"...One, who belonges to the heart of his Lord, the favorite of his Lord,
the keeper of the headdress, the vizier, the servant of the Throne,
director of the Palace, privy to the secret of his Lord,
the sole companion, the lector-priest Ptahshepses."

From inscriptions on limestone pillars.

In the area of Abusir Necropolis, in 90 meters to the southeast of the pyramid of Sahura and 60 meters to the north-east from the pyramid of Niuserra, there is a mortuary complex, belonging to the one of the most outstanding members of the Royal Courtyard, whose name was Ptahshepses - the vizier and the son-in-law of Pharaoh of the V Dynasty Niuserra Ini. This monument is considered to be the largest and architecturally unique non-royal tomb of the Old Kingdom.

The ruins were originally discovered in 1843 by the German egyptologist Richard Lepsius, who classified the architectural object as a Pyramid (due to the impressive size of its visible boundaries) and designated it on the Abusir list of monuments as the "Pyramid No. XIX", later reporting this fact in his work «Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien». The first archaeological works were started here only half a century later in 1893 by the French geologist and archaeologist Jacques de Morgan. During these works the site, designated by Richard Lepsius, appeared to be not a Pyramid, but only a part of someone's Mastaba. Excavations of De Morgan, whose results were published at the end of the XIX century, covered only one third of the whole structure. Unfortunately, because of the lack of time and finances, it was impossible to continue further large-scale archaeological works and the site was left at the disposal of the nature and sands of Abusir for another 70 years more ...

In 1960, the Czechoslovak Institute of Egyptology, for the first time in the history of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, began its large-scale research archaeological works on the territory of Abusir. During the series of excavations from 1960 to 1974 under the guidance of the Egyptologists Zbyněk Žába and Abdu al-Qereti, the entire ancient structure, known to us as the largest and most complex non-royal tomb of the Old Kingdom, was completely unearthed.

View on Mastaba of Ptahshepses from the Pyramid of Sahura.

The general plan of the Mastaba reduced to a scale of 1:200 was completed on the basis of the partial measurements of the preceding expeditions, during which the spaces formerly excavated by De Morgan were precisely measured.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

The Mastaba of Ptahshepses was built in three stages. The Entrance into the tomb, documented by De Morgan and confirmed by Zbyněk Žába, is located in the northeast corner of the complex. It consists of two six-meter-high eight-stemmed white limestone columns, made in a shape of lotuses, which supported a limestone architrave. These columns are the oldest example of a similar design ever used in ancient Egypt.

The Entrance leads into a room with six-stemmed lotus columns, built in the second enlargement phase of the Mastaba and was originally to serve as an entrance to the Mastaba but was closed off in the third phase of enlargement. The walls of this room are decorated with scenes of funerary cult and biographical information of Ptahshepses. A narrow corridor, decorated with images of Ptahshepses leads to the Chapel with fragments of statues that once were standing in three niches.

The Chapel leads into the twenty-limestone-pillared Courtyardyard built in the third phase of enlargement (№13 on scheme).


These columns bear life-sized pictures of Ptahshepses and are arranged in such a way to lead a visitor to the large Altar in the center, to the original Mastaba Entrance, and ultimately to Ptahshepses' Burial Chamber. In the scheme below, the arrows are showing the directions of the silhouettes on the columns.


The Burial Chamber is located in the northwest corner of the tomb. Although heavily robbed, two granite sarcophags, a large one for Ptahshepses and a smaller one for his wife Khamerernebty are well preserved.

The original relief decorations are covering the walls of a few rooms of the Mastaba of Ptahshepses. At present time they cover approximately 60 square metres, but this space was originally much larger. The arrangement of relief decoration is shown on the following scheme, marked with dot-lines.

Just like the Pyramids of Abusir, the Mastaba was robbed many times, and Ptahshepses' mummy was destroyed. Moreover, in the New Kingdom, the Mastaba's rooms were used as a workshop for the dismantling of Mastaba's blocks for their subsequent reusing during construction of other buildings. This destructive activity continued until the the Roman Era, and as the result the ruins of the tomb of Ptahshepses were completely buried under the sands of Abusir.

Below are some photos, taken by Milan Zemina while archeological work of Czechoslovak mission in 1960-1974.


In 2017, Mastaba Ptahshepses was visited by the expedition of ISIDA Project, which purposes were to study the architectural and engineering features of the ancient Egyptian builders, as well as the skills of ancient Egyptian artists and scribes who left the valuable information in the ageless stone. So, let's travel for half a century ahead, to the Present time.

The photo below shows a general view of the ruins of the Ptahshepses architectural complex in the very center of which is a Courtyard with 20 limestone pillars, marked in the scheme as No.13. A roof upon it was built to protect the columns with remains of carvings and inscriptions from weather impacts.

The general view of the Mastaba surroundings, the Entrance and the Courtyard with 20 columns.


Bas-reliefs, telling about the life and funeral procession of Ptahshepses into the Afterlife World.


A Burial Chamber with two granite sarcophagus (№ 30 on scheme). An interesting fact: the small sarcophagus has a limestone layer from inside.


A fine-grained blue sandstone plate of unknown origin and purposes. Its thickness is 10 cm. The analog of this material was used for sarcophagus lid of the Headless Pyramid in Saqqara.


This historical site requires careful and consistent study and processing of data. It is necessary to note a careful attitude of the Egyptian specialists for the conservation of ancient monuments, which provides safety of the ancient sites for more detailed research in the future.


Zbyněk Žába – Miroslav Verner et al.
Preliminary Report on Czechoslovak Excavations in Mastaba
of Ptahshepses at Abusir

Czech Institute of Egyptology, Prague 1976

Miroslav Verner
Abusir II. Baugraffiti der Ptahschepses Mastaba
Czech Institute of Egyptology, Prague 1992

Miroslav Verner
Abusir I. The Mastaba of Ptahshepses: Reliefs, vol. I-II
Charles University, Prague 1982

Herausgegeben von Richard Lepsius.
Denkmaler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien

Den jahren 1842— 1845 ausgefohrten wissenschaftlichen expedition.
Neudruck der Ausgabe 1913

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