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Abu Sir

Sometime during the Fifth Dynasty a northern extension was made to the Saqqara necropolis in the area called Abu Sir. Up until then, Abu Sir was not an oft-used royal burial site, though the tomb of the Third Dynasty King Sekhemkhet was unearthed there in the 1950s.
Userkaf, the first pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty, built his pyramid at Saqqara, but four of his successors had their tombs at Abu Sir. Yet Userkaf had built at Abu Sir before, not a tomb, but a temple. King Userkaf's Temple of the Sun is the earliest preserved Sun Temple in Egypt. It is the northernmost monument at Abu Sir. Userkaf ruled for only seven years, and thus was unable to complete the construction, though additions were made by his successors. Its design is simple and lacks of relief decoration .

It is suggested that the Sun Temple was connected with the worship of the goddess Neith (the "Opener-of-the-Ways") whose cult became popular in the Memphis area during the Fifth Dynasty.
The prime building material of the pyramid complex at Abu Sir was the local limestone, but Tura limestone (from the east bank of the Nile) was used for casing stones and for relief work. Additionally, the pathways and pavements were made of black basalt, and the columns and lintels were made of red granite from Aswan.

Nearby are the mastabas, the flat tombs of priests, nobles, and prominent citizens.. Though Abu Sir was used only occasionally to bury pharaohs, the wide range of dates for the mastabas indicate that it was a very popular burial site among certain classes, especially the priesthood.
In all, around fourteen pyramids are estimated to be at Abu Sir, but due to a degradation in construction methods, many have crumbled, possibly to the point where they are now indistinguishable from the surrounding rubble. Many remain unfound, but four have been excavated and are being studied closely. Of these four, only the pyramids of Kings Sahure and Neferirkare (pyramid) are in any stable condition. The pyramid of Niuserre has largely collapsed, and that of Neferefre does not appear ever to have been finished. Neferefre's pyramid is not completely without merit, however. Recently, a Czech expedition working to excavate and restore Abu Sir found papyrus fragments in its mortuary temple.


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