Userkare (“strong is the ka of Re”) may have ruled for a short time between Teti and his son, Pepi I. His rule is recorded in the Abydos Kings list and there is a damaged space in the Turin list and on the South Saqqara Stone where one might expect to find his reign. However, the only definite references to his reign from contemporaneous sources are to be found on two cylinder seals bearing his name and titles and a copper mallet inscribed as the property of a crew of workmen referred to as “Beloved ones of Userkare”. Other attestations (a copper axe head found in Syria and an inscription at Wadi Hammamat) are less secure.
Some Egyptologists suggest Userkare was either a short lived but legitimate ruler, or that he shared the regency with Teti’s widow, Queen Iput on behalf of the young successor to the throne. Alternatively, it is suggested that Userkaf was the son of Khentkaus (wife of the Pharaoh Neferirkare) and may have usurped the throne briefly before Pepi I could take back control.
Manetho recorded that Teti was murdered by his bodyguards, and it is suggested by some that Userkare planned, or at least benefited, from his death. As Teti was not the son of his predecessor Unas it is further suggested that Userkare was from a less prominent branch of the fifth dynasty, giving him at least a tenuous a claim to the throne.
It is, however, notable that no details of his reign appear in the tombs of the high court officials who served under Teti or Pepi I. The viziers Inumin and Khentika make no reference to him at all. A guard named Mehi does seem to have had an inscription altered to replace the name of Teti with that of Userkare. However, he subsequently had it changed back!
Naguib Kanawati notes that this switch of allegiance, followed by a hasty u-turn, seems to have been an imprudent move by Mehi whose tomb was not completed and never used.
His tomb, which was most likely unfinished, has not been discovered. Vassil Dobrev considers that it may lie to the north-west of Pepi I’s mortuary temple where there is a large necropolis of sixth dynasty officials. Another possibility proposed by Giulio Magli (if perhaps a more fanciful one) is that his pyramid lies between that of Pepi I and Merenre Nemtyemsaf I, forming a diagonal reminiscent of the three pyramids of Giza.
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- Kanawati, Naguib (2003). Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unis to Pepy I
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- Malek, Jaromir (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 2008