72 m (236 ft). Although well underway at the death of the pharaoh, the pyramid was lacking its external limestone cladding and the accompanying mortuary temple still had to be built. Continuing the works undertaken by his brother Neferefre, who had started covering the pyramid surface with limestone and build the foundation of a stone temple on the pyramid eastern side, Nyuserre completed the pyramid complex of their father.[101]

However, Nyuserre did so more parsimoniously than his brother. He abandonned the task of covering the pyramid altogether and finished the mortuary temple with cheaper materials than normally used for such buildings. Its walls were made of mud-bricks rather than limestone and its floor was of beaten clay.[102] The outer part of the temple was built to comprise a column portico and a pillared court, all columns being made of wood rather than the usual granite.[102] In addition, the temple and pyramid were surrounded by a brick wall. Likely for reasons of economy, the causeway leading to the mortuary temple at the foot of the pyramid was never built, no satellite pyramid was added to the mortuary complex, and the valley temple was left unfinished.[103] Consequently, the priest of the mortuary cult of Neferirkare lived on the temple premises, in dwellings of mud-bricks and rushes, rather than in the pyramid town closer to the Nile valley.[103]

Pyramid complex of Khentkaus II

In the foreground, Khentkaus' ruined mortuary temple

Nyuserre Ini expanded much effort in the completion of the pyramid and mortuary temple of his mother Khentkaus II,[104] restarting the building works on the then still uncased pyramid core[105] after a 12 years-long interruption[106] which had started on Neferirkare's tenth year,[39] and thus realising the majority of the construction.[107][108] The motivation for this might have been to legitimate his rule[109] following the premature death of Neferefre and the possible challenge by Shepseskare.

The pyramid is located in Abusir, next to that of Neferikare Kakai, who was Khentkaus' husband and under whose reign the construction of Khentkaus's complex had started.[104] Once completed, the pyramid stood 17 m (56 ft) high, with a side of 25 m (82 ft) at the base and a slope of 52 degrees.[39] Its sepulchral chamber likely housed a sarcophagus of red granite. Today, the pyramid is a 4 m (13 ft) high mound of rubble.[106]

The mortuary temple of the queen, at the eastern foot of the pyramid,[106] was the object of successive completion works during Nyuserre's reign, the earliest one used stone while the latest used only mudbrick.[104] Completely ruined today, the temple seems to have been designed in imitation to the mortuary temples of kings[108] incorporating, for example, a satellite pyramid[110] and being aligned on an east-west axis.[39] The temple was administratively at least partially independent[111] from the temple of Neferirkare Kakai with which it nonetheless shared some religious services,[112] and continued to function until the end of the Sixth Dynasty, some 300 years after Khentkaus' lifetime.[39]

Valley Temple of Menkaure

Main article: Pyramid of Menkaure

Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that Nyuserre Ini undertook building works on the valley temple of Menkaure, as witness by numerous seal impressions bearing his serekh discovered on the site.[113][13] In doing so he broke a long period from the reign of Shepseskaf until his reign and during which the Giza necropolis was not the object of royal attention.[13] Indeed, beyond Menkaure's valley temple, Nyuserre apparently also took a wider interest into the administration of the pyramid town of Khafra and revived the cult of both Menkaure and queen Khentkaus I.[114] According to Mark Lehner, this queen, who bore the same name as Nyuserre's mother and like his mother bore two pharaohs, provided Nyuserre with a genealogical link relating him to his Fourth Dynasty forebears.[115] The Egyptologist John Nolan believes that the mirroring position and names of both Khentkaus queens was emphasized so that Nyuserre could legimitize his rule after the troubled times surrounding Neferefre's death.[116]

In the valley temple of Menkaure, Nyuserre extended the eastern annex, where he added two sets of alabaster columns,[113] rebuilt the main entrance and refurbished the limestone causeway leading from the valley temple to the high temple.[117] There, Mark Lehner suggested that Nyuserre expanded the inner part of the high temple,[118][119] notably adding to it a square antechamber with a single central pillar.[113]

Temple of Satet

Main article: Temple of Satet

A temple dedicated to the goddess Satet, personification of the Nile floods, stood on the island of Elephantine to the south of Egypt, since at least the late Predynastic Period around 3200 BC. The temple was enlarged and renovated several times from the Early Dynastic Period onwards and was again rebuilt in the course of the Fifth Dynasty, possibly during Nyuserre's reign. Indeed, a faience plaque bearing Nyuserre's name was discovered in a deposit of votive offerings located under the floor of the sanctuary.[120] Unfortunately, this deposit does not represent the original context of the plaque, which could have once adorned the walls of the temple or could equally have been deposed in a foundational offering made in anticipation of the temple reconstruction.[120]


Glazed relief showing Khentkaus II enthroned, Náprstek Museum

Parents and siblings

The identity of the mother of Nyuserre is known with certainty: it was queen Khentkaus II, in whose mortuary temple a fragmentary relief showing her facing her son Nyuserre and his family has been uncovered.[121][122][123] Remarkably, on this relief both Khentkaus and Nyuserre appear on the same scale.[122]

As a corollary, Nyuserre was almost certainly a son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai as Khentkaus II was Neferirkare's queen.[124] This filiation is also indicated by the location of Nyuserre's pyramid in Abusir next to that of Neferirkare, as well as his reuse for his own valley temple of materials from Neferikare's unfinished constructions.[125]

At least one sibling of Nyuserre is known with certainty: pharaoh Neferefre was Nyuserre's elder brother.[126] In addition, since the relation between Shepseskare and Nyuserre remains uncertain, it is possible that the two were brothers too, as suggested by Roth,[127] although the dominant hypothesis is that Shepseskare was a son of Sahure and hence Nyuserre's uncle. Finally, yet another brother,[128] possibly younger[129] than Nyuserre has also been proposed: Iryenre, a prince Iry-pat[note 16] whose filiation is suggested by the fact that his funerary cult was associated with that of his mother, both having taken place in the temple of Khentkaus II.[131][132] In addition, Nyuserre Ini most likely had a sister in the person of queen Khentkaus III. Indeed, Khentkaus, who is called "daughter of the king" and "king's mother" was very likely a daughter of Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, while her husband was equally likely her brother pharaoh Neferefre, next to whose pyramid her tomb is located.[133] Since she was the mother of a king, her son is probably the future pharaoh Menkauhor Kaiu, who would thus have succeeded his uncle.[134]


Entrance of the pyramid Lepsius XXIV, believed to belong to a consort of Nyuserre

Nyuserre Ini seems to have had at least two wives, as witnessed by two small pyramids located at the southern end of the pyramid field of Abusir.[90] Known today under the names of Lepsius XXIV and Lepsius XXV given to them in the pionneering list of pyramids established by Karl Richard Lepsius, both pyramids are heavily ruined and the names of their owners cannot be ascertained.[90] One of these two queens might have been Reptynub,[135] the only known consort of Nyuserre. Her existence and relation to Nyuserre is attested by a fragmentary alabaster statuette[136][note 17] of her discovered in the valley temple[137] of Nyuserre's pyramid complex.[138] In addition, pieces of relief from the tomb of vizier Ptahshepses give the titles of a queen and while her name is lost, these titles are the same as those that Reptynub bore,[139] leading Egyptologists to propose that these indeed refer to her.[140][138]

Nyuserre and Reptynub likely had a daughter in the person of princess Khamerernebty,[126][3][note 18] as suggested by her title of "King's daughter" as well as her marriage to the powerful vizier Ptahshepses.[141][142] This however remains conjectural until direct evidence of this filiation can be discovered.[139] In particular, the only known connection between Reptynub and Khamerernebty are the reliefs from Ptahshepses's tomb, the presence of which would seem natural[143][139] if Reptynub was indeed Khamerernebty's mother.[144] The Egyptologist Hartwig Altenmüller goes further and hypothesizes that Nyuserre had two more daughters, whom he believes were buried close to Nyuserre's pyramid.[3]


Nyuserre Ini is known to have had at least one son: his first born, whose name is lost, is indeed represented on several[145][146] relief fragments from the high temple of his pyramid complex.[138] Beyond the title of Iry-pat and "eldest king's son", he likely held two priestly titles: "lector priest"[147] and "priest of Min".[note 19][148] Although the name of Nyuserre's eldest son is lost, the Egyptologist Michel Baud observes that one relief fragment comprises a "r[e]", possibly part of the prince name. If so then he would be distinct from pharaoh Menkauhor Kaiu, Nyuserre's successor.[150]

The precise relationship between Nyuserre and Menkauhor remains indirect but evidence from tomb of Khentkaus III, discovered in 2015, favors the hypothesis that Menkauhor was a son of Neferefre and thus a nephew of Nyuserre rather than his own son. A seal bearing both Nyuserre's and Menkauhor's names has been uncovered in the mortuary complex of Nyuserre's mother Khentkaus II.[151][152] A further seal is believed to have both Nyuserre's and Djedkare's names on it, Djedkare Isesi being Nyuserre's second successor.[153][152] Taken together these seals reveal that, at the very least, Menkauhor and Djedkare did not perceive Nyuserre as an antagonist.


As pharaoh, Nyuserre Ini benefited from a funerary cult established at his death. Under the umbrella of the term "funerary cult" are regrouped various cultic activities of two different nature. First, there was an official cult taking place in the king's mortuary complex and which was provided for by agricultural domains established during Nyuserre's reign. This cult lasted at least until the 12th Dynasty during the Middle Kingdom period,[154] at which point is the lastest known mention of a priest serving in Nyuserre's funerary complex.[155] In later times, the official cult of Nyuserre was essentially reduced to a cult of the royal ancestor figure, manifested by the dedication of statues and the compilation of lists of kings to be honored such as the Karnak king list. Second, in parallel to that official cult was the more private cults of pious individuals venerating Nyuserre as a kind of "saint", referring to him using his birth name Iny.[156] Traces of this cult are more difficult to find but Nyuserre's deification is apparent in the onomastic of individuals, notably during the Middle Kingdom, whose name included "Iny", such as Inhotep, Inemsaf, Inankhu and many more.[157] The veneration of Nyuserre was not a local phenomenon restricted to the Abusir and its surroundings, rather it seems to have reached outside of Egypt proper, in Sinai, Byblos and Nubia, where fragments of statues, vessels and stelae bearing Nyuserre's name were discovered in cultic contexts.[158]

Interestingly, Nyuserre is with Unas, the only Fifth Dynasty king for whom there is evidence that both forms of cults continued uninterrupted during the First Intermediate Period, when the central authority of the pharaohs had broken down and the Egyptian state was in turmoil.[156]

Old Kingdom

Statuette of Nyuserre Ini of uncertain provenance, now in the Egyptian Museum[note 20]

During the Old Kingdom, provisions for the official funerary cult of Nyuserre Ini were produced in agricultural estates set up during his reign. The names of some of these estates have been found inscribed on the walls of tombs in Saqqara or in Nyuserre's sun temple. We may cite "The track of Ini"[note 21] and "The offerings of Ini".[note 22] In addition several Ḥwt domains of the king, which comprise the land holdings[162] of the mortuary temple of Nyuserre, are known: "Hathor wishes that Nyuserre lives",[note 23] "Horus wishes that Nyuserre lives",[note 24] "Bastet wishes that Nyuserre lives".[note 25]

Nyuserre furthermore received special attention by at least two pharaohs of the Old Kingdom: Djedkare Isesi, his second successor, either restored or completed his funerary temple,[note 26][167] and Pepi II Neferkare erected a door jamb bearing an inscription mentioning both his first Sed festival and Nyuserre in the latter's valley temple, a close association meant to "evidence the pretended association of the king with his forefather".[167] [note 27]

Middle Kingdom

During the Middle Kingdom period, pharaoh Senusret I undertook important works in the Karnak temple and seems to have dedicated a number of statues of Old Kingdom kings,[169] including at least one of Nyuserre,[note 28] to a cult of Amon and of the royal ancestors.[171] Another statue of Nyuserre discovered in a cachette in the ruins of the temple of Ptah in Memphis suggests that it was used for cultic purposes in the area from the Middle Kingdom until the late New Kingdom.[172]

New Kingdom

Restoration works of the sun temple of Nyuserre took place during the reign of Ramses II, under the impulse of prince Khaemweset.[173]

Third Intermediate Period

During the late Third Intermediate Period, Old Kingdom mortuary temples enjoyed a revival of interest due primarily to the achaizing style favored by the kings of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt (c. 760–656 BCE).[174] In particular, Taharqa (fl. c. 690–664 BCE) had reliefs from the temples of Sahure, Nyuserre and Pepi II reproduced in the temple of Amun of Gem-Aten in Karnak during his restoration works there.[174]

Notes, references and sources


  1. Proposed dates for Nyuserre's reign: 2474–2444 BCE,[1][2] 2470–2444 BCE,[3] 2465–2435 BCE,[4] 2453–2422 BCE,[5] 2453–2420 BCE,[6] 2445–2421 BCE,[7][8][9] 2445–2414 BCE,[10] 2420–2389 BCE,[11] 2402–2374 BCE,[12][13] 2398–2388 BCE.[14] In addition to these dates, in a 1978 work, the Egyptologist William C. Hayes credited Nyuserre with 30+2(?) years of reign, starting c. 2500 BCE.[15]
  2. The only certain absolute date known in relation with Nyuserre Ini comes from the Radiocarbon dating of a piece of wood discovered in the mastaba of Pthashepses, a vizier and son in law of Nyuserre. The wood was dated to 2465-2333 BCE.[16][17]
  3. Numerous artefacts and architectural elements either bearing Nyuserre's nomen, prenomen or serekh or simply contemporary with his reign have been unearthed. These are now scattered throughout the world in many museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,[23] Brooklyn Museum,[24] Metropolitan Museum of Art,[25] Petrie Museum,[26][27] the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.
  4. Verner proposes that he received the title upon marrying Nyuserre's daughter.[41]
  5. Between his 1985 book on the Egyptian administration and his 2005 book on Egyptian texts of the Old Kingdom, Nigel Strudwick has changed his opinion on Nyuserre's reign length and now credits him with 31 years on the throne.[10]
  6. Ryholt writes "Nyuserre's reign is damaged. There is a distinct trace of a 10, 20 or 30, followed by a stroke after which the papyrus breaks off. Accordingly, the possibilities are 11–14, 21–24, and 31–34 years [for Nyuserre], and not just 24 years" as is conventionally assumed.[32]
  7. Verner cites the "construction of his own pyramid complex and two small complexes Lepsius XXIV and XXV for his wives,... the completion of the unfinished funerary monuments of his direct relatives Neferirkara, Khentkaus II and Neferefra" to conclude that Nyuserre must have enjoyed a fairly long reign.
  8. Verner writes that such scenes are part of a standard decoration program for the funerary complex of the king: "Beautiful reliefs with the scenes of the sed-festival from this sun temple are occasionally considered as indirect evidence of a long reign for this king. Generally, the historical authenticity [...] of such reliefs is doubted since the sed-festival scenes very probably belonged in the Old Kingdom to the standard 'Bildprogram' of the royal funerary monuments.[16]
  9. Joyce Tyldesley instead sees the reign of Djedkare Isesi as the very beginning of the decline in the importance of the king,[57] given the decentralization stemming from his reforms. Yet for Nigel Strudwick and Klaus Baer, these reforms were precisely undertaken as a reaction to the rapid growth of the central administration[58] which had amassed too much political or economic power[59] in the eyes of the king.[60]
  10. Catalog number Cairo JE 38570.[69]
  11. Egyptian Mnṯjw
  12. The primary example of Old Kingdom gneiss statue is the Khafre Enthroned
  13. Transliteration Mn-s.wt-Nj-wsr-Rˁ.[84]
  14. Ancient Egyptian transliteration: rś mrwj, variously translated as "The two are watchful / vigilant / alert".[93]
  15. Transliteration Šsp-jb-Rˁ.[84]
  16. Often translated as "Hereditary prince" or "Hereditary noble" and more precisely "Concerned with the nobility", this title denotes a highly exalted position.[130]
  17. The statuette is now in the Egyptian Museum, Berlin, under the catalog number 17438.[137]
  18. Known more completely as Khamerernebty A in modern Egyptology, a denomination aimed at distinguishing her from later Khamerernebtys. For the same reason, Ptahshepses is known as Ptahshepses B.[141]
  19. In Egyptian sm3-Mnw, meaning Sema priest of Min.[148][149]
  20. Catalog number CG 38, the statue is 65 cm (26 in) high.[159]
  21. Ancient Egyptian Mṯn-Ini.[160]
  22. Ancient Egyptian Ḥtpwt-Ini[161]
  23. Ancient Egyptian ḥwt Ny-wsr-Rˁ mr Ḥwt-Ḥr ˁnḫ Ny-wsr-Rˁ.[163]
  24. Ancient Egyptian ḥwt Ny-wsr-Rˁ mr Ḥr ˁnḫ Ny-wsr-Rˁ.[164]
  25. Ancient Egyptian ḥwt Ny-wsr-Rˁ mr B3stt ˁnḫ Ny-wsr-Rˁ.[165]
  26. This is witnessed by a fragmentary inscription where Djedkare claims to have undertaken works in Nyuserre's temple. The block bearing the inscription is currently housed in the Berlin Museum, under the catalog No. 17933.[166]
  27. The fragmented jamb is now in the Berlin Museum, catalog No. 17934.[168]
  28. The statue in question is fragmentary, the lower half being now in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo under the catalog number CG 42003 and the upper half in the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, catalog no. 42.54.[170] In addition, the lower part of a black granite statue of Nyuserre, now in the British museum under the catalog number BM EA 870, may come from Karnak as well.[171]


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  2. Hawass & Senussi 2008, p. 10.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Altenmüller 2001, p. 599.
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica 2016.
  5. Clayton 1994, p. 60.
  6. Ziegler 2007, p. 215.
  7. Malek 2000, p. 100.
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  22. 1 2 Leprohon 2013, p. 40, see also footnote 58.
  23. Boston Museum of fine Arts 2016.
  24. 1 2 Brooklyn Museum 2016.
  25. Metropolitan Museum of Art 2016.
  26. Petrie Museum 2016, UC11103.
  27. Digital Egypt for Universities 2016.
  28. Mariette 1885, pp. 294–295.
  29. de Rougé 1918, p. 89.
  30. Mariette 1885, pp. 242–249.
  31. de Rougé 1918, p. 88.
  32. 1 2 3 Ryholt 1997, p. 13.
  33. Mariette 1864, p. 4, pl. 17.
  34. 1 2 Waddell 1971, p. 51.
  35. Verner 2001a, p. 401.
  36. Baker 2008, pp. 427–428.
  37. von Beckerath 1999, pp. 56–59.
  38. Verner 1980b, pp. 266–267.
  39. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lehner 2008, p. 146.
  40. Baud 1999b, p. 451.
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  42. 1 2 3 Strudwick 1985, p. 89.
  43. Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 180.
  44. 1 2 Verner 1976, p. 672.
  45. Brovarski 2001, p. 12.
  46. Gardiner 1959.
  47. Grimal 1992, p. 77.
  48. Hornung 2012, p. 484.
  49. Borchardt 1913, Blatt 45.
  50. Richter 2013.
  51. Rice 1999, p. 173.
  52. Bissing, Kees & Borchardt 1905–1928, vol. 2: pl. 15 p. 38; vol. 3: pl. 9 p. 193, pl. 10 pp 198 & 201–204.
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  57. Tyldesley 2005, p. 238.
  58. Strudwick 1985, p. 340.
  59. Strudwick 1985, p. 341.
  60. Baer 1960, p. 297 & 300.
  61. Strudwick 1985, p. 339.
  62. Wilkinson 2000, p. 1.
  63. 1 2 Grimal 1992, p. 58.
  64. Van de Mieroop 2011, p. 65.
  65. Dunand 1939, p. 280.
  66. Porter, Moss & Burney 1951, p. 390.
  67. Hayes 1978, p. 67.
  68. Mumford 1999, pp. 875–876.
  69. 1 2 3 Strudwick 2005, p. 136, text 58.
  70. Tallet 2015, p. 41 & 60.
  71. Tallet 2015, p. 39.
  72. Shaw 2003, p. 451.
  73. 1 2 3 Smith 1949, p. 58.
  74. Hayes 1978, p. 115.
  75. Hayes 1978, p. 66.
  76. Verner & Zemina 1994, pp. 146–147 & 148–149.
  77. Porter, Moss & Burney 1981, p. 424.
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  80. Porter, Moss & Burney 1981, p. 422.
  81. Smith 1949, pl. 126d & e; fig. 130b.
  82. Brovarski 2001, p. 158.
  83. 1 2 Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 141.
  84. 1 2 Zibelius-Chen 1978, pp. 97–98 & 232–234.
  85. 1 2 Grimal 1992, p. 116.
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  87. 1 2 Lehner 2008, p. 148.
  88. Verner 1997a, p. 316.
  89. 1 2 3 4 5 Verner 2007.
  90. 1 2 3 4 Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 83.
  91. 1 2 3 4 5 Krejčí 2005.
  92. Strouhal, Černý & Vyhnánek 2000, p. 549.
  93. Magdolen 2008, p. 211.
  94. Magdolen 2008, p. 205.
  95. Jiří, Vymazalová & Coppens 2010, p. 441.
  96. 1 2 Jiří, Vymazalová & Coppens 2010, p. 442.
  97. 1 2 von Beckerath 1982, pp. 517–518.
  98. 1 2 3 Grimal 1992, p. 78.
  99. 1 2 Goelet 1999, p. 86.
  100. 1 2 Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 110.
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  104. 1 2 3 Baud 1999b, p. 553.
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  108. 1 2 Baud 1999b, p. 554.
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  110. Verner, Posener-Kriéger & Jánosi 1995, pp. 143–163.
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  116. Nolan 2012, pp. 4-5.
  117. Lehner 2015, p. 306.
  118. Lehner et al. Olchowska, pp. 175-176.
  119. Lehner 2011, pp. 12-13.
  120. 1 2 Dreyer 1986, pp. 93 & 148-149, no. 426.
  121. Verner 1980a, p. 161, fig. 5.
  122. 1 2 Baud 1999a, p. 234.
  123. Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 126.
  124. Baud 1999a, p. 335.
  125. Grimal 1992, p. 77–78.
  126. 1 2 Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 64.
  127. Roth 2001, p. 106.
  128. Schmitz 1976, p. 29.
  129. Verner, Posener-Kriéger & Jánosi 1995, p. 171.
  130. Strudwick 2005, p. 27.
  131. Baud 1999b, p. 418, see n. 24.
  132. Verner, Posener-Kriéger & Jánosi 1995, p. 70.
  133. Verner 2014, p. 58.
  134. The Express Tribune 2015.
  135. Baud 1999b, p. 486.
  136. Borchardt 1907, p. 25, 109, fig. 88.
  137. 1 2 Baud 1999b, p. 485.
  138. 1 2 3 Baud 1999a, p. 233.
  139. 1 2 3 Callender 1992, p. 115.
  140. Verner 2001a, p. 403.
  141. 1 2 Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 68–69.
  142. Verner & Zemina 1994, p. 183.
  143. Vachala 1979, p. 176.
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  146. Baud 1999b, pp. 621–622.
  147. Baud 1999b, p. 621.
  148. 1 2 Baud 1999a, p. 297.
  149. Baud 1999b, p. 665.
  150. Baud 1999b, p. 622.
  151. Verner, Posener-Kriéger & Jánosi 1995, p. 121.
  152. 1 2 Baud 1999a, p. 9.
  153. Verner, Posener-Kriéger & Jánosi 1995, p. 129.
  154. Morales 2006, p. 314.
  155. Morales 2006, p. 340.
  156. 1 2 Morales 2006, p. 313.
  157. Morales 2006, p. 337.
  158. Morales 2006, pp. 339-340.
  159. Borchardt 1911, p. 36, num. 38.
  160. Brovarski 2001, p. 55.
  161. Brovarski 2001, p. 70.
  162. Brewer & Teeter 1999, p. 52.
  163. Jacquet-Gordon 1962, p. 157, num. 25.
  164. Jacquet-Gordon 1962, p. 156, num. 18.
  165. Jacquet-Gordon 1962, p. 155, num. 16.
  166. Borchardt 1907, pp. 157–158, fig. 131.
  167. 1 2 Morales 2006, p. 317.
  168. Borchardt 1907, pp. 158–159, fig. 132.
  169. Grimal 1992, p. 180.
  170. Bothmer 1974.
  171. 1 2 Morales 2006, p. 321.
  172. Morales 2006, p. 322.
  173. Wildung 1969, p. 170.
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Preceded by
Pharaoh of Egypt
Fifth dynasty
Succeeded by
Menkauhor Kaiu
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