Southern South Saqqara pyramid
unknown (see Attribution), 13th Dynasty
Coordinates29°49′50″N 31°13′20″E / 29.83056°N 31.22222°E / 29.83056; 31.22222Coordinates: 29°49′50″N 31°13′20″E / 29.83056°N 31.22222°E / 29.83056; 31.22222
Constructed18th century BCE
TypeTrue pyramid (now ruined)
MaterialMudbrick (core)
Tura limestone (casing, barely started)
Base78.75 m (258.4 ft)

The Southern South Saqqara Pyramid[1] (also Unfinished Pyramid at South Saqqara;[2] Lepsius XLVI; SAK S 6[3]) is an ancient Egyptian royal tomb which was built during the 13th Dynasty in South Saqqara, and is renowned for having the most elaborate hypogeum since the late 12th Dynasty pyramids.[2] The building remained unfinished and is still unknown which pharaoh was really intended to be buried here since no appropriate inscription has been found.

Pyramid complex

Plant of the complex

The pyramid was rediscovered in the 1910-11 campaign by Ernest Mackay and Flinders Petrie; in 1929-30 Gustave Jéquier performed a detailed exploration of the complex.
It is located southwest of the pyramid of Khendjer and was planned to be slightly larger: in fact, the base was designed to be a square of 78.75 m (258.4 ft) per side, against the 52.5 m (172 ft) of the one of Khendjer.

The pyramid complex consists in a hypogeum, a barely started superstructure and a wavy enclosure wall; other structures such as the cult pyramid, funerary temple etc were not found. Two uninscribed pyramidia made from black granite were discovered within the site and seems to have brought here quite early compared to the completion status of the superstructure.[1]
Fine Tura limestone bricks were used for the walls of the hypogeum; the same material was also used for the incomplete superstructure foundations, the trench of which was 1.8 m (5.9 ft) deep and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide. The unique sinusoid-shaped enclosure wall, relatively well conserved, was made from mudbricks and was 0.65 m (2.1 ft) thick with 1 m (3.3 ft) deep foundations. At the four corners of the pyramid few objects belonging to the foundation deposits has been found and none of these bears any name.[4]


Isometric view of the hypogeum

The hypogeum is remarkable for its size and complexity, being the largest and most elaborate of all the late 12th and 13th dynasties pyramids; it change directions and slope several times and was planned to contain four portcullises, an amount which is unparalleled to any other coeval pyramid.[2]
The entrance is on the east side. A long descending staircase pass through the alcove where the first portcullis was intended to be put. Then the corridor continues turning left and then turning right, again facing west. Now two passages opens on the right side of the corridor: the first of these become a long storage hallway while a second, parallel passage descends again, then turns left (facing west) and pass the second (on the left) and third (on the right) portcullises, finally arriving to the last fork.[2]

Two burial chambers

On the west, the sarcophagus chamber can be found, with its reverse-V-shaped ceiling: it contains a monolithic 150 t (330,000 lb) quartzite block which was carved in its interior in order to obtain a sarcophagus and a canopic chest niche, both unused.[1]
A second, smaller sarcophagus chamber is located north of the fork and is peculiar for having the antechamber and the sarcophagus-vault swapped, the latter being encountered before the former; the antechamber still contains the sarcophagus lid, and the two rooms were intended to be separated by the fourth and last portcullis.[2] This unusual layout could be only explained with some religious or tradition reasons. The function of this second chamber is uncertain, it may have been destined to a queen consort or to the king's ka, or maybe simply a false burial chamber designed in order to confuse plunderers.[1]


With the use of several sophisticated expedients such as direction changes, slope variations, trapdoors hidden beneath the pavement, the ceiling and the side walls, not to mention the four portcullises and possibly the second burial chamber (if indeed it was a decoy as proposed above), the hypogeum was intended to be virtually impervious to any grave robber. Nevertheless, all these precautions were useless and plunderers managed to make their way to the burial chambers, only to find them empty and unused; Gustave Jéquier was able to reach the chambers either through the corridor and through the thieves' tunnel.[4]
There are indications that the pyramid was first violated in antiquity and at least another time much later, likely during the times of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mūn (9th century CE), the same who entered the Great Pyramid of Giza.[4]


Among the many objects recovered from the pyramid complex, no one provides the name of the owner, although control notes referring to a regnal year 3 to 5 were found. Considering the size, complexity and quality of various parts of the hypogeum, Rainer Stadelmann argued that the owner should have been an important (or at least ambitious) pharaoh when compared with the standard of the dynasty.[1][5] The complex shares many similarities with other complexes such as the pyramid of Khendjer, the Northern Mazghuna pyramid and, to a lesser extent (mainly the second sarcophagus typology) the pyramid of Ameny Qemau.[1][2][4]

Jéquier proposed that the pyramid belonged to a close predecessor or successor of Khendjer such as Wegaf or Imyremeshaw. Kim Ryholt excluded Wegaf due to his too brief reign when compared to the aforementioned dates on control notes, and rather considered Imyremeshaw or his successor Sehetepkare Intef as possible owners.[6]

It has been also prudently suggested that the two sarcophagus chambers might have belonged to two brother pharaohs of the 13th Dynasty such as the relatively wealthy kings Neferhotep I and Sobekhotep IV.[7]

A fragmentary inscription found within the pyramid reads "Weserkha..." and it has been suggested that it could refers to the Golden Horus name Weserkhau, belonged to king Djehuti, thus that this ruler could have been the pyramid owner.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, Thames and Hudson, London 1997, pp. 187. ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dawn McCormack, "The Significance of Royal Funerary Architecture in the Study of 13th Dynasty Kingship." In M. Marée (ed) The Second Intermediate Period (13th-17th Dynasties), Current Research, Future Prospects, Belgium: Peeters Leuven, 2010, pp. 69-84.
  3. ^ a b Christoffer Theis, "Zum Eigentümer der Pyramide Lepsius XLVI / SAK S 6 im Süden von Sakkara", Göttinger Miszellen 218 (2008), pp. 101–105
  4. ^ a b c d Franco Cimmino, Storia delle Piramidi. Rusconi, Milano 1996, pp. 298–300, ISBN 88-18-70143-6.
  5. ^ Rainer Stadelmann, Die ägyptischen Pyramiden. Vom Ziegelbau zum Weltwunder. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 3. Aufl., Mainz 1997, p. 251, ISBN 3-8053-1142-7.
  6. ^ K.S.B. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, c.1800–1550 BC, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications, vol. 20. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997, pp.. 194; 244.
  7. ^ Dawn Landua-McCormack, Dynasty XIII Kingship in Ancient Egypt: a study of political power and administration through an investigation of the royal tombs of the late Middle Kingdom, University of Pennsylvania 2008, p. 207 (Ph.D. dissertation).
  • Gustave Jéquier, Fouilles à Saqqarah: Deux pyramides du Moyen Empire. Édition Photographique de l'Édition Originale-Impreimerie de l'IFAOC 193, 1933, Cairo 1986.
  • W.M.F. Petrie, G. A. Wainwright, E. Mackay, The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh, London 1912, available online.
  • Miroslav Verner, Die Pyramiden. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 1998, pp. 472–474, ISBN 3-499-60890-1.

External links

  • The Ancient Egypt site - The Unfinished Pyramid
  • - The unattested Southern South Saqqara pyramid in Egypt