Pyramid of Senusret I – El- Lisht
Senusret I chose El- Lisht to make his pyramid, the pyramid of senusert I.
The ascent to the throne of Pharaoh Senusret I takes place in a bloody manner following the conspiracy that sees the killing of his own father, reigning ruler.
Dr. Maria Cristina Guidotti, director of the Egyptian Museum of Florence, speaks about this episode in a lecture entitled: “Plots, crimes, and trials in ancient Egypt” held on the occasion of a conference organized by the Florentine cultural association Eumeswil.
Dr. Guidotti dedicated the central part of her speech to the story of two plots against the pharaohs Amenemhat I and Ramses III, of which we have today a testimony thanks to the discovery of particular documents.
<< According to the writings we received, Amenemhat I, pharaoh of the 12th dynasty, was assassinated in 1962 BC, by a conspiracy hatched by nobles with the complicity of some court figures, in particular within the Pharaoh’s harem.
The failure to find the Amenemhat I mummy did not make it possible to ascertain the actual causes of the death of the pharaoh, but two documents help to help the conspiracy thesis >>.
The first is the story of Sinhue which we have already extensively covered in previous articles, the second is the teaching of Amenemhat I to his son Senusret.
The story, as was the custom, is done in the first person, Amenemhat complains and turns to his son, saying:
<< …….. the murder was perpetrated when I was without you and before the court learned your investiture, before we sat together on the throne, (the ancient custom wanted that the pharaoh, before his death, associated his heir on the throne to guarantee the dynastic succession). … … if you could fix the issues that concern you!
But I had not prepared anything, I did not expect such an event, I did not expect such a lack of my servants. Is it perhaps women ‘s duty to fight? …… The battle must be introduced into the palace? …… >>, (referring to the conspiracy plotted in the Pharaoh’s harem).
Sesostri was engaged in an expedition against the Libyans in the western desert when it was reached by the news. He immediately rushes to the capital, Menfi, and soon takes control of the situation.
According to some Sesostris had already been associated with the throne for at least 10 years, other scholars, like Nicolas Grimal, believe instead that the succession was not yet clearly defined since it is reported that Sesostris ascended the throne “not without problems”.
Sesostris I, (Senuosret (Man of the goddess Uosret) or Kheperkara (Created is the Ka of Ra), reigned around 1950 BC and was one of the most powerful pharaohs of the 12th dynasty, he enjoyed enormous prestige to the point of being counted among the sovereigns most deserving in the Ramesside period lists of him writes the Italian Egyptologist Franco Cimmino:
“….. with him, the Egypt of the 12th dynasty assumed a classical dimension which will remain until the end of Pharaonic history … .. “.
From his marriage to his sister Neferu III, Amenemhat II was born, who followed him to the throne.
Senusret I reigned for about 43 years, (45 according to the Canon of Turin), during which he pursued his father’s politics by creating, inside of the country, the figures of the Vizier for Lower Egypt and of the Vizier for Upper Egypt to whom the nomarchs were subjected, preventing the recession of a peripheral power, rejecting the Libyan nomads in order to guarantee the safety of the caravan routes connecting Abydos with the oasis of El-Kharga while in the south it reached the second cataract of the Nile, the conquest is documented on some steles at Beni Assan and at Assiut.
He built the fortresses of Buhen, Aniba, Faras, Kuban, and Ikkur.
It re-established mercantile contacts with Syria and Palestine, absent since the time of Pepi II, and the merchants returned to Ugarit.
He organized numerous expeditions to the quarries of the Wadi Hammamat from which he imported large quantities of stone for the construction of 60 sphinxes and 150 statues.
In the third year of his reign he had the important temple of Atum-Ra built-in Heliopolis and on the occasion of his Heb-Sed, the jubilee for the thirty years of his reign, he had two red granite obelisks erected, one of which is still in Al-Matariyya, (Heliopolis), is 20 meters tall and weighs 121 tons.
The White Chapel
He also built several other temples in various places in Egypt. Also on the occasion of his jubilee, he had Karnak build the “White Chapel”, which contains very refined reliefs of the sovereign.
The chapel was then looted at the time of Amenophis III of the XVIII dynasty and its blocks used in the third pillar of the temple of Karnak.
Pyramid of Senusret I
For his pyramid Senusret I, also chose the necropolis of El-Lisht, built it about 1.5 kilometers south of his father’s and called it “Senusret looks down towards the two countries”.
Despite being slightly larger than that of the father, it does not differ much from the latter. A limestone wall skeleton resting on a platform of stone blocks.
As for filling material, various debris and material from the construction site were used, all enclosed by the facing in fine white limestone blocks.
Exceptionally, in this pyramid, no stone blocks were found that were plundered from other funerary complexes. On the north side of the pyramid there was the chapel under which the entrance to the substructure was built, towards the north wall of the chapel there was wedged an alabaster stele with a granite altar in front.
The remaining walls were decorated with polychrome bas-relief scenes probably depicting rituals of sacrifice and divinity processions, today they are in a very poor state of preservation.
The descending corridor in south-east direction was covered in limestone in which still today the enormous blocks of the original closure are each stuck, each weighing about 20 tons.
The whole underground part is submerged by water, as in the case of the pyramid of Amenemhat I, Arnold hypothesizes that the burial chamber is at a depth of about 24 meters. Below the descending corridor, a tunnel was discovered which was also descending and which probably served for the transport of the material for the construction of the substructure which subsequently, upon completion of the works, was closed and filled with earth.
The first circle of walls enclosed the pyramid, the western part of the funerary temple and the small cult pyramid. In the lower part of the wall, there are bas-relief depictions with the divinities of the abundance that are offered while in the upper part there is the search with the name of the pharaoh, that of Horo Ankhmesut followed alternatively by the one of coronation Kheperkare and the common one Senusret.
The funerary temple, called “Places (of Senusret cult) are united”, was completely devastated by looters and stone quarries as well as the cult pyramid in whose underground chambers Arnold hypothesized that there were the statue of the royal ka and the canopic case.
The second circle of walls encloses the entire complex with the funerary temple and nine small pyramidal complexes, each with a wall that encloses the pyramid and one or more chapels, these complexes are located, three on the south side and two for each side, west, east and north.
At first, Lensing thought it was simple cenotaphs. But today we think rather of tombs of queens and members of the royal family, for two of these complexes, it was possible to identify the owners who are the queens Nofret I, daughter of Amenemhat I and wife of Sesostris I, and of Itakaiet, daughter or further wife of Sesostris I.
As for Nofret, his name is inscribed in a cartouche, a privilege hitherto reserved only to the pharaoh. According to some Egyptologists, it would be the queen who ordered the plot in which Amenemhat I was killed as it appears to be in the “Tale of Sinhue“.
The downstream temple is buried under immense mounds of sand on the edge of the desert, it must have been a complex similar to that of Mentuhotep II, in the distant Thebes, with inside polychrome statues of the standing king in the form of Osiris mummy with the arms crossed on the chest and the head alternately crowned with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. Some of these statues found on site are today divided between the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Before concluding it is necessary to mention the important discovery made by Gautier in 1884. Under the floor of the inner courtyard, north of the funerary temple, Gautier discovered a hiding place in which there were ten limestone statues of the pharaoh Sesostris I seated on the throne, plus large than in nature, which today are exhibited at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Among the Egyptologists, the idea prevails that the statues, some of which are evidently unfinished, were placed in the courtyard open to the pillars of the temple and that they were quickly removed and hidden by the priests when the Hyksos arrived to preserve them from the profanation of the Asians.
Arnold instead believes that they had been prepared for the decoration of the ceremonial ramp, replaced then by those in Osiris form and pitifully placed in the hiding place under the paved courtyard.
Sources and bibliography:
Miroslav Verner, “The mystery of the pyramids” Newton & Compton editor, 2002
M. Cristina Guidotti, “Plots, Crimes, and Trials in Ancient Egypt”, Dossier & Intelligence 2004
Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Riccardo Manzini, “Egyptian Pyramidal Complexes – Abu Roash, El-Lisht, Mazguneh”, Ananke, 2011
Alan Gardiner, “The Egyptian civilization”, Oxford University Press 1961, Einaudi, Turin 1997)