Pyramid of Djedkare
Sentinel Pyramid[1][2]
Haram el-Shawaf[1]
Pyramid of Djedkare, Saqqara, 1990ies.png
The Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi in Saqqara
Djedkare Isesi
Coordinates29°51′04″N 31°13′15″E / 29.85111°N 31.22083°E / 29.85111; 31.22083Coordinates: 29°51′04″N 31°13′15″E / 29.85111°N 31.22083°E / 29.85111; 31.22083
Ancient name

Beautiful is Djedkare[1]
Constructed5th Dynasty (c. Late 25th to Mid 24th century BC)
TypeTrue pyramid (ruined)
Height52.5 m (172 ft; 100.2 cu) (originally)[2]
24 metres (79 ft; 46 cu) (currently)[3][4]
Base78.75 m (258.4 ft; 150.29 cu)[2]
Volume107,835 m3 (141,043 cu yd)[5]
Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi is located in Egypt
Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi
Location within Egypt

The Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi (in ancient Egyptian Beautiful is Djedkare[1]) is the pyramid complex built for the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Djedkare Isesi sometime around the late 25th, to mid 24th century BC.[6][a] It was the first pyramid to be built at South Saqqara.[2] The pyramid is referred to as Haram el-Shawaf, meaning 'Sentinel Pyramid', by the locals.[1]

Location and excavation

The last kings of the Fifth Dynasty, moved their funerary building activities from Abusir back to Saqqara.[4][2] Djedkare Isesi built his pyramid 6 km (3.7 mi) from the Abusir necropolis at a site in South Saqqara.[2][16] He also broke the tradition of building sun temples,[9] indicating a shift in the religious significance from the sun cult to the cult of Osiris.[17]

The pyramid was briefly visited by British Egyptologist John Shae Perring, and soon after that by Prussian Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius. The substructure of the pyramid was first explored in 1880 by Gaston Maspero. In the mid-1940s, Alexandŕe Varille and Abdel Salam Hussein attempted the first comprehensive examination of the pyramid, but their work was interrupted and their findings lost.[1] They did discover the skeletal remains of Djedkare Isesi in the pyramid.[18] The same fate befell Ahmed Fakhry's attempt in the 1950s. Relief fragments that Fakhry had discovered were later published by the Egyptian archaeologist Muhammud Mursi. The area around the causeway and mortuary temple was excavated by the Egyptian archaeologist Mahmud Abdel Razek.[1]

Mortuary complex

3 dimensional model of how the pyramid would have looked in its original completed state. From the east is the planned layout of the mortuary temple adjoining the main pyramid. The cult pyramid is modelled in the south-east corner between the pyramid and mortuary temple. Surrounding the complex is an enclosing perimeter wall.
Three dimensional model of Djedkare's pyramid complex.


Old Kingdom mortuary complexes consisted of five essential components: (1) a valley temple; (2) a causeway; (3) a pyramid, or mortuary,[19] temple; (4) a cult, or satellite,[20] pyramid; and (5) the main pyramid.[21] Unas' monument has all of these elements. The main pyramid constructed from six steps of limestone blocks.[22] A valley temple.[23] A causeway, that has not yet been excavated.[2] A mortuary temple on the east side of the pyramid,[24] and a cult pyramid at the south-east corner of the main pyramid,[25] with a standard T-shaped substructure.[26] Additionally, there is an associated pyramid situated on the north-east corner of Djedkare's pyramid complex,[26] belonging to Setibhor,[27] previously known as The Pyramid of the Unknown Queen.[28]


The core of the pyramid was constructed in six steps composed of small irregular pieces of limestone blocks bound together using clay mortar.[3] The length of the base step of the pyramid was 78.75 m (258 ft; 150 cu),[2] with each step built around 7 metres (23 ft; 13 cu) high,[3] converging to the peak at a slope of 52° giving the pyramid an original peak height of 52.5 m (172 ft; 100 cu).[2] These proportions were used by the rulers Teti I, Pepi I, Merenre I,[b] and Pepi II for their pyramid complexes.[9][30] The top three steps of the pyramid no longer exist, and ruined pyramid now reaches a height of about 24 metres (79 ft; 46 cu).[3] The pyramid was originally encased with fine white limestone.[3] Most of the casing has since been plundered, though some of it has remained intact and has been well preserved.[3]


Entry into the substructure was gained from the north side of the pyramid; unusually, however, the entrance is under the pavement of the courtyard, instead of in the north face.[3] There was originally a north chapel here; only traces of it now remain.[31] The entry leads into a granite lined downward sloping access corridor.[2][32] The corridor has a slight angle toward the east, and is the last built to do so.[32] The corridor ends at a vestibule, through which a second corridor lined with limestone, the horizontal passage, is accessed.[2][32] Remnants of broken vessels were discovered in the vestibule, suggesting that certain burial rituals had been performed there.[32] The horizontal passage was guarded by three granite portcullises near the beginning of the corridor, and a fourth granite portcullis near its end.[32] The exit of the horizontal passage leads into the antechamber, a room measuring 4.02 m (13.2 ft) by 3.1 m (10 ft).[2] To east was a room containing three niches for storage,[32] a developing feature of pyramids of the era.[2] To the west lay the burial chamber,[2][32] measuring 7.84 m (25.7 ft) by 3.1 m (10 ft),[2] which contained the basalt sarcophagus of the ruler.[32] The roof of both the antechamber and burial chamber were constructed from three layers of gabled limestone blocks,[2] in the same fashion as the pyramids in Abusir.[32]

Djedkare's sarcophagus originally sat near the west wall of the burial chamber. At the south-east foot of the coffin, alabaster canopic jars had once buried in a small hole in the ground.[32][2] The rooms of the substructure have been badly damaged by stone thieves, which has made reconstruction of the planned layout difficult.[32] Underneath the rubble, only fragments of the sarcophagus and alabaster jars have been found,[2] along with a mummified body of a man in his fifties that is presumed to be the remains of Djedkare Isesi.[32]

Causeway and mortuary temple

The causeway that leads up to the mortuary temple has not been excavated, though it's known to have a straight sloped path,[2] running slightly southwards,[23] and a length of 220 m (722 ft; 420 cu).[33] The ground where the mortuary temple was to be constructed had a sharp downward slope towards the desert, and needed extensive preparation before the laying of the foundation.[24] The causeway connects to the temple entrance hall between two large pylon structures.[34][24] The pylons, an innovation from Nyuserre's pyramid, were square with slightly inclined walls.[35] There may have been stairs leading up to the terrace, but likely had no rooms inside. Their function remains a mystery.[24]

The entrance hall had an alabaster paved floor and appears to have had a vaulted ceiling, judging by the size of the walls, and is flanked on either side by six storage rooms.[25] The storage rooms were accessed from the transverse corridor.[26] The hall terminates into an open courtyard, paved with alabaster and adorned with sixteen pink granite columns.[36] As in Sahure's temple, the columns bore the names and titles of Djedkare Isesi.[25] The courtyard leads into the transverse corridor, with a low staircase in the west wall of the corridor leading into the inner temple.[25][26] From here, a small passage led into the chapel with its five statue niches, followed by a small square room with a single granite column at its centre – the antichamber carée[25] – before terminating at the offering hall.[26] The column supported the room's ceiling, and bore the names and titles of Djedkare Isese, as well as an image of Nekhbet the goddess of Upper Egypt.[c][25] The inner temple was surrounded by storage rooms on either side.[26][25] The offering hall of the temple is generally similar to other contemporary offering halls in other complexes, with the exception that the false door was carved into the masonry of the pyramid.[25]

Relief decoration is fragmentary,[2] as extensive damage was done to the walls of the temple by stone thieves.[25] The remnants indicate that the quality of execution both in design and workmanship is comparable to those at the other contemporary sites.[25][2] The temple was mostly destroyed during the Second Intermediate Period, and was used as a burial site in the Eighteenth Dynasty.[37]

Cult pyramid

The complex includes a typical cult pyramid at the south-east corner of the pyramid.[25] The pyramid was constructed with a core three steps high.[25] The length of its base was 15.5 m (51 ft; 30 cu) inclined towards the apex at 65° giving it a peak height of 16 m (52 ft; 31 cu).[38] Entry into the substructure was gained through a door on the middle of its north face.[25] The substructure had a standard T-shaped layout,[26] consisting of a downward sloping corridor leading to a single rectangular chamber slightly beneath ground level which was oriented east-west.[25] The cult pyramid was enclosed by a small perimeter wall.[25]

Pyramid of Setibhor

A satellite pyramid complex is located at the north-east corner of the wall of the complex of Djedkare's pyramid.[23] With the exception of a valley temple and causeway,[28] the satellite pyramid has the standard elements that are typically found only in the king's pyramid.[26] The complex is enclosed within its own perimeter wall and consists of: a pyramid; a mortuary temple with its own offering hall, storage rooms, square antechamber with single column, chapel and colonaded court; and a small cult pyramid.[26][39] Due to its being intentionally incorporated into the pyramid complex of Djedkare Isesi, the pyramid is believed to have belonged to a consort of Djedkare Isesi.[39] The identity of the owner remained a mystery until 2019, when the name and titles of a queen Setibhor were found inscribed on a column in the complex. Setibhor's pyramid is thus the largest one built for a queen in the Old Kingdom, and incorporates elements that were previously only used in the complexes of the king.[40]

See also


  1. ^ Proposed dates for Djedkare Isesi's reign: c. 2436–2404 BC,[7][8] c. 2414–2375 BC,[9][10][11] c. 2388–2356 BC,[12] c. 2381–2353 BC,[13] c. 2340–2312 BC,[14] c. 2405/2355–2367/2317 BC.[15]
    Carbon–14 dating of organic materials from Djedkare's tomb give absolute dates for his reign of 3340–2460 BC, with a common range of 2886–2507 BC[15]
  2. ^ The exact dimensions of Merenre's pyramid are unknown, as the structure has been destroyed and has not been fully excavated yet, though it's assumed that Merenre had planned the pyramid to the same standard dimensions as his predecessor's pyramids.[29]
  3. ^ The column was south of the main east-west axis of the temple, and hence under Nekhbet's protection.[25]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Verner 2001d, p. 324.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Lehner 2008, p. 153.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Verner 2001d, p. 325.
  4. ^ a b Clayton 1994, p. 62.
  5. ^ Bárta 2005, p. 180.
  6. ^ Altenmüller 2001, pp. 597 & 600.
  7. ^ Verner 2001c, p. 589.
  8. ^ Altenmüller 2001, p. 600.
  9. ^ a b c Malek 2003, p. 102.
  10. ^ Shaw 2003, p. 482.
  11. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 60.
  12. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 8.
  13. ^ Allen et al. 1999, p. xx.
  14. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 288.
  15. ^ a b Verner 2001a, p. 417.
  16. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 78.
  17. ^ Verner 2001c, pp. 589–590.
  18. ^ Verner 2001a, p. 410.
  19. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 293.
  20. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 146.
  21. ^ Bárta 2005, p. 178.
  22. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 332.
  23. ^ a b c Verner 2001d, p. 329.
  24. ^ a b c d Verner 2001d, p. 327.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Verner 2001d, p. 328.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lehner 2008, p. 154.
  27. ^ CEGU 2019, fig. 14.
  28. ^ a b Verner 2001d, pp. 329–330.
  29. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 160.
  30. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 157–158, 160–161.
  31. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 325–326.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Verner 2001d, p. 326.
  33. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 494.
  34. ^ Lehner 2008.
  35. ^ Verner 2001d, pp. 316 & 327–328.
  36. ^ Lehner 2008, pp. 153–154.
  37. ^ Clayton 1994, pp. 62–63.
  38. ^ Verner 2001d, p. 464.
  39. ^ a b Verner 2001d, p. 330.
  40. ^ CEGU 2019, Discovery of a unique tomb and the name of an ancient Egyptian queen in south Saqqara.


  • Allen, James; Allen, Susan; Anderson, Julie; et al. (1999). Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-8109-6543-0. OCLC 41431623.
  • Altenmüller, Hartwig (2001). "Old Kingdom: Fifth Dynasty". In Redford, Donald B. (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 597–601. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5.
  • Bárta, Miroslav (2005). "Location of the Old Kingdom Pyramids in Egypt". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. Cambridge. 15 (2): 177. doi:10.1017/s0959774305000090.
  • "Discovery of a unique tomb and the name of an ancient Egyptian queen in south Saqqara". Czech Institute of Egyptology. 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  • Clayton, Peter A. (1994). Chronicle of the Pharaohs. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05074-0.
  • Dodson, Aidan; Hilton, Dyan (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05128-3.
  • Grimal, Nicolas (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Translated by Ian Shaw. Oxford: Blackwell publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-19396-8.
  • Lehner, Mark (2008). The Complete Pyramids. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28547-3.
  • Malek, Jaromir (2003). "The Old Kingdom (c.2160-2055 BC)". In Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. pp. 83–107. ISBN 978-0-19-815034-3.
  • Shaw, Ian, ed. (2003). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-815034-3.
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001a). "Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology" (PDF). Archiv Orientální. Prague. 69 (3): 363–418. ISSN 0044-8699.
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001c). "Old Kingdom". In Redford, Donald B. (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 585–591. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5.
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001d). The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-1703-8.

External links

  • Haram el-Shawaf
  • The Pyramid of Djedkare at southern South Saqqara In Egypt