Ancient Egypt / Old Kingdom /
There are no clear theories as to why the 4th Dynasty came to and end and the 5th could take over control of the country. It may have been a dramatic transition, but when Userkaf established the new dynasty, this is assumed to have ended royal strife within the 4th Dynasty. In many respects, the 5th was a continuation of the 4th, the 5th Dynasty kings were of the same original royal family.
Kings of this dynasty were also pyramid builders, and Sahure, the 2nd king inaugurated a new burial ground, today known as Abu Sir. This relocation may have been a necessity from the fact that his projected pyramid would appear small if standing next to any of the older ones. Pyramids of 7 of the 9 kings have been located, Shepseskare and Menkauher being the exceptions. But Shepseskare is suggested to have been the builder of an unfinished pyramid at Abu Sir, and records show that Menkauher also had one built, but its location is unknown.
The smaller pyramids of this dynasty indicate a decline in central power compared with the 4th. Still, from this it may not be deducted that the national economy was weakened. People and nobles in the 5th Dynasty were painfully aware of the national cost the great pyramids had represented, and a king may no longer have had the position of forcing gigantic projects through. This on the other hand, may well have led to better living conditions for the common man.
Still, in one field the 5th excels the 4th; decorations in the funerary temples are of higher quality than ever before.
According to Manetho, kings of this dynasty ruled from Yabu (Elephantine), but archaeologic evidence show that palaces continued to be built at Memphis. The position of Memphis was, however, weakened as many religious functions were relocated to Heliopolis.
Evidence show that Egypt's foreign trade was as active as before, suggesting a wealthy and well-functioning society. But some territorial control seem to have been lost; in which the southern fortress of Buhen was apparently abandoned, and with it control over northern Nubia.
High officials were recruited also outside the royal family, a change from the 4th Dynasty. Eventually, the nobles would become more and more independent from the king. This is reflected in the fact that the tombs of the nobles were more and more being built away from the kings'. Tombs of nobles were also richly decorated, usually with biographies of the dead, reflecting their individual importance.
There were some changes in Egyptian religion in this period. Funerary prayers become inscribed on royal tombs, known as the Pyramid Texts. Also, Re becomes increasingly more important, marked by 6 of the kings constructing sun temples dedicated to Re near Abu Sir. It is suggested that these temples also had a funerary function. The elevation of Re would be temporary, as Osiris became increasingly important towards the end of the dynasty. This change seem to have happened before or during the reign of Menkauher.
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