About Egyptian Pyramids

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston


>> Pyramid Index / South Saqqara


Name of The Pyramid of Djedkare at South Saqqara in Egypt


The pyramid of Djedkare in South Saqqara was originally called, "Beautiful is Djedkare". Never let it be said that pharaohs had no ego. Today it is called Haram el-Shawaf, meaning the "Sentinel Pyramid", and was probably built under the supervision of Snedjemib, an overseer of works. It was investigated by Perring, and shortly afterwards by the Lepsius expedition. In 1880, Maspero entered the substructure to look for pyramid texts. No systematic investigation of the pyramid was begun until the 20th century, when Abdel Salam Hussain and Alexandre Varille examined it, but unfortunately their work was interrupted and their work research lost. It seems just about the same thing happened when Fakhry investigated it during the 1950s. It was further investigated by Mahmud Abdel Razek in the 1980s but at this point damage has made it difficult to excavate. The valley temple has never bee researched at all.


Djedkare was Menkauhor's successor in the 5th Dynasty, and was either his son, his brother with Niuserre as both men's father, or his cousin (with Neferefre and Niuserre being their fathers).



Plan of The Pyramid of Djedkare at South Saqqara in Egypt

Ground Plan of The Pyramid of Djedkare at South Saqqara in Egypt


Varille began excavations of the valley temple but did not get very far. A later report by Leslie Grinsell and Fakhrey, however, indicate that they found the remains of walls with reliefs, along with a few pink granite blocks scattered about the houses in a nearby village. The ruins of the temple lie under the first houses of the village of Saqqara.


The causeway deviated slightly to the south from an east-west axis. Razek apparently discovered a necropolis for sacred snakes probably dating from the Late Period at the causeways upper end.


A view of The Pyramid of Djedkare at South Saqqara in Egypt


The desert in front of the pyramid's east side slopes sharply downward and therefore required much preparation before the mortuary temple's foundation could be laid. On the east side of the mortuary temple were two massive, tower like structures. They had inclined walls on a square ground plan, and there was probably a stairway leading to the roof of each. These reflect back to similar structures found in the Niuserre complex, and may be the forerunners of the massive pylons of later temples. The temple's entrance hall probably had a vaulted ceiling, judging from its massive walls. There were six storage annexes to either side of the entrance. The entrance was apparently paved in alabaster, which continued on into the temple courtyard. Like the courtyard in Sahure's mortuary temple, the courtyard has sixteen pink granite palm columns with the names and titles of Djedkare.


The inner sanctum of the mortuary temple was entered by way of a low staircase in the middle of the west wall of the transverse corridor between the outer public part of the mortuary temple and the inner, private section. A passage led through the five niche chapel and the antechamber to the offering hall. There were pink granite columns in the offering hall also bearing Djedkare's name and titles. Because this room was south of the temple's main axis, there is also an image of the Upper Egypt protector goddess, Nekhbet. Another interesting aspect of this room is that its western part was incorporated with the masonry of the pyramid. It would have also incorporated a false door so that the dead pharaoh could enter the room for his symbolic meals. On both sides of the inner part of the temple were a large number of storage rooms.


The mortuary temple is so damaged that little of the decorative program can be determined. Added to this was the loss of early records related to its investigation. However, fragments that have been found seem to indicate that the art was similar to other pyramids of a contemporary date, both in contest and workmanship.


The small cult pyramid near the southeast corner of the main pyramid is very similar to others built during this period. It was made of three cores, with a single underground chamber. The entrance was from the cult pyramids north wall, where a descending corridor lead to the subterranean chamber. The cult pyramid was enclosed within a small perimeter wall.


His pyramid originally had a core of six steps, but the upper three layers no longer exist. It was originally about 49 meters (163 feet) high. Today, the pyramid is only about 24 meters tall. Each is step approximately seven meters high, built up from fairly small, irregular pieces of limestone bound with clay mortar. Most of the casing is long gone, but some parts of the pyramid, such as the north side, are well preserved. Like Userkaf's pyramid at Saqqara, the entrance to this pyramid is on the north, but not on the pyramid face. Rather, it is located in the pavement of the pyramid's courtyard. A chapel once stood over the opening, but this structure is now all but gone. There is a small ceiling block with astronomical decorations near the entrance that probably was a part of this chapel.


The entrance corridor angles slightly east, but this is the last pyramid built with this arrangement. Descending, it leads first to a vestibule. Just on the other side of the vestibule was the barrier made of pink granite consisting of three huge plugging blocks. This corridor is still partially blocked by this barrier. Here the corridor is level and leads to an antechamber. However, just before the antechamber is another granite barrier. An unusual feature of this pyramid was a third room, or storage annex connected with the funerary apartment (the antechamber and burial chamber). This storage chamber had a flat ceiling, while the antechamber and burial chamber had a saddle ceiling, constructed of three superimposed layers of huge limestone blocks. The burial chamber once held a dark gray basalt sarcophagus in which the mummy's head was oriented to the north. In front of the sarcophagus on the southeast corner was a small, square hole for the alabaster canopic jars. However, of the sarcophagus and canopic jars, only fragments were found, along with the mummified body of a man thought to be around 50 years old. The mummy is believed to be that of Djedkare, and a papyri recently discovered in Neferefre's mortuary temple in Abusir shows Djedkare reigned for some thirty years, confirming he would have been of advanced age.


While the grounds around this pyramid have not been fully explored, we do find burials in private tombs, as well as other structures. What is interesting, however, is that these burials may not hold Djedkare's relatives, or at least not all of them. His daughters, a son and some of his official's tombs were located south of Niuserre's causeway at Abusir. It also must be noted that the pyramid of an unknown queen thought to be that of Djedkare's, is almost integrated with Djedkare's pyramid.





  • Height: 52m

  • Base: 78.5m

  • Slope: 52o

  • Height of Cult Pyramid: 16m

  • Base of Cult Pyramid: 15.5m

  • Slope of Cult Pyramid: 65o

  • Length of Causeway: 220m


See Also:








Reference Number

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Pyramids, The

Verner, Miroslav


Grove Press

ISBN 0-8021-1703-1