Userkare

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Userkare (also Woserkare, meaning "Powerful is the soul of Ra") was the second pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, reigning briefly, 1 to 5 years, in the late 24th to early 23rd century BC. Userkare's relation to his predecessor Teti and successor Pepi I is unknown and his reign remains enigmatic. Although he is attested in historical sources, Userkare is completely absent from the tomb of the Egyptian officials who lived during his reign. In addition, the Egyptian priest Manetho reports that Userkare's predecessor Teti was murdered. Userkare is often considered to have been a short-lived usurper. Alternatively, he may have been a regent who ruled during Teti's son's childhood who later ascended the throne as Pepi I.

Ra ancient Egyptian solar deity

Ra or Re is the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld. He was the god of the sun, order, kings, and the sky.

Teti, less commonly known as Othoes, sometimes also Tata, Atat, or Athath in outdated sources, was the first pharaoh of the Sixth dynasty of Egypt. He is buried at Saqqara. The exact length of his reign has been destroyed on the Turin King List but is believed to have been about 12 years.

Manetho Egyptian historian and priest from Ancient Egypt

Manetho is believed to have been an Egyptian priest from Sebennytos who lived in the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the early third century BC, during the Hellenistic period. He authored the Aegyptiaca in Greek, a major chronological source for the reigns of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. It is unclear if he wrote his work during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter or Ptolemy II Philadelphos, but no later than that of Ptolemy III Euergetes.

Contents

Attestations

Historical sources

Userkare is present on the Abydos King List, a list of kings written during the reign of Seti I (12901279 BC) over 1000 years after the early Sixth Dynasty. Userkare's cartouche occupies the 35th entry of the list, between those of Teti and Pepi I, [12] making him the second pharaoh of the dynasty. [13] Userkare was possibly also listed on the Turin canon, a king list composed during the reign of Ramesses II (12791213 BC). Unfortunately, a large lacuna affects the second line of the fourth column of the papyrus on which the list was written, the place were Userkare's name might have been located. [14]

Abydos King List

The Abydos King List, also known as the Abydos Table, is a list of the names of seventy-six kings of Ancient Egypt, found on a wall of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, Egypt. It consists of three rows of thirty-eight cartouches in each row. The upper two rows contain names of the kings, while the third row merely repeats Seti I's throne name and nomen.

Seti I second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty in ancient egypt

Menmaatre Seti I was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC to 1279 BC and 1290 BC to 1279 BC being the most commonly used by scholars today.

Turin King List ancient Egyptian manuscript

The Turin King List, also known as the Turin Royal Canon, is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus thought to date from the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, now in the Museo Egizio in Turin. The papyrus is the most extensive list available of kings compiled by the ancient Egyptians, and is the basis for most chronology before the reign of Ramesses II.

Contemporaneous sources

Secure attestations

Few artefacts dating to Userkare's lifetime have survived to this day, the only secure attestions contemporaneous with his reign being two cylinder seals [2] [note 2] inscribed with his name and titles [18] and a copper mallet from the Michaelides collection. [19] The mallet bears a small inscription giving the name of a crew of workmen "Beloved ones of Userkare" who hailed from Wadjet, the 10th nome of Upper Egypt, located around Tjebu, south of Asyut. [20]

Tjebu Place in Sohag, Egypt

Tjebu or Djew-Qa, was an ancient Egyptian city located on the eastern bank of the Nile in what is now Sohag Governorate, Egypt. In Greek and Roman Egypt, its name was Antaeopolis after its tutelary deity, the war god known by the Hellenized name Antaeus. Its modern name is Qaw El Kebir.

Asyut City in Egypt

Asyut is the capital of the modern Asyut Governorate in Egypt, which has one of the largest Coptic Catholic bishopric churches in the country; the ancient city of the same name, which is situated nearby. The modern city is located at 27°11′00″N31°10′00″E, while the ancient city is located at 27°10′00″N31°08′00″E.

Possible attestations

The French Egyptologists Michel Baud and Vassil Dobrev have also proposed that a copper axe head discovered in Syria could belong to Userkare. [11] The axe bears the name of another crew of workmen called the "Beloved ones of the Two Golden Falcons", where "Two Golden Falcons" is the golden Horus name of a pharaoh. Although both Khufu and Sahure bore this name and either one of them may be the owner of the axe, [21] Baud and Dobrev note that Teti's and Pepi's golden horus names are "Golden Falcon who Unites" and "Three Golden Falcons", respectively. It is thus tempting to conclude that Userkare's was "Two Golden Falcons" and that the axe belongs to him. [11]

Michel Baud was a French Egyptologist, head of the Nubian Sudan section in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre Museum. As such, he was the organizer of an exhibition devoted exclusively to Meroe, Sudan's ancient kingdom known for its legendary capital city and its famous royal necropolis. He was also the director of the archaeological mission on the site of the necropolis at Abu Rawash, and published papers on it such as La ceramique miniature d'Abou Rawash. He was a resident of the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo. He was also the author of works on the late Old Kingdom South Saqqara Stone annal document with Vassil Dobrev, published between 1995 and 1997 in BIFAO.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Khufu Fourth Dynasty ancient Egyptian pharaoh

Khufu, known to the Greeks as Cheops, was an ancient Egyptian monarch who was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, in the first half of the Old Kingdom period. Khufu succeeded his father Sneferu as king. He is generally accepted as having commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but many other aspects of his reign are poorly documented.

The English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie has tentatively identified Userkare with a king named Ity attested by a single rock inscription found in the Wadi Hammamat. The inscription, dated to the first year of reign of Ity, mentions a band of 200 sailors and 200 masons under the direction of the overseers Ihyemsaf and Irenakhet [22] sent to the Wadi Hammamat to collect stones for the construction of Ity's pyramid called "Bau Ity", [23] meaning "Glory of Ity". [24] Petrie's identification of Userkare with Ity relies solely on his estimation of the inscription to the Sixth Dynasty and the fact that Userkare is the only king of this period whose full titulary is not known. [23] This identification is nowadays deemed conjectural [25] and several First Intermediate Period dates have been proposed for Ity. [24]

Flinders Petrie English egyptologist

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, FRS, FBA, commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts. He held the first chair of Egyptology in the United Kingdom, and excavated many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt in conjunction with his wife, Hilda Petrie. Some consider his most famous discovery to be that of the Merneptah Stele, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.

Wadi Hammamat Dry river bed in Egypt

Wadi Hammamat is a dry river bed in Egypt's Eastern Desert, about halfway between Al-Qusayr and Qena. It was a major mining region and trade route east from the Nile Valley in ancient times, and three thousand years of rock carvings and graffiti make it a major scientific and tourist site today.

South Saqqara Stone

In addition to historical and contemporaneous sources, details about Userkare's reign were once given on the nearly contemporaneous South Saqqara Stone, a royal annal of the Sixth Dynasty dating to the reign of Merenre Nemtyemsaf I or Pepi II. [26] Unfortunately, an estimated 92% [27] of the original text was lost when the stone was roughly polished to be reused as a sarcophagus lid, possibly in the late First Intermediate (c. 21602055 BC) to early Middle Kingdom period (c. 20551650 BC). [28] The presence of Userkare on the annal can nonetheless be inferred from a large space between the sections concerning the reigns of Teti and Pepi I [14] as well as from traces of a royal titulary in this space. [29] Although the text reporting Userkare's activities is lost, its length suggests that Userkare ruled Egypt for four or less likely two years. [30]

South Saqqara Stone

The South Saqqara Stone is the lid of the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian queen Ankhenespepi which was inscribed with a list for the reigns of the pharaohs of the 6th dynasty from Teti, Userkare, Pepi I, Merenre to the early years of Pepi II under whom the document was likely created. It is essentially an annal document which records events in each year of a king's reign; unfortunately, it was reused in antiquity for Ankhesenpepi I's burial and many of its invaluable inscriptions have been erased.

Sarcophagus Box-like funeral receptacle

A sarcophagus is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and usually displayed above ground, though it may also be buried. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σάρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγεῖν phagein meaning "to eat"; hence sarcophagus means "flesh-eating", from the phrase lithos sarkophagos, "flesh-eating stone". The word also came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to rapidly facilitate the decomposition of the flesh of corpses contained within it due to the chemical properties of the limestone itself.

Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650 BC, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.

Reign

Given the scarcity of documents pertaining to Userkare, his relations to his predecessor and successor are largely uncertain and Egyptologists have proposed a number of hypotheses regarding his identity and reign. These fall broadly into two contradictory scenarios: one that sees Userkare as a legitimate ruler or regent, [31] while the other perceives Userkare as an usurper, possibly responsible for the murder of his predecessor Teti. [25]

As a legitimate ruler

The Egyptologists William Stevenson Smith, [32] William C. Hayes [33] and Nicolas Grimal [34] believe that Userkare briefly ruled Egypt either as a legitimate stopgap ruler or as a regent with queen Iput I. Indeed, Teti's son Pepi I reigned for circa 50 years, indicating that he was likely very young at the death of his father, likely too young to immediately assume the throne. [35] The theory that Userkare was merely a regent is rejected by many Egyptologists, including Naguib Kanawati, on the basis that Userkare is mentioned on the Turin and Abydos king lists and hold full royal titulary, something reserved exclusively to reigning pharaohs. [36]

In support of the hypothesis that Userkare was a legitimate stopgap ruler, Grimal stresses that he is well attested by historical and contemporaneous sources, in particular the Saqqara Stone. This seems in contradiction with the idea that, being illegitimate, he was victim of a Damnatio memoriae by his successor Pepi. [note 3] In addition, there is no direct evidence of difficulties associated with Pepi I's rise on throne in the archeological record, which one could expect had Userkare been an usurper. [34]

As an usurper to the throne

The Egyptian priest Manetho who wrote an history of Egypt, the Aegyptiaca , in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II (283246 BC), mentions that Othoes the hellenized name of Teti was murdered by his bodyguards or attendants. [38] Based on this statement, Egyptologists have found it plausible that Userkare participated in or at least benefited from Teti's assassination, despite Userkare's absence from the Aegyptiaca. [38] Userkare's name is theophoric and incorporates the name of the sun god Ra, a naming fashion common during the preceding Fifth Dynasty. Since Teti was not a son of the last Fifth Dynasty king Unas, some Egyptologists have proposed that Userkare could have been a descendant of a lateral branch of the Fifth Dynasty royal family who briefly seized power in a coup. [31]

The Egyptian-Australian Egyptologist Naguib Kanawati also finds the hypothesis that Userkare was a short-lived legitimate ruler or regent "unconvincing". [39] Indeed, archeological evidence lends credence to the idea that Userkare was illegitimate in the eyes of his successor Pepi I. In particular, there is no mention of Userkare in the tombs and biographies of the many Egyptian officials who served under both Teti and Pepi I. [40] The viziers Inumin and Khentika, who served both Teti and Pepi I, are completely silent about Userkare and none of their activities during Userkare's time on the throne are reported in their tomb. [41] Furthermore, the tomb of Mehi, a guard who lived under Teti, Userkare and Pepi, yielded an inscription showing that the name of Teti was first erased to be replaced by that of another king, whose name was itself erased and replaced again by that of Teti. [42] Kanawati argues that the intervening name was that of Userkare to whom Mehi may have transferred his allegiance. [43] Mehi's attempt to switch back to Teti was seemingly unsuccessful, as there is evidence that work on his tomb stopped abruptly and that he was never buried there. [44]

Tomb

The location of the tomb of Userkare has not yet been identified. The brevity of his reign implies that the tomb was probably unfinished at his death, making modern identification difficult. [31] Since Userkare was a Sixth Dynasty pharaoh, his tomb was presumably planned to be a pyramid. A possible vindication of this hypothesis is the copper mallet mentioning a team of paid workers from the nome of Wadjet. These workers were likely involved in an important building project, likely to be Userkare's pyramid. [34]

Two hypotheses for the location of Userkare's pyramid have been put forth. The Egyptologist Vassil Dobrev proposed that Userkare's pyramid is located in the area of Saqqara South known today as Tabbet al-Guesh, north-west of the mortuary complex of Pepi I. Indeed, a large necropolis of Sixth Dynasty administration officials is found there, which according to Dobrev, hints at the nearby presence of a royal pyramid. [45] The astrophysicist Giulio Magli believes instead that the pyramid of Userkare is to be found midway between those of Pepi I and Merenre Nemtyemsaf I, at a place that would make the three pyramids form a line parallel to the one formed by the pyramids of Sekhemkhet, Unas, Djoser, Userkaf and Teti to the North. [46]

Notes

  1. Proposed dates for Userkare's reign: c. 24082404 BC, [1] 23582354 BC, [2] 23372335 BC, [3] 23232321 BC, [4] 23122310 BC, [5] 22912289 BC, [6] [7] 22792276 BC, [8] 22702265 BC. [9]
  2. The Swiss Egyptologist Peter Kaplony attributes three seals to Userkare [15] but one of these seals reads "Userka[...]" and could instead belong to Userkaf. [16] In addition, a number of seals bering the name "Userkare" have been attributed to him but are now believed to belong to the 13th Dynasty pharaoh Userkare Khendjer. [17]
  3. Baud and Dobrev do not take Userkare's presence on the Saqqara Stone as direct evidence that he was legitimate in the eyes of his successors. However, if Userkare was an usurper, then this would mean that royal annals were not affected by damnatio memoriae and would rather systematically record all royal activities, regardless of their political context. [37]

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References

  1. Hayes 1978, p. 58.
  2. 1 2 Altenmüller 2001, p. 602.
  3. Strudwick 2005, p. xxx.
  4. Malek 2000, p. 104.
  5. von Beckerath 1999, p. 283.
  6. Arnold 1999.
  7. Allen et al. 1999, p. xx.
  8. Hornung 2012, p. 491.
  9. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 288.
  10. Allen et al. 1999, p. 10.
  11. 1 2 3 Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 59, footnote 92.
  12. Goedicke 1986, p. 901.
  13. von Beckerath 1999, pp. 6263, king no. 2.
  14. 1 2 Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 59.
  15. Kaplony 1981, II.A pp. 361362, no 1 and 2; II.B, pl. 98.
  16. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 59, footnote 94.
  17. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 59, footnote 93.
  18. Hayes 1978, p. 125.
  19. Kaplony 1965, p. 36, 3839 and fig. 90.
  20. Roth 1991, p. 122.
  21. Roth 1991, pp. 122123.
  22. Strudwick 2005, p. 140, num. 63.
  23. 1 2 Petrie 1907, pp. 8889.
  24. 1 2 Baker 2008, pp. 157158.
  25. 1 2 Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 60.
  26. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 54.
  27. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 25.
  28. Baud & Dobrev 1995, pp. 5455.
  29. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 28.
  30. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 53.
  31. 1 2 3 Baker 2008, p. 487.
  32. Stevenson Smith 1971, p. 191.
  33. Hayes 1970, pp. 178179.
  34. 1 2 3 Grimal 1992, p. 81.
  35. Grimal 1992, p. 82.
  36. Kanawati 2003, p. 184.
  37. Baud & Dobrev 1995, p. 62.
  38. 1 2 Waddell 1971, pp. 5153.
  39. Kanawati 2003, p. 4.
  40. Kanawati 2003, p. 95.
  41. Kanawati 2003, p. 89.
  42. Kanawati 2003, pp. 9495.
  43. Kanawati 2003, p. 163.
  44. Kanawati 2003, p. 164.
  45. Dobrev 2006.
  46. Magli 2010, p. 5.

Bibliography

Preceded by
Teti
Pharaoh of Egypt
Sixth Dynasty
Succeeded by
Pepi I