Abusir Pyramids - History and Facts | History Hit

Abusir Pyramids

Abu Sir, Giza Governorate, Egypt

The Abusir Pyramids near Cairo, Egypt belonged to the Fifth Dynasty pharaohs.

Peta Stamper

27 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Abusir Pyramids

The Abusir Pyramids, near Cairo in Egypt, are 14 Ancient Egyptian pyramids and named for the House of Osiris: Egyptian god of death and resurrection. Built by the pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including those of Sahure, Neferirkare and Nyuserre Ini and, like Saqqara’s pyramids, the Abusir Pyramids formed part of the ancient city of Memphis.

Several of the Abusir Pyramids are relatively well preserved, particularly that of Nyuserre Ini. Overall, Abusir’s pyramids are not as impressive as those in Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur, in part due to the lower quality of the construction and stones used. Nonetheless, the quieter and less tourist-targeted site of Abusir still provides visitors with a worthwhile glimpse into the ancient Egyptian world.

Abusir Pyramids history

Abusir was established during Egypt’s Old Kingdom, encompassing the period between 2700 to 2200 BC. The period saw Egypt reach its first peak of civilisation in the lower Nile Valley, marked by significant pyramid building, including those at Abusir. It was under the reign of Userkaf, first king of the dynasty, who chose to build his Solar Temple at the site.

At the time, Abusir was a royal necropolis during the Fifth Dynasty, operating out of then-capital Memphis. Gaza had been filled with prestigious dead, and so the pharaohs of the early 25th until the mid 24th centuries needed somewhere new to build their fantastic funerary monuments.

The major pyramids at Abusir were step pyramids – rising in stacked platforms with a single large staircase to climb to the top. The Pyramid of Neferirkare is believed to have originally been such a pyramid, but was later filled in to resemble those at Gaza. Additionally, the materials used to construct the monuments at Abusir were of poorer quality to their earlier counterparts, signalling a decrease of royal power or a declining economy.

Abusir remained an important funerary site until the end of the pharaonic times and was excavated in the late 19th century. Their finds included the Abusir Papyri, found in 1893, constituting the largest collection of Old Kingdom papyrus. The papyri documented how the mortuary temples were run, including lists of daily offerings and even a work rota for priests.

Abusir Pyramids today

Today, the ancient pyramids are still visible as towering mounds of bricks in the rough shapes of triangular prisms that touch the sky. Visitors can walk amongst the large rubble making out columns and patterns carved into the rock.

However, the Abusir Pyramids are undoubtedly a shadow of their formerly grand selves, once great funerary monuments to Egypt’s elite members of society. For this reason, be aware the site is not always included in tour itineraries, although this just lends to the peace and lack of crowding at Abusir.

Getting to the Abusir Pyramids

There are currently no public transport services running to the Abusir Pyramids so the easiest way to get their is via hired car or with a guide/driver. From Cairo, the Abusir Pyramids are a 40 minute drive via the ring road and route 75M.