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Abusir: granite head of Userkaf (5th Dynasty)

Head of Userkaf sculpted in red granite (Egyptian National Museum, Cairo)

Userkaf was the first pharoah of the Fifth Dynasty, ruling from 2494-2487 BC. His pyramid complex is at Saqqara. He was also the first king to build a sun temple, placed at Abu Gurab just north of Abusir. Abu Gurab is located near Sakhebu,  mentioned in various sources as a cult center of the sun god Ra.

The large Sun Temple of Userkaf, covering an area of 83 y 44 m, was first identified by Richard Lepsius in 1843-4 during the German Expedition. It was later studied by Ludwig Borchardt in the early 1900s, then fully excavated by Herbert Ricke in 1954. Royal annals state that Userkaf built the temple in the 5th year of his reign (2489 BC) and that he donated 24 royal domains for temple maintenance.

Userkaf's son and successor was Sahure, whose pyramid is at Abusir. This red granite head, now in the Egyptian National Museum, came from a monumental sculpture found at Saqqara. Other sculptures of him have been found at Abusir.


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