The Unattested Pyramids of Abusir

About Egyptian Pyramids

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston


>> Pyramid Index / Abusir


The Unknown Pyramids at Abusir in Egypt include the possible pyramid of Shepseskare and Lepsius Pyramids 24 and 25

The pyramid field at Abusir

Recent excavations at Abusir suggest that the archaeological studies of this necropolis may yield considerably more information. There is still much to learn about the period of these builders, mostly 5th dynasty, that built here.



We cannot determine completely the builders of a number of small, mostly unfinished pyramids that have been discovered at Abusir. Specifically, the archaeologist, Lepsius, investigated two such pyramids that he numbered 24 and 25, and there is also the start of a pyramid that some would suggest belonged to Shepseskare, who we know almost nothing about.




Entrance to Lepsius Pyramid No. 24 at Abusir in Egypt


The Lepsius Pyramids


The ruins of the Lepsius pyramids are located about 50 meters south of the pyramid of queen Khentkaues II on the southern site of the pyramid field. While the Lepsius expedition noted and numbered these structures, about 60 years later Borchardt did a cursory investigation of Lepsius pyramid number 24 and concluded it was a double mastaba, after which, both pyramids were largely ignored.


Finally, in the 1980's a team of Czech archaeologists further investigated these ruins. They concluded that in fact, Lepsius pyramid number 24 was indeed a pyramid that also included a separate cult pyramid and a mortuary temple. The name of Ptahshepses, who we believe was a vizier to King Niuserre, was inscribed on the masonry among the builder's marks. King Niuserre also built his pyramid complex at Abusir, so we believe number 24, and probably number 25 were build during his reign.



Another view of Lepsius Pyramid No. 24 at Abusir in Egypt



As usual at Abusir, the ruined state of both pyramids was due to stone thieves.


In the destroyed burial chamber of pyramid 24, the mummy of a woman believed to be around 23 years old was found. However, this may not have been the original occupant of the pyramid if it was built during the reign of Niuserre, who lived at the end of Egypt's Old Kingdom. It appears that she was subjected to excerebration, the process of removing the brain through the broken nasal septum during the mummification process. Yet we know of no instances this procedure was practiced prior to the Middle Kingdom. Also, no trace of her name was found within the ruins.


Regardless, other archaeological evidence has lead the Czech team to believe that she may still be either a consort of Niuserre, or of his brother Neferefre. Though they do not provide specifics, the Czech team apparently also found additional evidence in the mortuary temple in support of this theory.



A view of Lepsius Pyramid No. 25 at Abusir in Egypt



Yet the mortuary temple is so destroyed that it is perhaps impossible to even guess at its architecture, and since no decorations have been found in any of the temple ruins, it is likely that the mortuary temple was unfinished.


Lepsius's pyramid number 25 is very close by, but has not been systematically investigated. However, there is some reason to believe that it also belonged to a queen or consort from approximately the same period. It also had a mortuary temple, but unusually, it was located on the west side of the pyramid instead of the east.


The Possible Shepseskare Pyramid


Traditionally, Shepseskare (nomen Netjer-weserw?) is placed after the rule of Neferefre, probably because that is how he is positioned in the kings list at Saqqara. However, some, if not many of today's Egyptologists would place his rule after that of Neferefre. Therefore, guessing the dates of his reign are rather futile, though most Egyptologists believe it was perhaps short, even though the Turin King List gives him seven years. Either way, there remain problems with the order of rulers about this time in Egyptian history. Regardless, we have very little information on this king. Other than his mention at Saqqara, the only other evidence we seem to have of Shepseskare's existence is a seal impression on clay bearing Shepseskare's Horus name, Sekhemkhau discovered in the oldest part of Neferefre's mortuary temple. Vivieene Callendar suggests that Shepseskare's consort might have been Queen Nimaathap II, who was buried in a tomb in the West Cemetery in Giza, but this is only a guess.


This Pyramid was discovered by the Czech archaeological team that investigated numerous sites at Abusir in the 1980s. The pyramid, which lies on the northern edge of Abusir, was not just unfinished; it was barely begun. The fact that it lies in between the pyramid of Sahure and the sun temple of Userkaf, and that most of the other pyramids of any size have been attributed to other kings, has led the Czechs to believe that this pyramid might belong to Shepseskare. Had it been completed, it would have been the second largest pyramid at Abusir (next to Neferirkare's pyramid).


The ruins actually only consist of traces of earthwork that were halted shortly after they began. The only real work that was done was leveling the desert and digging the hole for the burial chamber.



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


Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011