Shepseskare or Shepseskara (Egyptian for "Noble is the Soul of Ra")[15] was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the fourth or fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty (2494–2345 BC) during the Old Kingdom period. Shepseskare lived in the mid-25th century BC and was probably the owner of an unfinished pyramid in Abusir, which was abandoned after a few weeks of work in the earliest stages of its construction.

Following historical sources, Shepseskare was traditionally believed to have reigned for seven years, succeeding Neferirkare Kakai and preceding Neferefre on the throne, making him the fourth ruler of the dynasty. He is the most obscure ruler of this dynasty and the Egyptologist Miroslav Verner has strongly argued that Shepseskare's reign lasted only a few months at the most, after that of Neferefre. This conclusion is based upon the state and location of Shepseskare's unfinished pyramid in Abusir as well as the very small number of artefacts attributable to this king. Verner's arguments have now convinced several Egyptologists such as Darrell Baker and Erik Hornung.

Shepseskare's relations to his predecessor and successor are not known for certain. Verner has proposed that he was a son of Sahure and a brother to Neferirkare Kakai, who briefly seized the throne following the premature death of his predecessor and probable nephew, Neferefre. Shepseskare may himself have died unexpectedly or he may have lost the throne to another of his nephews, the future pharaoh Nyuserre Ini. The possibility that Shepseskare was a short-lived usurper from outside the royal family cannot be totally excluded.


Contemporaneous sources

Shepseskare was a king of Ancient Egypt, the fourth[16] or fifth[3] ruler of the Fifth Dynasty. Egypt was unified at the time, with its capital located at Memphis.[17] Shepseskare is the least-known king of the Fifth Dynasty as very few artefacts dating to his reign have survived to this day. Only two cylinder seals of Shepseskare are known: one, made of bronze, bears Shepseskare's Horus name and was uncovered in the ruins of Memphis in the early 20th century.[b][1] The second seal, of unknown provenance, is made of black serpentine and reads "Shepseskare beloved of the gods, Shepseskare beloved of Hathor".[18][c] Beyond these two seals the only surviving artefacts attributable to Shepseskare are five fragments of seal impressions on clay from Abusir[19][20] and six further fragments discovered in the mortuary temple and Sanctuary of the Knife of the Pyramid of Neferefre, also in Abusir.[21][22] These fragments probably come from three different seals and were most likely placed on the doors of magazine rooms in the temple.[23]

Drawing of the impression of a scaraboid seal with a seated man reading Shepes in the center and a sun disk reading Ra on the right.
Drawing by Flinders Petrie of a scarab seal reading "Shepeskare" [sic] but probably dating to the Saite period.[24]

Finally, there is a single scarab seal reading "Shepeskare" [sic] that the Egyptologist Flinders Petrie attributed to Shepseskare at the end of the 19th century.[25] Modern scholars doubt this attribution and rather believe the scarab to be a work of the much later Saite period (685–525 BC) executed in archaic style.[19][20] Equally, the scarab could belong to Gemenefkhonsbak Shepeskare, an obscure kinglet of Tanis during the 25th Dynasty (760–656 BC).[19][20]

Historical sources

The only[19] ancient Egyptian king list mentioning Shepseskare is the Saqqara Tablet (on the 28th entry).[26] The tablet was inscribed during the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC), around 1200 years after Shepseskare's lifetime, and records the dynastic succession Neferikare → Shepseskare → Neferkhare (a variant name of Neferefre).[27] Shepseskare is completely absent from another king list dating to the same period: the Abydos king list, written during the reign of Seti I (1294–1279 BC). He is also absent from the Turin canon (reign of Ramses II), although in this case a lacuna affects the papyrus on which the list is written at the place where Shepseskare and Neferefre's names should have been.[28][d] Of the two entries concerning Shepseskare and Neferefre on the king list, only one reign length is still legible and it has been variously read as one year,[30] eleven years[31] or one to four months.[29] The damaged state of the papyrus also makes it impossible to decide safely whose reign length this is.[19]

Shepseskare was also likely mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II (283–246 BC) by the Egyptian priest 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. Africanus relates that the Aegyptiaca mentioned the succession "Nefercheres → Sisires → Cheres" for the mid Fifth Dynasty. Nefercheres and Cheres are believed to be the hellenized forms for Neferirkare and Neferkhare (that is Neferefre), respectively. Thus, "Sisires" is traditionally believed to be the Greek name of Shepseskare, making Manetho's reconstruction of the Fifth Dynasty in good agreement with the Saqqara tablet.[27] Furthermore, according to Africanus, Manetho credits Sisires with seven years of reign while other sources report Manetho's figure as nine years.[3]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Sjepseskare
العربية: شبسس كارع
català: Shepsekare
čeština: Šepseskare
Deutsch: Schepseskare
español: Shepseskara
Esperanto: Ŝepseskara
euskara: Shepseskara
français: Chepseskarê
한국어: 솁세스카레
hrvatski: Šepseskara Isi
italiano: Shepseskara
ქართული: შეპსესკარა
lietuvių: Šepseskarė
Nederlands: Sjepseskare
occitan: Shepseskara
polski: Szepseskare
português: Chepseskaré
română: Shepseskare Isi
русский: Шепсескара
slovenščina: Šepseskare
српски / srpski: Шепсескаре
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Shepseskare Isi
suomi: Sepseskara
svenska: Shepseskara
українська: Шепсескара
Tiếng Việt: Shepseskare
Yorùbá: Shepseskare Isi