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Userkaf is probably the son of a high priest in Memphis and Neferhetepes (daughter of Djedefre), and he had to marry into the royal family to gain the throne -- his wife, Khentkawes, was the daughter of his predecessor, Shepseskaf. It is most likely that Userkaf is the brother of his two successors, Sahure and Nefirkare.
It is interesting to note that he is the first pharaoh who formally used the royal title "Sa Re", Son of Re as part of his titulary.
No on is quite sure how manetho came up with 28 years ruling, when the turin canon and other papyrii note that only the third catatle count was done, probably a max of 6 or so years. The Turin king list gives him only 7 years, which is confirmed by the Palermo stone. During his reign, the cults continued to grow, seventy "foreign women" arrived in Egypt, but little else is known about the political activity of Userkaf.
Userkaf continued the policy of building pyramids from the fourth Dynasty, although he moved his monuymnet back to Saqqara, where he built a wonderful pyramid -- small, and of poor quality, but used as an offering chapel and moruary temple. The pyramid was named 'The Pyrmiad Which is Pure in Pplaces" -- they all had interesting names. The pyramid is certainly not of the same quality as the pyarmids at Giza, although the large, fine casing blocks were set with precision, and the burial chamber was well-built, but, as soon as the casing stones were removed, the rubble core of the pyramid collapsed.
The temple by the pyramid had a black basalt floor and white limstone walls covered in detailed inscriptions and carvings. The places for six statues were found int he south courtyard, but nothing remains but the foundations behind the pillars of the courtyard. South of the enclosure are two small subsidiary pyramids.
The artistic style of the pyramid is quite detailed, and the style and artistic level of the inscriptions in Userkaf's monuments marks some of the best art in the Old Kingdom. Sculpture and art reached their zzenith in the fifth Dynasty and generaly it declined in subsequent dynasties. The pyarmid and complex is built to the northeast of Djoser's complex. The funerary cult there was probably still functioning, so his building so close may have been an affront to those revering the earlier pharaoh.
However, Userkaf is best known for a new type of funereary monumnet -- the Sun Temple, which he built in Abu Sir, north of Saqqara and about 400 m from Sahure's Pyramid. (It is important to note that most Egyptians probably considered the nothern area of Abu Sir to be part of the Saqqara necropolis, despite the distance). The Sun temple is a different kind of structure, usually with an obelisk (an obvious sun-symbol in the solar cult). It is much ruined now, but a causeway to a valley temple was also built. The temple court has square granite columns and beautiful reliefs. His funereary cult was quite powerful, but seems to have died off by the end of the fifth Dynasty.
The Sun Temple was excavated in the 1950s but was very ruined. Like many of the monuments from ancient egypt, it was used as stone quarry in the subsequent centuries. However, they did manage to identify several stages of building and attribute it to multiple pharaohs adding to the sun temple. Niuserre may have added the inner enclosure wall and chambers of limestone nearly a century after Userkaf died.
The solar cult became more and more important as the dynasties progressed. Few kings going forward do not include Re in their names.
It is normally accepted that Egyptian carving and art reached a high point during this dynasty, and after this point a decline in quality was clearly visible. Never again in Egyptian history did art reach the standard it did in the fifth Dynasty.