NEFEREFRE, A KING OF THE FIFTH DYNASTY - by Jimmy Dunn.
There are some real problems concerning the kings list after Neferirkare. Most references today place
an almost unknown king, Shepseskare next in line, but those same references will also often point out
that he could have come after Neferefre's rule, who we are almost certain was a prominent son of
Neferirkare. We are fairly certain of this from a block found near Abusir depicting Neferirkare, his
wife Khentkaus II and a young son who we interpret to be Neferefre, though on the block his name is
spelled somewhat differently. We are really unsure of Shepseskare's parentage.
The real problem is that it appears that after Neferirkare's death, his consort Khentkaus II acted as
regent for a young king for a time and some believe that she may have even ruled Egypt alone for a
short period. Yet the body we believe to be Neferefre, parts of which were found in his pyramid at
Abusir, has been analyzed and a determination made that the young man died between the age of 20-23.
Since we believe he only ruled for no more then three years and possibly only two, it seems strange
that he would need a real regent acting on his behalf. If Neferefre did rule just after Neferirkare,
then some of the evidence simply doesn't fit.
But again, most historians place Shepseskare, though tentatively, as ruler before Neferefre. The only
scenario that fits most of the various evidence is that Shepseskare may have been an older brother, but
not by very much, but this still does not explain Neferefre's sole presence in the pictured in the
block with his mother and father.
In the block, the young son is referred to as Neferre, which means "Re is beautiful", but he probably
later changed his name to Neferefre which means, "Re is his beauty" He is possibly also referred to as
Reneferef or Raneferef, and his nomen was probably Izi, or Isi. Various references provide somewhat
radical differences in the dates of his reign, with it beginning as early as 2419 or as late as 2460,
with perhaps a two or no more then three year duration. However, the Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter
A. Clayton gives his reign seven years.
We are told that he built a solar temple named Hetep-Re, which has never been discovered, but we are
also told that he died, apparently suddenly, before the first level of core could be completed at his
pyramid and mortuary complex at Abusir. Only recently has this pyramid complex, known for many years as
simply the "Unfinished Pyramid", been fully recognized as belonging to the young king.
Neferefre (also called Raneferef) was a Pharaoh of Egypt during the Fifth dynasty. His name means "Beautiful is Re" in Egyptian. A
significant cache of administrative papyri–comparable in size to the Abusir Papyri found in the temple of Neferirkare–was discovered at
Abusir by a 1982 University of Prague Egyptological Institute excavation from a storeroom of his mortuary temple. While Neferefre is
given a reign of some twenty years in Manetho's Epitome, this number is a substantial overestimation of his true reign length; the
current academic view is that he enjoyed a very short rule based on the completely unfinished state of his intended pyramid. A visual
examination of the partly damaged data for Neferefre's reign in the Turin King List shows only a single vertical stroke for this king
(each vertical stroke signifies one year). This would give him a reign of about 1 or 2 years which agrees well with the archaeological
evidence. The Czech Egyptologist, Miroslav Verner, who has been excavating at Abusir since 1976, states in a 2001 journal article that:
"The shape of the tomb of Neferefra...as well as a number of other archaeological finds clearly indicate that the construction of the
king's funerary monument was interrupted, owing to the unexpected early death of the king. The plan of the unfinished building had to be
basically changed and a decision was taken to hastily convert the unfinished pyramid, (of which only the incomplete lowest step of the
core was built), into a "square-shaped mastaba" or, more precisely, a stylized primeval hill. At the moment of the king's death neither
the burial apartment was built, nor was the foundation of the mortuary temple laid."
Verner concludes that based on the position of a mason's inscribed Year 1 date from Neferefre's reign which was found "on a large corner
block situated at the end of the tunnel for the [pyramid's] descending corridor...at about two thirds of the height of the extant core of
the monument", Neferefre reign lasted "not longer than about two years."
Neferefre was the son of king Neferirkare Kakai by queen Khentkaus II, and the elder brother of pharaoh Nyuserre Ini. The only known date
from his reign is the aforementioned mason's inscription from his first Year in the foundation of his pyramid tomb. Little else is known
about Neferefre. While the name of Neferefre's undiscovered sun temple is known to be Hetep-Re, no such structure has yet been
discovered owing perhaps to the short length of his reign.
Likewise, it is not known whom he succeeded and by whom he was in turn succeeded as pharaoh. Generally, his predecessor is held to be
Shepseskare, an even less-known king, and Neferefre's successor is often believed to be his younger brother Niuserre. But Shepseskare
apparently ruled for a few weeks only - he is not mentioned in Khau-Ptah's list of the kings he served under -, and seals bearing his
horus name were found in the oldest part of Neferere's mortuary temple - which, as noted above, was not started until after Neferere was
already dead. Consequently, Shepseskare might have ruled either before or after Neferefre, perhaps signifying a dynastic conflict between
the lineages of Neferirkare Kakai (to which Neferefre and Niuserre belonged) and Sahure (of whom Shepseskare might have been a son).
Because of the premature death of Neferefre, his successor hastily completed work on Neferefre's pyramid at Abusir, which acquired the
form of a mastaba. Although it may share the same resemblance to a mastaba tomb, it is not situated north-south, and it is not rectangular
in shape, but square on all sides. Known as the "Unfinished Pyramid", it stands just seven meters high, but from the constructed portions,
the walls slope at a 64º angle. Similarly to other sites of other Ancient Egyptian pyramids, the burial site of Neferefre contains more
than one pyramid, and his lines up the three pyramids, similarly to the Great Pyramids. Artifacts found at the site show that the name of
his pyramid was called "Divine is Neferefre's Power." All the other buildings of Neferefre's mortuary complex were erected under the
reign of his brother, Nyuserre Ini. While exploring ruins of the mortuary complex, a Czech archaeological expedition discovered papyri of
temple accounts, statues of the king, decorated plates and many seal prints. Pieces of mummy wrappings and bones were also found, which
were discovered to be the remains of Neferefre. An anthropological analysis of his mummy reveals the king to have died in his early
twenties, at between 20 and 23 years old. This evidence accords well for a king who died relatively soon into his reign and left an