The White Pyramid of Amenemhat II – 12th Dynasty
Senusret I was succeeded by his son Amenemhat II, certainly the son of Queen Neferu III, who was given the title of “Mother of the King”, when he ruled he started to make his pyramid, the white pyramid, 12th Dynasty.
But as they say, the mother is certain, while as far as the father is concerned, some scholars have many doubts that he was really Sesostris I as there are no findings to confirm it.
In an inscription found in the tomb of a namesake of the same name in Beni Hasan, it is reported that the nominee Amenemhat followed in an expedition to Nubia “Ameni, Son of the King”.
This Ameni may have been the young prince who later became Amenemhat II even if it is only a hypothesis.
Little is known about his family, the name of the royal bride of Amenemhat II is not known as it is not documented anywhere who was the queen mother of Senusret II, even if it is thought that in any case, she was the son of Amenemhat II.
In the great funerary complex of the pharaoh there are numerous tombs of queens or princesses but their connection with Amenemhat II has not been ascertained, there is a tomb that could have belonged to the queen of the XIII dynasty Keminub, in addition to those of the princesses, with the title of Daughters of the King, Hittite, Itaweret, and Khnumit, who may have been his daughters.
At first, it was believed that Amenemehat II had shared power with the father based on the interpretation of a text contained in a stele of the official, Wepwaweto, (preserved in Leiden, V4), but today it is considered unlikely.
The “Annals of Amenemhat II” is of particular importance to the sovereign, whose fragments have been found in Menfi and report on donations to temples and some political facts.
From the fragments, it was learned of a military expedition to Asia with the destruction of two unidentified cities, Iuai and Iasy.
We have news of other military expeditions of Amenemehat II, including three in Sinai, one in Wadi Gasus and one in Wadi el-Hudi in search of amethysts.
He had several buildings and temples built in Heliopolis, Heracleopolis, Memphis, and Hermopolis.
At the Louvre Museum in Paris, there is a colossal sphinx with the face of the Pharaoh Amenemhat II found at Tanis, the statue was then usurped by Merenptah, (XIX dynasty) and by Sheshonq I, (XXII dynasty) with the affixing of their cartouches.
In the temple of Montu, in Tod, a town 20 kilometers south of Luxor, a treasure trove of silver pieces was found, contained in coffins on which the pharaoh is mentioned:
<< ……. can live the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Nubkaura, son of Ra, Amenemhat, loved by Montu, Lord of Djerty, (Tod) …… >>.
Mentone, frequently misinformed, tells that:
<< …….. (Amenemhat II) he was killed by his eunuchs …….. >>, there is no evidence that confirms this thesis, most probably Maneton does confusion with the death of Pharaoh Amenemhat I occurred some 80 years earlier.
For its funerary complex Amenemhat I, broke the tradition of its two predecessors and abandoned El-Lisht for Dahshur, the ancient necropolis of the IV dynasty.
Its pyramid, called, (perhaps), “Amenu-Sekhem”, (Amenemhat is well cared for), stood east of the “Red Pyramid” by Snefru and, ironically, was called “White Pyramid“.
The name is probably due to the fact that it was completely covered with white limestone blocks. Today it is reduced to little more than a pile of rubble as it was almost completely robbed of white limestone by the nearby local populations.
A large-scale investigation was never carried out, it was explored, little more than summarily in 1894-95, by Jacques De Morgan who devoted most of his time to the excavation of the tombs in the temple enclosure, that of the prince Amenemhetankh and of the princesses Ita, Itaweret, Khnumit and Sithathormeret in which were found remains of the funerary equipment, including wooden sarcophagi, canopic crates and alabaster jars for perfumed ointments.
In the tombs of Ita and Khnumit, the most precious finds were found, refined jewels that can be admired today in the “Treasure Room” of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Interesting that numerous silver objects found are not Egyptian artifacts but of Aegean origin, from which it can be deduced that in the Middle Kingdom there were contacts between Egypt and foreign countries.
The entrance to the pyramid is located below the northern chapel, a conduit descending in blocks of limestone, whose construction is very similar to that of the pyramid of Neferirkare in Abusir about 40 meters long, has a flat ceiling surmounted in turn by a truss in overlapping limestone slabs.
The last stretch continued in horizontal and, after a dam with two slabs of granite, ended in the burial chamber placed in correspondence with the vertical axis of the pyramid.
The burial chamber, whose ceiling was built in the same way as that of the corridor and that of the king’s chamber in the pyramid of Cheops, with the exception of the discharge chambers, had an extremely articulated plan, two warehouses were on the south wall and two on the east and west walls, there was also a well from which one could access a substructure containing the canopic jars.
Inserted in the internal walls of the western wall a quartzite sarcophagus consisting of a compartment with the dimensions of about 2 by 1 meter with a height of 1 meter.
In the absence of findings of any kind, it is not possible to ascertain with certainty that Amenemhat II was actually buried in the pyramid.
Today the complex is almost entirely buried under the sand in a state of neglect and the only known news are those documented by De Morgan.
Since the limestone lining is almost completely missing it is not possible to establish the inclination angle and consequently the original height, as far as the base is concerned it is thought to be about 50 meters.
By: Piero Cargnino
Sources and bibliography:
Mario Tosi, “Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Gods of Ancient Egypt”, Ananke, 2004
Maurizio Damiano, “Encyclopedic Dictionary of Ancient Egypt and Nubian Civilizations”, Mondadori, 1996
Guy Rachet, “Larousse dictionary of Egyptian civilization”, Gremese Editore, 1994
Edda Bresciani, “Great illustrated encyclopedia of ancient Egypt “, De Agostini, 2005)