The XII Dynasty -Amenemhat I

September 7, 2019by admin0

XII Dynasty Amenemhat I

Now we are in the midst of the Middle Kingdom, the actions taken by the rulers of the 11th dynasty have rebuilt a united and peaceful Egypt, On the death of Mentuhotep IV, Amenemhat I, who had held the office of vizier in his service, was succeeded to the throne and was probably also adopted by him to make the XII Dynasty.

Without any particular legitimacy nor any claims by other possible heirs, Amenemhat I – XII Dynasty enters the throne and with him is born the XII dynasty which is also underlined by the Royal papyrus of Turin, referring to line 5.19: “… ẖnw it t3.wy”, ( King), of the residence of Itytawy ”, the papyrus continues listing the pharaohs of the 12th dynasty.

Amenemhat I – XII Dynasty immediately showed his iron will to maintain a united and peaceful Egypt to avoid going back to the times when each nomarch behaved as he pleased.

He immediately showed himself to be drastic both in the royal family and in the government, to give a strong signal of rupture with the past and to send a signal that the times had changed moved the capital from Thebes to Itytawy, (today El-Lisht), in the Fayyum, just south of Memphis.

His reign characterized the 12th dynasty to such an extent that we can certainly call it the most stable that has ever governed ancient Egypt.

Seven generations of the same family succeeded one another with eight sovereigns who reigned for a total of about 180 years, from 1940 to 1760 BC. about firmly controlling the fate of the Two Lands.

At that time we are witnessing a flowering of literature and even today we can appreciate the great classical works that were composed at that time.

Sapiential papyrus

Of particular relevance is the text dating back to the reign of Amenemhat I, from the “Sapiential papyrus”:

<< The teaching of Amenemhat for the son Sesostri >>.

The short text has the form of a political testament, it is the teaching of a king to his son and successor.

In the text, obviously posthumously,  AmenemhatI -XII Dynasty, who was killed in an attack plotted against him in his own building, recommends to his son distrust of inferiors and friends:

<< ……. There is no (man) valiant at night, there is no one who fights alone …… >>.

From the recommendations made by the sovereign to his son emerges a widespread pessimism and a sort of misanthropy:

<< My son distrusts your subordinates ……. do not trust a brother, do not know a friend, do not make you intimate. ……, the man has no friends on the day of the misfortune >>.

The Egyptologist Alan Gardiner puts forward the hypothesis that the Teaching was originally recorded in the mortuary temple of Amenemhat I in Lisht; this would explain why the king, killed in the attack, speaks in the first person.

The text ends with the demonstration of the affection of the sovereign to the son to whom he will leave the kingdom: << … … while my feet are on the way, you are in my heart, my eyes look at you, son born of joy, while the people acclaim you ……… I built the past and disposed of the future, I gave you what contains my heart. You carry the white crown of the son of a god ……. >>.

At this point, it seems logical to believe that the end of the text was made up by the son and successor Sesostris I, after the death of his father, in order to use it as a propaganda tool against opponents, (or his rivals to the throne).

Going back to the period in which Amenemhat I – XII Dynasty ruled, the Egyptian influence extended from the Aegean Sea to Anatolia to the heart of Nubia.

Sesostris (Senwosret)

In the 20th year of his reign, he associated his son Sesostris, (Senwosret) to the throne, as a coregener thus establishing a practice that will become the rule for the entire dynasty and beyond.

The foreign policy of Amenemhat I addressed itself in the three traditional directions, towards Nubia where it brought the border up to the second cataract, towards Libya and towards Sinai.

With the move of the capital, AmenemhatI also abandoned his cave tomb which remained unfinished. He chose to have his new pyramid complex built at the walls of the new capital and gave it the name “Places of worship of the splendor of Amenemhat I”

Amenemhat I burial complex

The first to explore the pyramid of Amenemhat I was Maspero in 1882 who managed to penetrate inside, followed by a French expedition led by Gautier and Jéquier in 1894-1895.

XII Dynasty Amenemhat I

The investigations were continued by the working group of the Metropolitan Museum of New York led by Albert Lythgoe and Artur Mace. A pile of ruins about 20 meters high remains from the Amenemhat I burial complex.

The bad condition of the building is due in part only to the work of looters but above all to the quality of the material with which it was built.

Building materials had already deteriorated since the Old Kingdom but still consisted of stone. With the advent of the XII dynasty, it was passed to the brick of raw clay.

Surely the intent was that of saving, in addition to the use of a smaller labor force employed. Keep in mind that the area of ​​El-Lisht is located near the oasis of the Fayyum and therefore offered a wide availability of clay.

This pyramid represents a return to the dimensions and shapes of the Egyptian pyramids of the Old Kingdom. The construction of the pyramid consisted of preparing a skeleton of walls in rough blocks of limestone, which was then covered with raw bricks, clay, and debris.

Thus completed, the nucleus was then covered with a facing in blocks of fine limestone.

The pyramid of Amenemhat I – XII Dynasty

Once completed the pyramid rose for about 58 meters, while its square base had a side of 84 meters and the inclination was about 54 °.

Amenemhat I

The entrance was at the center of the northern wall at ground level. In the so-called north chapel, behind a fictitious door, began a descending corridor, whose walls were covered with pink granite, still, in pink granite boulders, a barrier blocked the passage.

The corridor ended in a square room placed at the vertical axis of the pyramid. In the floor, there was a well that gave access to the burial chamber.

To date, it has not been possible to access the burial chamber because of a fault that filters an abundant quantity of water, any attempt to drain has hitherto been in vain.

On the eastern wall of the pyramid is supported the funerary temple which has been given a different name than the pyramid: “Above (shines) the splendor of Amenemhat” Almost nothing remained of the east-west oriented temple, so it is not possible to reconstruct the original plan.

Among the few noteworthy remains found in the foundations of his funerary temple, a block is mentioned which was to constitute the upper part of an enormous lintel of unknown dimensions which at the time of its discovery still retained vast areas of the original paint.

The scene was delimited by a stylized representation of the sky painted blue with white or yellow stars. On the right, the upper part of a scepter supports the sky.

From the top of this scepter, a uraeus with the sign shen (universe) around its neck extends towards the head of the falcon Horus at the top of the name of Horus of the king, (only the first two hieroglyphics are preserved inside the usual rectangular representation of a palace). The falcon-headed god Horus of Behdet has an ankh sign to the hawk.

On the left, the rear part of a ram-headed deity facing left is distinguishable by its horn. From the horn and from the text it can be identified as the god Khnum.

The text above and behind the god reads: << (Khnum), the one who is in front of the house of protection …… I establish for (you) a refuge >> The ceremonial ramp was only partially investigated while, where one should find the temple downstream, today there is the local Muslim cemetery.

The funerary complex was surrounded by two circles of walls, in the intermediate area, along the western wall, there are a series of good tombs belonging to princesses and courtiers.

As evidence of the fact that the successive sovereigns made use of reused materials coming from more ancient pyramidal complexes, Maspero, already on his first visit, which was later confirmed, found blocks that bore the names of Khufu, Chefren, Unas and Pepi.

The Egyptologist Hans Goedicke put forward the hypothesis that at the time of Amenemhat I the temples of Giza and Saqqara were already reduced to rubble so that the pharaohs did not scruple to use them as quarries, a hypothesis shared by most Egyptologists.

According to Arnold, the possibility cannot be excluded that the material may also come from other buildings, for example, the temples that the mentioned sovereigns had built-in Middle Egypt, near El-Lisht.

I conclude by speaking of the circumstances of the premature death of Amenemhat, victim of a palace conspiracy which took place at a time when his son Sesostri was engaged in a military campaign against the Libyan populations, leads one to think that, despite the normalization imposed by the pharaoh, even within the same royal family, there was an opposition to the stabilization of the new dynasty.

By : Piero Cargnino

Sources and bibliography:

Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Alan Gardiner, “The Egyptian civilization”, Oxford University Press 1961, Einaudi, Turin 1997
Nicolas Grimal, “History of Ancient Egypt”, Rome-Bari, Biblioteca Storica Laterza, 2011
Elio Moschetti, Mario Tosi, “Amenemhat I and Senuseret I”, Turin, Ananke, 2007
Mark Lehner, “The Complete Pyramids”, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1997
Riccardo Manzini, “Egyptian Pyramidal Complexes – Abu Roash, El-Lisht, Mazguneh”, Ananke, 2011)

Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Alan Gardiner, “The Egyptian civilization”, Oxford University Press 1961, Einaudi, Turin 1997
Nicolas Grimal, “History of Ancient Egypt”, Rome-Bari, Biblioteca Storica Laterza, 2011
Elio Moschetti, Mario Tosi, “Amenemhat I and Senuseret I”, Turin, Ananke, 2007
Mark Lehner, “The Complete Pyramids”, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1997
Riccardo Manzini, “Egyptian Pyramidal Complexes – Abu Roash, El-Lisht, Mazguneh”, Ananke, 2011)

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