Neferirkare (Kakai)

Neferirkare's Horus Name: Userkhau

Neferirkare (“beautiful is the Soul of Re”) ruled during the fifth dynasty (Old Kingdom) of Ancient Egypt. He was the first king to have his birth-name (Kakai) made part of the official titulary adding a second cartouche, a custom maintained by later pharaohs.

He was originally thought to be the son of Userkaf and Khentkaus I and the brother of his predecessor, Sahure. Some experts even suggested that Neferirkare was not related to Sahure and usurped the throne after his death. However, reliefs from the causeway of Sahure’s pyramid have confirmed that Sahure was his father and his mother was probably Queen Meretnebty.

Vase featuring the titles of Neferirkare (copyright neithsabes)

Neferirkare married Khentkaus II (who probably fathered the future pharaohs Neferefre and Niuserre). Despite his long reign (Manetho credits him with twenty years) we know little about Neferirkare, partly because the Palermo Stone cuts off at year five and the relevant section of the Turin list has been destroyed. Verner has questioned whether he could have reigned for as long as twenty years, as his pyramid was unfinished.

We know that he completed (or modified) Userkaf’s solar-temple at Abusir and constructed his own solar-temple (called Set-ib-Re) but it has never been found. His pyramid complex remained unfinished, and his son Niuserre later incorporated the valley temple and causeway into his own pyramid complex.

Titles of Neferirkare (copyright neithsabes)

A limestone block found in the village of Abusir, but thought to have originally come from Neferirkare’s mortuary temple, depicts Neferirkare with his wife Khentkaus II and his eldest son, Neferre. It is generally agreed that Neferre (or Ranefer, “Re is beautiful”) changed his name and is one and the same as the pharaoh Neferefre (Raneferef, “Re is his beauty”).

Over three hundred scraps of papyrus (the “Abusir Papyrus”) were discovered in Neferirkare’s pyramid complex at Abusir. The ink written documents are the earliest known examples of hieratic script, a cursive form of hieroglyphics. The archive details the complex administration of the temple, including rotas for all temple duties, records of monthly inspections and audits, and maintenance records.

Pharaoh’s Names

  • Manetho; Nefercheres
  • Horus Name; Userkhau (above)
Nebty: Userkhau

Nebty: Userkhau (the strong one who appears)

Nebty: khaem

Nebty: khaem (the one who appears)

Golden Horus: Sekhemw - The golden powers

Golden Horus: sekhemw (The golden powers)

Prenomen: Neferirkare

Prenomen: Neferirkare

Nomen: Kakai, Abydos Kings List

Nomen: Kakai (Abydos Kings List)

  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Clayton, Peter A (1994) Chronicle of the Pharaohs
  • Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
  • Goodenough, Simon (1997) Egyptian Mythology
  • Malek, J (2000) “The Old Kingdom”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
  • Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (1999) A History of Ancient Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2016