Select Page

Saqqara's Mortuary Temples

Mortuary Temples - The Buildings - Builders & Buildings

Saqqara Necropolis’ Mansions of Millions of Years

Some of the Saqqara Necropolis’ Pyramids had their own Mortuary Complex attached to them, but not all. If they did have a Mortuary Complex, then these usually included:

  • Enclosure Wall;
  • Mortuary Chapel or Temple;
  • Main Pyramid
  • Offering Chapel
  • Subsidiary Tombs

Mortuary Temple with the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser

Pharaoh Djoser wheedled full control over the population as well as the materials of the state which allowed him to change the Necropolis site from Abydos to Saqqara and order the building of the largest monument of its era out of hewn stone rather than mud brick. 

His Mortuary Temple remains are located next to the Step Pyramid.

Imhotep, the World’s First Known Architect, worked for Pharaoh Djoser. He crafted and built the first Pyramid or even Monument to be designed out of cut stones rather than sun baked mud bricks or bedrock stones allowing higher and more durable structures. But not only did he design a new structure and concept, he also invented new tools, a new Nile water irrigation systems and new equipment. On top of this he wrote it all down allowing all following Architects to literally build on his theories and constructs. To learn more about Architect Imhotep, click here. 

Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Userkaf


5th Dynasty Pharaoh Userkaf’s Mortuary Complex was completed in approx. 2490BC. His Pyramid was a True sided Pyramid which reached 49m high, with a base of 73.5m and was joined in the Complex by a Mortuary Temple, Offering Chapel and a Cult Pyramid with reciprocal buildings for Pharaoh’s Chief Royal Wife, Queen Neferhetepes.

Userkaf’s Mortuary Temple has its own Hypostyle Hall with 4 pairs of Red Granite pillars which leads to an Inner Sanctum holding 5 Statue Niche’s which is where the Pharaoh’s Ka is represented in his Ka Statue. Its use is vast as it remains the core of the Pharaoh’s Cult Centre and is used for the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. Regrettably, all that remains is the paving and large granite blocks around the outside door.


Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Djedkare and his Chief Royal Wife, Queen Setibhor


Pharaoh’s True sided Pyramid was accompanied by his Mortuary Complex with reciprocal buildings for Pharaoh’s Chief Royal Wife, Queen Setibhor.

The body of Pharaoh Djedkare was discovered in the mid-1940s inside his own 6 stepped Pyramid which is relatively rare as many Pyramids, Mastabas and Tombs of this period were robbed and then desecrated for their building material in antiquity.

Pharaoh Djedkare’s Pyramid was used as an architectural plan for later Pharaohs, namely Pharaoh Teti, Pharaoh Pepi I, Pharaoh Merenre I and Pharaoh Pepi II, when they were planning their own Mortuary Complexes.

Distressingly Pharaoh’s Mortuary Temple was ravaged in the Second Intermediate Period and then reused as a burial site in the 18th Dynasty, leaving little from the original Temple design apart from the original Limestone paving which has allowed for the Chambers to be digitally reconstructed. 4 Djed Pillars measuring 93cm tall were used as an architectural element in the Temple. Lion and Sphinx statues were resting on rectangular pedestals along with an Alabaster Statue of Pharaoh Djedkare himself.

Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Unas

Pharaoh Unas had the smallest of the Old Kingdom Pyramids, but it retains notoriety due to the Pharaoh inscribing the Pyramid texts on its interior. Erected in the 5th Dynasty for Pharaoh Unas, who was the final Pharaoh of that Dynasty.

His Mortuary Temple ia accessed through a Pink Granite Doorway which appears to have been erected by Pharaoh Unas’ successor, Pharaoh Teti.

This is the only difference between Unas’ layout and that of his predecessor, Pharaoh Djedkare. The Entrance Hall is decorated with images of offerings and this leads into storerooms to the north and south; and then an open columned Courtyard area with 18 Pink Granite Palmed Columns which support the roof.

A Transverse Corridor leads into a Chapel which has niches for 5 Statues. Beyond that is the Offering Hall which is created out of an unusual building material, that leads to the Cult Pyramid.

Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Pepi I

A Funerary Complex for the Pharaoh of which the construction was overseen as Architect by his wife and Queen, Inenek-Inti, who also served as Pharaoh Pepi I’s Vizier. It included a Valley Temple, Causeway, Mortuary Temple, Pyramid Town and a further 10 minor Pyramidal complexes; including the Complex for Queen Inenek-Inti. Built in the 6th Dynasty, the Complex was a copy of Pharaoh Djedkare’s Complex also at Saqqara. The Pyramid itself was a True Pyramid in its shape, it was 52.5m high and a base of 78.75m. Pharaoh Pepi I’s Mortuary Complex was known as “Men-nefer-Pepi” which was the taken name of the Capital City, “Men-nefer” or Memphis. For more information click here.

As with all Mortuary Complexes of this period, Pharaoh Pepi I’s Complex included a Valley Temple which adjoined to the Pyramid Town and Causeway. At the time of publication, these have yet to be excavated in full. The other parts of the Complex which have been excavated are: his Mortuary Temple, his Cult Pyramid and his Burial place in the Main Pyramid.

The Causeway would have led into the Mortuary Temple’s Entrance Hall (1) with Storerooms either side (2); on into a larger Courtyard (3) which would have been graced with columns (4) before meeting with the Transverse Hallway (5). The Inner Sanctum or Chapel contained 5 Niches for the Ka Statue of Pharaoh and other supporting Deities (6). The other rooms would have been used for offerings, storage and anti-chambers which would have assisted the Priests with carrying out Pharaoh’s daily and significant cult rituals (7-10). The Cult pyramid would not have received any burial but rather been the nightly home location for Pharaoh’s Ka (11). Lastly the Temple had its own Courtyards (12a and b).

Regrettably, the Temple was damaged in antiquity by thieves who robbed away many of the Stone for their own use in Lime production. Archaeologists know this as they have located the lime furnace that the robbers used within the Temple grounds.


Enjoying this Website? Please spread the word :)