Neferirkare Kakai

Neferirkare Kakai (known in Greek as Nefercherês, Νεφερχέρης) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the third king of the Fifth Dynasty. Neferirkare, the eldest son of Sahure with his consort Meretnebty, was known as Ranefer A before he came to the throne. He acceded the day after his father's death and reigned for eight to eleven years, sometime in the early to mid-25th century BCE. He was himself very likely succeeded by his eldest son, born of his queen Khentkaus II, the prince Ranefer B who would take the throne as king Neferefre. Neferirkare fathered another pharaoh, Nyuserre Ini, who took the throne after Neferefre's short reign and the brief rule of the poorly known Shepseskare.

Neferirkare was acknowledged by his contemporaries as a kind and benevolent ruler, intervening in favour of his courtiers after a mishap. His rule witnessed a growth in the number of administration and priesthood officials, who used their expanded wealth to build architecturally more sophisticated mastabas, where they recorded their biographies for the first time. Neferirkare was the last pharaoh to significantly modify the standard royal titulary, separating the nomen or birth name, from the prenomen or throne name. From his reign onwards, the former was written in a cartouche preceded by the "Son of Ra" epithet. His rule witnessed continuing trade relations with Nubia to the south and possibly with Byblos on the Levantine coast to the north.

Neferirkare started a pyramid for himself in the royal necropolis of Abusir, called Ba-Neferirkare meaning "Neferirkare is a Ba". It was initially planned to be a step pyramid, a form which had not been employed since the days of the Third Dynasty circa 120 years earlier. This plan was modified to transform the monument into a true pyramid, the largest in Abusir, which was never completed owing to the death of the king. In addition, Neferirkare built a temple to the sun god Ra called Setibre, that is "Site of the heart of Ra". Ancient sources state that it was the largest one built during the Fifth Dynasty but as of the early 21st century it has not yet been located.

After his death, Neferirkare benefited from a funerary cult taking place in his mortuary temple, which had been completed by his son Nyuserre Ini. This cult seems to have disappeared at the end of the Old Kingdom period, although it might have been revived during the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom, albeit in a very limited form. In all probability, it was also around this time that the story of the Papyrus Westcar was first written, a tale where Userkaf, Sahure and Neferirkare are said to be brothers, the sons of Ra with a woman Rededjet.


Three hieroglyphs in a cartouche.
Neferirkare's nomen "Kakai" on the Abydos king list.

Contemporaneous sources

Neferirkare is well attested in sources contemporaneous with his reign. Beyond his pyramid complex, he is mentioned in the tomb of many of his contemporaries such as his vizier Washptah, the courtier Rawer[23] and the priest Akhethetep.[24] Neferirkare also appears in the nearly contemporaneous Giza writing board, a short list grouping six kings from different dynasties dating to the later Fifth or early Sixth Dynasty.[25] The writing board was uncovered in the tomb of a high official named Mesdjerw, who may have composed it for his use in the afterlife.[26]

Historical sources

Neferirkare is attested in two ancient Egyptian king lists, both dating to the New Kingdom. The earliest of these is the Abydos King List written during the reign of Seti I (fl. 1290–1279 BCE). There, Neferirkare's nomen "Kakai" occupies the 28th entry, in between those of Sahure and Neferefre. During the subsequent reign of Ramses II (fl. 1279–1213 BCE), Neferirkare's prenomen was recorded on the 27th entry of the Saqqara Tablet, but this time as a successor of Sahure and predecessor of Shepseskare.[27]

Neferirkare was also given an entry on the Turin canon, a document dating to the reign of Ramses II as well. Neferirkare's entry is commonly believed to be on the third column-19th row; unfortunately this line has been lost in a large lacuna affecting the papyrus and neither his reign length nor his successor can be ascertained from the surviving fragments. The Egyptologist Miroslav Verner has furthermore proposed that the Turin canon makes a new dynasty start with this entry and thus that Neferirkare would be its founder.[28][29][30] The division of the Turin canon list of kings into dynasties is a currently debated. The Egyptologist Jaromír Málek for example sees the divisions between groups of kings occurring in the canon as marking transfers of royal residence rather than the rise and fall of royal dynasties as this term is currently understood, a usage which only began in the Egyptian context with the 3rd-century BCE work of the priest Manetho.[31] Similarly, the Egyptologist Stephan Seidlmeyer, considers the break in the Turin Canon at the end of the Eighth Dynasty to represent the relocation of the royal residence from Memphis to Herakleopolis.[32] The Egyptologist John Baines holds views that are closer to Verner's, believing that the canon was divided into dynasties with totals for the time elapsed given at the end of each, though only few such divisions have survived.[33] Similarly, Professor John Van Seters views the breaks in the canon as divisions between dynasties, but in contrast, states that the criterion for these divisions remains unknown. He speculates that the pattern of dynasties may have been taken from the nine divine kings of the Greater and Lesser Enneads.[34] The Egyptologist Ian Shaw believes that the Turin Canon gives some credibility to Manetho's division of dynasties, but considers the king lists to be a form of ancestor worship and not a historical record.[35] This whole problematic could be mooted in another of Verner's speculations, where he proposed that Neferirkare's entry may have been located on the 20th line rather than the 19th as is usually believed. This would credit Neferirkare with seven years of reign,[29] and would make Sahure the dynasty founder in the hypothesis that the canon records such events. Archaeological evidences have established that the transitions from Userkaf to Sahure and from Sahure to Neferirkare were father–son transitions, so that neither Sahure nor Neferirkare can be dynasty founders in the modern sense of the term.[36][37]

Neferirkare was mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ptolemy II (283–246 BCE) by Manetho. No copies of the Aegyptiaca have survived to this day and it is now known only through later writings by Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius. The Byzantine scholar George Syncellus reports that Africanus relates that the Aegyptiaca mentioned the succession "Sephrês → Nefercherês → Sisirês" for the early Fifth Dynasty. Sephrês, Nefercherês and Sisirês are believed to be the hellenized forms for Sahure, Neferirkare and Shepseskare, respectively. Thus, Manetho's reconstruction of the Fifth Dynasty is in agreement with the Saqqara tablet.[38] In Africanus' epitome of the Aegyptiaca, Nefercherês is reported to have reigned for 20 years.[39]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Neferirkare
català: Nefererkare
čeština: Neferirkare
Deutsch: Neferirkare
español: Neferirkara
euskara: Neferirkara
Bahasa Indonesia: Neferirkare Kakai
lietuvių: Neferirkarė
magyar: Noferirkaré
Bahasa Melayu: Neferirkare Kakai
Nederlands: Neferirkare
português: Neferirkaré
slovenščina: Neferirkare Kakai
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Neferirkare Kakai
svenska: Neferirkara
українська: Неферірікара I
Tiếng Việt: Neferirkare Kakai