Khentkaus I

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Khentkaus I in hieroglyphs
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Title of Khentkaus I and Khentkaus II
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Khentkaus depicted on her tomb

Khentkaus I, also referred to as Khentkawes, was a royal woman who lived in ancient Egypt during the Fourth and the Fifth Dynasties. She may have been a daughter of king Menkaure, the wife of both king Shepseskaf and king Userkaf (the founder of the Fifth Dynasty), the mother of king Sahure, [2] and perhaps, in her own right, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. Her mastaba at Giza – tomb LG100 – is located very close to Menkaure's pyramid complex. This close connection may point to a family relationship. Although the relationship is not clear, the proximity of the pyramid complex of Khentkaus to that of king Menkaure has led to the conjecture that she may have been his daughter. [3]

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Fourth Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Dynasty IV lasted from c. 2613 to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity as well as one during which trade with other countries is documented.

The Fifth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties III, IV and VI under the group title the Old Kingdom. The Fifth Dynasty pharaohs reigned for approximately 150 years, from the early 25th century BC until the mid 24th century BC.



Khentkaus's burial complex confirms her royal status. She appears to have served as regent and may have taken the title of king, but some of her titles are ambiguous and open to interpretation. That she was the daughter of Menkaure is speculated widely and much evidence supports the idea. Khentkaus may have been married to king Userkaf and may have been the mother of Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai. [4]

Userkaf Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh

Userkaf was an Egyptian pharaoh, founder of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for seven to eight years in the early 25th century BC. He belonged, in all probability, to a branch of the Fourth Dynasty royal family, although his parentage remains uncertain and the identity of his queen is in doubt. Userkaf may have been the son of Khentkaus I marrying Neferhetepes. He had at least one daughter and very probably a son who succeeded him as pharaoh Sahure.

Sahure Egyptian pharaoh

Sahure was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for about 12 years in the early 25th century BC. Sahure is considered to be one of the most important kings of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, his reign being a political and cultural high point of the Fifth Dynasty. He was probably the son of his predecessor Userkaf with queen Neferhetepes II, and was in turn succeeded by his son Neferirkare Kakai.

Neferirkare Kakai Egyptian pharaoh

Neferirkare Kakai 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.

Egyptologist Miroslav Verner has stated that it is more likely, however, that Sahure was a son of Userkaf and his wife Neferhetepes. He also suggested that Khentkaus was the mother and regent for her son Thampthis and the mother of Neferirkare Kakai. [5]

Miroslav Verner Czech egyptologist and university educator

Miroslav Verner is a Czech egyptologist, who specializes in the history and archaeology of Ancient Egypt of the Old Kingdom and especially of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.

Neferhetepes ancient Egyptian princess

Neferhetepes was an ancient Egyptian princess of the 4th Dynasty; a daughter of Pharaoh Djedefre who ruled between his father Khufu and his brother Khafra. Her mother was Hetepheres II.

Manetho's King List has Menkaure and Thampthis reigning in the Fourth Dynasty, which ties Khentkaus to the end of the Fourth Dynasty, [6] The suggestions of her marriage to Userkaf and having been the mother of Sahure, tie her to the Fifth Dynasty as well.


Theories regarding Khentkaus I

The "Khentkaus Problem" has a long history. In the 1930s Selim Hassan proposed that Khentkaus was a daughter of Menkaure, and that she was married first to Shepseskaf and later to Userkaf. Ventikiev was the first to suggest that the title mwt nswt bity nswt bity should be read as, "The Mother of two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt".

Selim Hassan Egyptian egyptologist

Selim Hassan was an Egyptian Egyptologist. He wrote the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt in Arabic and supervised the excavation of many ancient Egyptian tombs under the auspices of Cairo University. He studied under Kamal at the Higher Teachers College in Cairo and began teaching in 1921. He later studied in Paris at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He was the first native Egyptian to be appointed Professor of Egyptology at the University of Cairo, a post he held from 1936 to 1939. He was then made Deputy-Director of the Antiquities Service. He received a PhD from Vienna in 1935.

Shepseskaf Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskaf was the sixth and last pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He reigned 6 to 8 years starting circa 2510 BC. The only activities firmly datable to his reign are the completion of the temple complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure and the construction of its own mastaba tomb at South Saqqara, the Mastabat al-Fir’aun, "stone bench of the pharaoh".

Hermann Junker believed that the existence of the pyramid town suggested that Khentkaus was a very important person and that the title should be read as, "the King of Upper and Lower Egypt and the Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt", indicating that she served as king. He suggested that she was the daughter of Menkaure and the sister of Shepseskaf.

Ludwig Borchardt suggested that Shepseskaf was a commoner who married the king’s daughter, Khentkaus. He further thought that Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai were sons of Shepseskaf and Khentkaus. Borchardt conjectured that Userkaf was an outsider who was able to take the throne because Sahure and Neferirkare were too young to ascend the throne when Shepseskaf died.

Bernhard Grdseloff proposed that Shepseskaf and Khentkaus were the son and daughter of Menkaure, and that Userkaf was a prince form a collateral branch of the royal family who came to the throne when he married the royal widow and mother of the heirs to the throne, Khentkaus.

Hartwig Altenmüller suggested that Khentkaus was none other than the lady, Rededjet , mentioned in the Westcar Papyrus. He suggested that Khentkaus was the mother of Userkaf, Sahure, and Neferirkare Kakai.

Arielle Kozloff theorized that Shepseskaf was the son of Menkaure with a minor wife who came to the throne after the death of the king’s son, Khuenre. He also theorized that Shepseskaf married Menkaure’s daughter, Khentkaus, and suggested that upon the premature death of Shepseskaf, Khentkaus married the High Priest of Re to secure the throne for her two sons.

Vivienne Callender asserted that since the name of Khentkaus did not appear in a cartouche she never ruled Egypt. Instead, Callender preferred to read the mwt nswt bity nswt bity title as, the Mother of Two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. She thought Khentkaus had to be a daughter of Menkaure and the wife of either Shepseskaf or Thampthis. She pointed to Userkaf and Neferirkare as the two sons referred to in Khentkaus's title. [8]


Coordinates: 29°58′24.26″N31°8′8.19″E / 29.9734056°N 31.1356083°E / 29.9734056; 31.1356083 Khentkaus was buried in Giza. Her tomb is known as LG 100 and G 8400 and is located in the Central Field that is part of the Giza Necropolis. The pyramid complex of Khentkaus includes her pyramid, a boat pit, a valley temple, and a pyramid town. [9]

The pyramid complex of Khentkaus I

Tomb of Khentkaus I in Giza Tomb of Khentkaus I.jpg
Tomb of Khentkaus I in Giza

The pyramid complex of Khentkaus consists of the pyramid, a chapel, a solar boat, the pyramid city, a water tank, and granaries. [10] The pyramid originally was described in the nineteenth century as an unfinished pyramid and it had been conjectured that it belonged to king Shepseskaf. The pyramid was excavated by Selim Hassan starting in 1932. [3] The tomb was given the number LG 100 by Lepsius. [3]

The chapel consisted of a main hall and an inner chapel. A passage cut in the floor of the inner chapel leads to the burial chamber. The floor of the chapel was covered in Tura limestone. The walls were covered in relief, but the scenes are very badly damaged. Relief fragments were found in the debris when the tomb was excavated by Selim Hassan. The passage to the burial chamber and the chamber itself were lined with red granite. The passageway is 5.6 m long and descends below the main structure of the pyramid. The burial chamber is large and most closely resembles the burial chamber of king Shepseskaf in Saqqara. [3]

The burial chamber possibly housed an alabaster sarcophagus; many pieces were found in the sand and debris that filled the chamber. The chamber also contained a small scarab made of a brown limestone. Its craftsmanship appears to connect it to the Twelfth Dynasty. [11] That leads some to believe that her tomb was reused for other, later burials.

Her solar boat is located to the southwest of the pyramid. A pit measuring some 30.25 m long and 4.25 m deep was cut into the rock. The prow and stern of the boat were upraised and the boat appears to have had a roof. It may represent the night-boat of the sun-god Ra. If so, there may be an accompanying day-boat, [3] yet to be found.

Immediately to the east of the pyramid lies a pyramid city. The city is laid out along several streets that divide the city into groups of houses. These houses had their own magazines and granaries. The city was constructed from unbaked mud-brick, and surfaces were covered in a yellow plaster. The city was probably the home of the priests and servants of the pyramid complex. The pyramid city was constructed toward the end of the Fourth or beginning of the Fifth Dynasty and seems to have been functioning well into the Sixth Dynasty. [3]

The valley temple of Khentkaus I

A causeway connects the pyramid chapel to the valley temple of Khentkaus. The temple lies close to the valley temple of Menkaure, which suggests a close relationship between Khentkaus and Menkaure. In front of the temple a small structure referred to as the "washing tent" of Khentkaus was discovered. This structure was the location where her body would have been taken to be purified before being embalmed. [3] The debris filling this chamber contained many fragments of stone vessels, potsherds, and flint instruments. [3] The floor is the opening of a limestone drain which runs downward under the ground for a distance of 7–20 m., emptying into a large, rectangular basin. [12] The drain is covered by arched sections of the same material, the whole forming an almost circular stone pipe. Although by no means the oldest subterranean water-channel known in Egyptian funerary architecture, according to Hassan, it is the earliest of this particular type and construction. [12]

The valley temples of Khentkaus and Menkaure were both partially constructed of mud-brick and finished with white limestone and alabaster. The main entrance is located on the northern side, which is a departure form the more common situation where the main entrance is located to the east. Entering the valley temple from the main entrance, one would walk up a “wide brick-paved causeway which runs up from the valley in a westerly direction.” The doorway was embellished with a portico held up by two columns. Once one enters the doorway, “The doorway opens into a vestibule, the roof of which was supported upon four columns. Near the doorway a statue of king Khafra (father of Menkaure) once stood. Remains of a statue of a king (possibly Khafra) and the body of a sphinx statue were found in the vestibule of the temple. The vestibule opens up to a court which in turn led to the magazines." [3]

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Menkaure Egyptian pharaoh of the 4th dynasty

Menkaure, was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom, who is well known under his Hellenized names Mykerinos and Menkheres. According to Manetho, he was the throne successor of king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidence he rather was the successor of king Khafre. Menkaure became famous for his tomb, the Pyramid of Menkaure, at Giza and his beautiful statue triads, showing the king together with his wives Rekhetre and Khamerernebty.

Neferefre Pharaoh of Egypt

Neferefre Isi was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, likely the fourth but also possibly the fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He was very probably the eldest son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, known as prince Ranefer before he ascended the throne.

Nyuserre Ini Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty

Nyuserre Ini was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He is credited with a reign of 24 to 35 years depending on the scholar, and likely lived in the second half of the 25th century BCE. Nyuserre was the younger son of Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre. He may have succeeded his brother directly, as indicated by much later historical sources. Alternatively, Shepseskare may have reigned between the two as advocated by Miroslav Verner, albeit only for a few weeks or months at the most. The relation of Shepseskare with Neferefre and Nyuserre remains highly uncertain. Nyuserre was in turn succeeded by Menkauhor Kaiu, who could have been his nephew and a son of Neferefre.

Shepseskare Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskare or Shepseskara was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the fourth or fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty 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.

Khentkaus II politician

Khentkaus II was a royal woman who lived in Ancient Egypt. She was a wife of Egyptian king Neferirkare Kakai of the fifth dynasty. She was the mother of two kings, Neferefre and Nyuserre Ini.

Pyramid of Neferirkare Second pyramid to be built at the necropolis site of Abusir

The Pyramid of Neferirkare was built for the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai – referred to as Neferirkare – in the 25th century BC. It was the tallest structure located on the highest site at the necropolis of Abusir – found between Giza and Saqqara – and still towers over the necropolis today. The pyramid is also significant because its evacuation led to the discovery of the Abusir papyri.

Pyramid of Sahure Pyramid complex of the second pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt, inaugural pyramid at Abusir

The Pyramid of Sahure is a late 26th century BC to early 25th century BC pyramid complex built for the Egyptian pharaoh Sahure of the Fifth Dynasty. Sahure built the inaugural pyramid in Abusir after his direct predecessor, Userkaf, built his sun temple in the same area. Sahure's successors, Neferirkare Kakai, Neferefre, and Nyuserre Ini all built their monuments in the general vicinity, as well. The complex's early visitors, John Shae Perring, Karl Richard Lepsius and Jacques de Morgan neglected to conduct thorough investigations of the monument, perhaps discouraged by its ruined state. It was first properly excavated by Ludwig Borchardt between March 1907 and 1908, who penned the seminal work on the topic Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Sahu-Re between 1910 and 1913.

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Sekhemkare was a vizier from the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt. He was a son of king Khafre and queen Hekenuhedjet. He served as vizier during the beginning of the next dynasty, during the reigns of Userkaf and Sahure.

Bunefer ancient Egyptian queen consort

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Khentkaus III, often called Khentakawess III by news media, was an ancient Egyptian queen who lived during the Fifth Dynasty, around 2450 BC.

Khentkaus was an ancient Egyptian given name. It may refer to several women lived during the Old Kingdom:

Rawer was an important Ancient Egyptian official at the royal in the Fifth Dynasty in the reign of king Neferirkare Kakai and perhaps under king Sahure. He is known from several sources but mainly from his monumental mastaba at Giza. Rawer had several important titles, many of them related to the wardrobe of the king. He was royal hairdresser, overseer of the royal ornament and director of the kilt to mention just a few of his titles. Rawer is most famous for a short biographical inscription discovered in his tomb. The text reports that king Neferirkare appeared at a ritual called taking the prow-rope of the god's boat. At this event the staff of the king crossed the way of Rawer who touched that staff by accident and might have stumbled and therefore interrupted the ritual although the text is not clear at this point. The king immediately said be healthy. The text reports further that the event was written down and copied into the tomb of Rawer.

Pyramid of Khentkaus II Smooth-sided pyramid

The Pyramid of Khentkaus II is a queen's pyramid in the necropolis of Abousir in Egypt, which was built during the Fifth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. It is attributed to the queen Khentkaus II, who may have ruled Egypt as a reigning queen after the death of her husband Neferirkare. The pyramid is now a heavily damaged ruin, which only stands 4 metres high.

Pyramid of Khentkaus I Step tomb of a Fourth Dynasty Queen

The Pyramid complex of Khentkaus I or Step tomb of Khentkaus I is a Fourth Dynasty two-stepped tomb built for the Queen Mother Khentkaus I in Giza. The tomb, built in two phases coinciding with its two steps, was originally known as the fourth pyramid of Giza. In the first phase, a nearly square block of bedrock, around which the stone had been quarried for the Giza pyramids, was utilized to construct her tomb and then encased with fine white Tura limestone. The second phase, most likely conducted in the Fifth Dynasty, her tomb was enlarged with a large limestone structure built on top of the bedrock block. A settlement was built around her tomb, and occupied by priests of her mortuary cult until the end of the Sixth Dynasty.


  1. Dilwyn Jones: An Index of Ancient Egyptian Titles, Epithets, and Phrases of the Old Kingdom, Band 1, 427, Nr. 1578, Oxford, 2000, ISBN   1-84171-069-5
  2. Michael Rice: Who is who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge London & New York 1999, ISBN   0-203-44328-4, see p. 96
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Hassan, Selim. Excavations at Gîza IV. 1932–1933. Cairo: Government Press, Bulâq, 1930. pp 18-62
  4. 1 2 Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson (2004), pg 68
  5. Verner, Miroslav. "Further Thoughts on the Khentkaus Problem." Discussions in Egyptology 38 (1997), pp. 109, 113-114.
  7. Grajetzki, Ancient Egyptian Queens – a hieroglyphic dictionary, London, 2005
  8. M. Verner, Abusir III: The Pyramid Complex of Khentkaus, Czech Institute of Egyptology, Praha, 1995
  9. G 8400 page
  10. Porter, Bertha, and Rosalind L.B. Moss. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings 3: Memphis (Abû Rawâsh to Dahshûr). Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1931. 2nd edition. 3: Memphis, Part 1 (Abû Rawâsh to Abûsîr), revised and augmented by Jaromír Málek. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1974, pp. 288-289, plans 20, 22, 23.
  12. 1 2 Hassan, Selim. Excavations at Gîza IV. 1932–1933. Cairo: Government Press, Bulâq, 1930. pp 53