The Pyramid complex of Userkaf was built c. 2490 BC for pharaoh Userkaf, founder of the 5th dynasty of Egypt
. It is located in the pyramid field at Saqqara, on the north-east of the Step Pyramid of Djoser
. Constructed in dressed stone, with a core of rubble, the pyramid today resembles a conical hill in the sands of Saqqara and is thus known as el-haram el-makherbish, the "Ruined Pyramid". It is part of a larger mortuary complex which is markedly different from those built during the 4th Dynasty in its size, architecture and location, being at Saqqara rather than Gizah.
The mortuary complex of Userkaf comprises the same structures as those of Userkaf's 4th dynasty predecessors: a high wall surrounded the complex with its pyramid and high temple and there was certainly a valley temple located closer to the Nile, yet to be uncovered. The valley temple was connected to the pyramid by a causeway whose exact trajectory is unknown, even though its first few meters are still visible today.
The layout of the complex however differs significantly from that of earlier complexes. Indeed, it is organized on a north-south axis rather than an east-west one: the high temple is located south of the main pyramid and its structures are turned away from it. Furthermore, a small offering chapel is adjoining the eastern base of the pyramid, a configuration otherwise unattested since offering chapels usually occupy the inner sanctum of the mortuary temple.
A small offering chapel is adjoining the eastern side of the main pyramid and is barely visible today. It consisted of a central two pillared room with a large quartzite false door and two narrow chambers on the sides. Like the mortuary temple, the chapel was floored with black basalt. Its walls however were made of Tura limestone and granite and were adorned with fine reliefs of offering scenes.
Userkaf's pyramid is located on the northeast corner of Djoser's step pyramid complex. The pyramid was originally around 49 metres (161 ft) high and 73 metres (240 ft) large with an inclination of 53° identical to that of Khufu's great pyramid for a total volume of 87,906 m3 (114,977 cu yd).The core of the pyramid is built of small roughly-hewn blocks of local limestone disposed in horizontal layers. This meant a considerable saving of labor as compared to the large and more accurately-hewn stone cores of 4th Dynasty Pyramids
. However, as the outer casing of Userkaf's pyramid fell victim to stone robbers throughout the millennia, the loosely assembled core material was progressively exposed and fared much worse over time than that of the older pyramids. This explains the current ruined state of the pyramid.
The pyramid core was constructed in a step-like structure, a construction technique similar to that of the 4th dynasty although the building material was of a significantly lower quality. The outer casing of the pyramid was made of fine Tura limestone which certainly ensured Userkaf's construction an appearance similar to that of the glorious 4th Dynasty pyramids. There was however no red granite paneling over the lower part of the pyramid as in the case of the Pyramid of Menkaure.