The Mastaba of the King’s Son Nakhtkare

Just to the west of pyramid no. XXIV, and to the south of the ritual slaughterhouse of Raneferef’s pyramid complex, lies a group of four small tombs arranged in a row from north to south. Judging by their position, these tombs obviously represent the most recent monuments built in the cemetery surrounding the pyramid of Neferirkare.

In the 1994 season, the northernmost tomb in the row was fully excavated – a mastaba of an oblong (15 x 10 m), north-south oriented plan. The core of local limestone as well as the casing of fine white limestone were built of surprisingly big blocks. Almost certainly, in both the mastaba and the neighbouring pyramid (no. XXIV.), the building material of the same provenance and the same workmanship can be observed. It seems that both monuments were built at the same time.

The superstructure and the underground parts of the mastaba were so badly damaged by stone robbers that the reconstruction of the precise plan of the monument can only be conjectural. The entrance opens in the eastern facade of the mastaba, closer to the north-east corner. With some prudence, we can assume that the superstructure enclosed a small chapel accessible through an entrance passage from the east. The only piece of decoration found in the ruins of the mastaba was a small fragment of limestone with the remains of a painting. Unfortunately, the nature of the scene remains unidentifiable. The fragment may come from the decoration of the chapel. Theoretically speaking, a small serdab behind the false door in the western wall of the chapel can be assumed.
The vertical shaft giving access to the underground of the mastaba lies in the north-south axis of the monument, just opposite the entrance corridor to the chapel. The burial chamber, situated to the south of the shaft, was also badly damaged by stone robbers. However, its extant remains enable us to reconstruct the plan of the chamber with a considerable degree of probability.

In the burial chamber the remains of neither the sarcophagus nor the mummy were found. For the burial which had once been laid in the chamber, only the remains of the funerary equipment found in the debris (including miniature symbolic alabaster vessels, copper instruments and pottery) could be attested. Of special importance from these finds are several alabaster models of offerings namely, a goose, a duck, a piece of meat, a loaf of bread, etc.

Judging by the pottery, the mastabas mortuary cult lasted – as a maximum length of time – until the end of the 6th dynasty. Like the neighbouring pyramid (no. XXIV), the mastaba became a quarry in which stone for the shaft complexes of the late Saite Period – situated some 200 m to the south-west – was extracted.
Fortunately for us, an inscription painted in red colour on the western wall of the vertical shaft enables us to identify the owner of the mastaba as “the King’s son Nakhtkare”. The position of the mastaba in the necropolis, together with several other indirect archaeological data have now opened up speculative considerations regarding the possible relationship of Prince Nakhtkare to either Raneferef or Nyuserre.

  Jaromír Krejčí

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