Egypt: Sahure, Second Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty

Sahure, Second Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

Sahure was the second ruler of ancient Egypt's 5th Dynasty. His birth name means "He who is Close to Re". His Horus name was Nebkhau, and we believed he ruled Egypt from around 2487 to 2475 BC. The Turin King List gives him a reign of twelve years.

His pyramid complex was the first built at Abusir (though Userkaf had probably already built his solar temple there) and marks the decline of pyramid building, both in the size and quality, though many of the reliefs are very well done. It provides us most of the information we know of this king. We believer that he was the first of two sons of queen Khentkaues I to hold the throne, and that his father was probably Userkaf. It is probable that Khentkaues I was the character of Redjedet in the Papyrus Westcar, who according to the magician Djedi, was destined to give birth to the children of Ra and the first kings of the 5th Dynasty. But if Khentkaues I was his mother, a scene in her tomb at Giza showing her with the royal uraeus and beard might indicate that she may have acted as a regent for Sahure.

Most foreign relations during the reign of Sahure were economic, rather than combative. In one scene, we find great ships with Egyptians and Asiatics on board. They are returning, we believe, from the port of Byblos in Lebanon with huge cedar trees. For this, we have collaborating evidence in the form of his name on a piece of thin, gold stamped to a chair, as well as other evidence of 5th Dynasty king's cartouches found in Lebanon on stone vessels. Other scenes in his temple depict what we are told are Syrian bears. We also have the first documented expedition to the land of Punt, which apparently yielded a quantity of myrrh, along with malachite and electrum, and because of this, Sahure is often credited with establishing an Egyptian navy. There is also scenes of a raid into Libya which yielded various livestock and showed the king smiting the local chieftains. The Palermo Stone also collaborates some of these events.

However, this same scene of the Libya attack was used two thousand years later in the mortuary temple of Pepy II and in a Kawa temple of Taharqa. The same names are quoted for the local chieftain. Therefore, we become somewhat suspicious of the possibility that Sahure was also copying an even earlier representation of this scene.

He apparently built a sun temple, as did most of the 5th Dynasty kings. Its name was Sekhet-re, meaning "the Field of Re", but so far its location is unknown. We know of his palace, called Uetjesneferusahure "Sahure's splendor sours up to heaven", from an inscription on ordinary tallow containers recently found in Neferefre's mortuary temple. It may have been located at Abusir as well. We also know that under Sahure, the turquoise quarries in the Sinai were worked (Probably at Wadi Maghara and Wadi Kharit, along with the diorite quarries in Nubia.

Above: Sahure's pyramid at Abusir

Sahure was further attested to by a statue now located in New York's Museum of Modern Art, in a biography found in the tombs of Perisen at Saqqara and on a false door of Niankhsakhment at Saqqara, and is also mentioned in the tombs of Sekhemkare and Nisutpunetjer at their tombs in Giza. Sahure was succeeded by his brother, Neferirkare, the first king known to have used a separate prenomen and nomen (names).






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