Fifth Dynasty of Egypt

The Fifth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasty V) is often combined with Dynasties III, IV and VI under the group title the Old Kingdom. The Fifth Dynasty pharaohs reigned for approximately 150 years, from the early 25th century BC until the mid 24th century BC.

Fifth Dynasty of Egypt
The pyramid of Unas at Saqqara
Common languagesEgyptian language
ancient Egyptian religion
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy
 7–8 years (first)
 13 years
 c. 10 years
Neferirkare Kakai
 c. 2 years
 Few months
 24–35 years
Nyuserre Ini
 8–9 years
Menkauhor Kaiu
 33 up to over 44 years
Djedkare Isesi
 15–30 years (last)
Historical eraOld Kingdom of Egypt
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Fourth Dynasty of Egypt
Sixth Dynasty of Egypt


The Fifth Dynasty of Egypt is a group of nine kings ruling Egypt for approximately 150 years in the 25th and 24th centuries BC.[note 1] The relative succession of kings is not entirely secured as there are contradictions between historical sources and archaeological evidence regarding the reign of the shadowy Shepseskare.


Known rulers in the Fifth Dynasty are listed below.[7] Manetho assigns 248 years of rule to the Fifth Dynasty; however, the pharaohs of this dynasty more probably ruled for approximately 150 years.[19] This estimate varies between both scholar and source. The Horus names[18] and most names of the queens[20] are taken from Dodson and Hilton.[21]

Dynasty V pharaohs
Name of KingHorus (throne) NameImagesEstimated reign durationPyramidQueen(s)
UserkafIrimaat7 yearsPyramid in SaqqaraKhentkaus I ?
SahureNebkhau13 years, 5 months and 12 daysPyramid in AbusirMeretnebty
Neferirkare KakaiNeferirkare20 yearsPyramid in AbusirKhentkaus II
NeferefreNeferkhau2 to 3 yearsUnfinished Pyramid of Neferefre in AbusirKhentkaus III ?
ShepseskareShepseskareLikely a few monthsPossibly in Abusir
Nyuserre IniNyuserre24 to 35 yearsPyramid in AbusirReptynub
Menkauhor KaiuMenkauhor8 or 9 years"Headless Pyramid" in SaqqaraMeresankh IV?
Djedkare IsesiDjedkare33 to more than 44 yearsPyramid in SaqqaraSetibhor
UnasWadjtawy15 to 30 yearsPyramid in SaqqaraNebet

Manetho writes that the Dynasty V kings ruled from Elephantine, but archeologists have found evidence clearly showing that their palaces were still located at Ineb-hedj ("White Walls").

As before, expeditions were sent to Wadi Maghareh and Wadi Kharit in the Sinai to mine for turquoise and copper, and to quarries northwest of Abu Simbel for gneiss. Trade expeditions were sent south to Punt to obtain malachite, myrrh, and electrum, and archeological finds at Byblos attest to diplomatic expeditions sent to that Phoenician city. Finds bearing the names of several Dynasty V kings at the site of Dorak, near the Sea of Marmara, may be evidence of trade but remain a mystery.


How Pharaoh Userkaf founded this dynasty is not known for certain. The Westcar Papyrus, which was written during the Middle Kingdom, tells a story of how king Khufu of Dynasty IV was given a prophecy that triplets born to the wife of the priest of Ra in Sakhbu would overthrow him and his heirs, and how he attempted to put these children – named Userkaf, Sahure, and Neferirkare – to death; however in recent years, scholars have recognized this story to be at best a legend and admit their ignorance over how the transition from one dynasty to another transpired.

During this dynasty, Egyptian religion made several important changes. The earliest known copies of funerary prayers inscribed on royal tombs (known as the Pyramid Texts) appear. The cult of the god Ra gains added importance, and kings from Userkaf through Menkauhor Kaiu built temples dedicated to Ra at or near Abusir. Then late in this dynasty, the cult of the deity Osiris assumes importance, most notably in the inscriptions found in the tomb of Unas.

Djedkare Isesi

Amongst non-royal Egyptians of this time, Ptahhotep, vizier to Djedkare Isesi, won fame for his wisdom; The Maxims of Ptahhotep was ascribed to him by its later copyists. Non-royal tombs were also decorated with inscriptions, like the royal ones, but instead of prayers or incantations, biographies of the deceased were written on the walls.


  1. Several dates have been proposed by the scholars for the Fifth Dynasty: 2513–2374,[1][2] 2510–2370,[3] 2510–2460,[4] 2504–2345,[5] 2498–2345,[6] 2494–2345,[7][8][9][10] 2465–2323,[11][12] 2454–2297,[5] 2450–2335,[13][14] 2450–2325,[15] 2435–2306,[16][17] 2392–2282[18]


  1. Verner 2001b, pp. 588–590.
  2. Altenmüller 2001, pp. 597–600.
  3. Verner 2001d, p. 473.
  4. Grimal 1992, p. 390.
  5. von Beckerath 1997, p. 188.
  6. Clayton 1994, p. 60.
  7. Shaw 2000, p. 482.
  8. Bard 1999, p. xlv, Chronology of Ancient Egypt.
  9. Málek 2000, pp. 98 & 100.
  10. Rice 1999, p. xlix, Chronoloy.
  11. Lehner 2008, p. 8.
  12. Allen et al. 1999, p. xx.
  13. Verner 2001a, p. 418.
  14. Krauss 1998, p. 56.
  15. Arnold 2003, p. 267.
  16. Hornung 2012, p. 491.
  17. Bárta 2017, p. 3.
  18. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 288.
  19. Altenmüller 2001, p. 597.
  20. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 65.
  21. Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 65 & 288.


  • Allen, James; Allen, Susan; Anderson, Julie; Arnold, Arnold; Arnold, Dorothea; Cherpion, Nadine; David, Élisabeth; Grimal, Nicolas; Grzymski, Krzysztof; Hawass, Zahi; Hill, Marsha; Jánosi, Peter; Labée-Toutée, Sophie; Labrousse, Audran; Lauer, Jean-Phillippe; Leclant, Jean; Der Manuelian, Peter; Millet, N. B.; Oppenheim, Adela; Craig Patch, Diana; Pischikova, Elena; Rigault, Patricia; Roehrig, Catharine H.; Wildung, Dietrich; Ziegler, Christiane (1999). Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. OCLC 41431623.
  • Altenmüller, Hartwig (2001). "Old Kingdom: Fifth Dynasty". In Redford, Donald B. (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 597–601. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5.
  • Arnold, Dieter (2003). The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture. London: I.B Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 1860644651.
  • Bard, Kathryn, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-98283-9.
  • Bárta, Miroslav (2017). "Radjedef to the Eighth Dynasty". UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. San Diego: The University of California. 1 (1). ISBN 978-0-615-21403-0.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Clayton, Peter (1994). Chronicle of the Pharaohs. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-05074-3.
  • Dodson, Aidan; Hilton, Dyan (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-05128-3.
  • Grimal, Nicolas (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Translated by Ian Shaw. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-19396-8.
  • Hornung, Erik; Krauss, Rolf; Warburton, David, eds. (2012). Ancient Egyptian Chronology. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Leiden, Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-11385-5. ISSN 0169-9423.
  • Krauss, Rolf (1998). "Wenn und aber: Das Wag-Fest und die Chronologie des Alten Reiches". Göttinger Miszellen (in German). Göttingen: Universität der Göttingen. Seminar für Agyptologie und Koptologie. 162: 53–64. ISSN 0344-385X.
  • Lehner, Mark (2008). The Complete Pyramids. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. ISBN 978-0-500-05084-2.
  • Málek, Jaromir (2000). "The Old Kingdom (c.2160-2055 BC)". In Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. pp. 83–107. ISBN 978-0-19-815034-3.
  • Rice, Michael (1999). Who is who in Ancient Egypt. Routledge London & New York. ISBN 978-0-203-44328-6.
  • Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-815034-2.
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001a). "Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology" (PDF). Archiv Orientální. 69 (3): 363–418.
  • Verner, Miroslav (2001b). "Old Kingdom: An Overview". In Redford, Donald B. (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 585–591. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5.
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Preceded by
Fourth Dynasty
Dynasty of Egypt
c. 24942345 BC
Succeeded by
Sixth Dynasty