Ca. 1872-1853 BC
Horus name: Netjerkheperu
Nebty name: Netjermesut
Golden Falcon name: Kheper
Burial place: Pyramid in Dahshur; tomb in Abydos
of Senusret II and Queen Khnemetneferhedjet I Weret.
- Sit-Hathor-Iunet: Daughter of Senusret II.
Priobably married her brother Senusret III. Buried in Lahun in the
funerary complex of her father.
Titles: King’s Daughter
(s3t-niswt), King’s Wife (hmt-nisw)
- Meretseger: Depicted in Semna in a temple
by Tuthmosis III in honor of her husband.
(hmt-nisw), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt)
Buried in Pyramid IX in Dashur. Known from statues.
skeleton appears to be of a woman about seventy years old.
Titles: King’s Wife (hmt-nisw), Great one of the hetes-sceptre
Khnemet-nefer-hedjet-khered: Wife of Senwosret
Khnemet-nefer-hedjet-“the child” is mentioned on a papyrus from Lahun.
Possibly Khnemet-nefer-hedjet-khered II ?
Titles: King’s Wife (hmt-nisw)
Khnemet-nefer-hedjet: Wife of Senwosret III.
Possibly Khnemet-nefer-hedjet-khered II again? Known from a canopic jar
and two scarabs. Titles: Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t), King’s Wife
(hmt-nisw), Mistress of the Two Lands (hnwt-t3wy)
- Neferhenut, Buried in tomb II in Dashur. Titles:
King’s Wife (hmt-nisw), United with the White Crown (khnmt-nfr-hdjt).
- Khnemet[..], King's Daughter of his body.
Known from her father's funerary complex in Dashur.
- Menet, King's Daughter. Buried in
- Mereret B, King's Daughter. Buried in
- Senetsenbetes, King's Daughter. Buried in
A. , King's
Daughter. Buried in Dashur
Two more depictions
Important king of the Twelfth Dynasty. He led many campaigns
against Nubia, and built a chain of forts to secure a new fixed
southern border at
the Second Cataract around Semna. There are fundamental changes during
his reign in material culture and in the administration. There is a
major overhaul of burial customs, with the disappearance of wooden
and an end to the custom of writing extensive rituals and other
literature on coffins. The country became more centralised; the
centres declined in importance, as is reflected in the cemeteries -
rock cut tomb chapels are no longer cut for the highest officials of
the provinces; by contrast, cemeteries in the Fayum-Lisht region
the Residence of the kings) grew in scale and wealth. (Text from
Abydos: To the southeast of Sety I's temple stood a
temple dedicated to Senusret III. Ruins of a cenotaph lie to the west
temple. Some egyptologists believe that the king may have actually been
An excerpt from a piece
written by John deWerd, based on a June 2, 2007 presentation at the
Oriental Institute the Chicago chapter of ARCE by the Egyptologist
Josef Wegner, Associate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at the
University of Pennsylvania.
See also: http://www.arcechicago.com/
This discussion is limited to
the tomb itself, but the overall Senusret III complex at Abydos is
extensive. At the north
end of the area is the mortuary temple. To the east of that is a modern
town, adjacent to which are the ruins of the town that was built to
service the complex of Senusret III. The ancient name for the town is
Wah-Sut, which is an abbreviation for the name for the entire complex:
Wah-Sut-Khakaure-maa-kheru-em-Abdju ("Enduring are the places of
Khakaure True of Voice in Abydos," Khakaure of course being the
prenomen for Senusret III). Much of the town remains to be excavated
but some of the features explored inculde the main gatehouse and the
large mayoral residence (click here for a schematic of the ruins). To the south end and abutting the
towering cliffs of the mountain called Gebel is the entrance to the
tomb and the features associated with it.
Just to the side of the
funerary entrance are the ruins of two tombs called S9 and S10, and to
this day scholars are not certain of the ownership of either. Most,
including Aidan Dodson, are in agreement that they probably come from
some point in Dynasty 13, most likely late in that dynasty, and
therefore postdate the tomb of Senusret III.
in the excavations, Wegner and his team found many clay seals bearing
an impression of Anubis. The hieroglyphs on the seal spell "Mountain of
Anubis," and it is generally agreed that this refers to the Gebel
mountain. It would appear that "Mountain of Anubis" was another name
for this location in South Abydos.
Senusret III was much involved with the cult of Osiris and sent
officials to support, finance, and expand upon the rituals carried out
for that god in his main cult center of Abydos, far to the south of
Dashur. One of these officials, the treasurere Ikhernoftret, left a
large stela at Abydos detailing how the king had sent him to renovate
the temple complex of Osiris. The stela dates to Year 19 of the reign
of Senusret III. It was in Year 19 or Year 20 that Senusret III began
the preparations for his elaborate tomb complex at Abydos.
Senusret III's strong loyalty to the cult of Osiris is one thing which
suggests that he was actually buried in Abydos and not Dashur.
The tomb complex had been identified as early as 1899 but the
subterranean features were first explored by Arthur Weigall in 1902, on
behalf of the Egypt Exploration Fund. This was at the start of
Weigall's career, who would go on to become one of the great names in
the early years of Egyptology, and it was a major find. He had hundreds
of men working for him and they dug a pit about forty feet deep to find
the actual entrance to the tomb. This massive pit was nicknamed the
"Devil's punch bowl." Unfortunately for Weigall the subterranean areas
were extremely hot, dank, and claustrophobic, and he did not last long
at the site. He was replaced by Charles Currelly. Neither of the men
performed a systematic and comprehensive investigation, and as modern
excavations would prove, many of their notes and plans were inaccurate.
The Abydos tomb sat unexplored for the next 100 years and the
relentless desert reburied everything under countless tons of sand.
Josef Wegner and his team came along in 2004 to begin new excavations.
In his lecture at the O.I. Wegner related how he prefers to work with
small teams of excavators, but at Abydos he had to revise his usual
techniques. The work to be done was so daunting that he had to hire
around 200 laborers just to reopen the Devil's punch bowl and gain
access to the tomb. It took three months to dig out the sand bowl, and
Wegner said that many of the laborers were convinced there was nothing
to find. He overheard them mumbling, "The director is crazy. There is
nothing here." But finally they did find the entrance, and it's easy to
imagine the celebration that followed.
Wegner's team dug out the massive pit to much larger dimensions than
Weigall did 100 years earlier; he wanted to be sure it would not fill
in again. (If you scroll back to the Google Earth image of the detail
of the funerary enclosure, you can see how truly large Wegner's pit
ended up becoming.) In the process, and while removing what remained of
retaining walls Weigall's men had put there, Wegner discovered the
ruins of the original Dynasty 12 staircase that had led down to the
The Tomb Construct
The subterranean corridors and chambers of Sensuret III's tomb lie
between 80 feet and 100 feet below ground. Here is a plan of the tomb:
stresses that there is a great deal of excavating left to do, but to
this point they've learned a lot about the tomb and its layout. Like
other Middle Kingdom tombs it is uninscribed, but its layout is
intriguing. Not only is it the first hidden royal tomb in Egyptian
history, but its configuration and sweeping arc are strikingly similar
to the plans of numerous Dynasty 18 tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
For example, here is a plan of KV34, the tomb of Tuthmosis III, which
would be built almost 400 years later. Also similar is the double well
shaft in Senusret III's tomb, which reminds one of the deep well shafts
so common in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Tuthmosis III's tomb
provides a further interesting comparison, albeit indirect, and we
shall see that momentarily.
The excavation of Senusret III's tomb has been extremely difficult. As
Weigall found out the hard way back in 1902, those corridors and
chambers deep beneath the earth are stultifyingly hot, humid, and caked
with dust. Wegner related how he and his wife had to bring down half a
dozen changes of clothing every time they went down there, because they
would be soaked with sweat and coated with dirt. Two aspects of
excavation have proved particularly difficult. The first was the
initial clearing of the entrance, which was packed full of sand and
debris. If you examine the tomb plan above, you'll see there are two
entrances at the bottom of the Devil's punch bowl: a long and sloping
descending passage, and a vertical shaft at the foot of the descending
passage. Wegner had hoped to clear the vertical shaft and just use that
to enter the tomb, but it didn't work. Every time they dug down to the
floor of the shaft, the tons of sand packed into the descending passage
behind it would flow down and block their way. In the end the workers
had to clearly every last bit of sand from both shaft and passage. This
was completed in the 2005 season.
The other difficulty is that the Abydos tomb of Senusret III was
thoroughly and savagely ransacked in antiquity. Most of the corridors
and chambers were carefully lined with well-cut, perfectly fitted, huge
blocks of beautiful limestone and quartzite. In their attempt to look
for treasure, the ancient tomb robbers smashed many of these huge
stones and pulled them from the walls and floors. As a result, many of
the corridors and chambers are choked with this stone debris, some of
which weighs many tons, and it takes a great deal of work to clear it.
Just imagine how hard a job it was for the tomb builders 3,800 years
ago to get all of those big blocks 80 feet down into the tomb!
On a side note, Wegner posits that the men who robbed Senusret III's
tomb were extremely well organized and equipped, and to carry out the
thorough job of pillaging that they performed, they had to have had
logistical support and financing from the administrative government of
their time. It's not clear yet, however, when most of the pillaging
As an example of the hard work to which the tomb robbers subjected
themselves, return to the diagram of the tomb above and note the
central descending passage that leads to the burial chamber. This
descending passage was carefully closed off with a series of around
fourteen massive, carefully aligned granite blocking stones. It is
clear the tomb builders carefully prepared the tomb with difficult
security measures. Nevertheless, the tomb robbers just carved their way
through the bottoms of the granite blocking stones, creating a small
and narrow tunnel all the way to the burial chamber. Wegner mentioned
that crawling through this ancient robbers' tunnel is one of the most
unpleasant and unnerving experience in the exploration of the tomb, but
they have no choice but to use the tunnel (removing the huge blocking
stones is out of the question).There are many such granite blocking
stones throughout the tomb. Below is a photo of one of them, which the
tomb robbers had managed to topple from its position high up in one of
The person in the photo is Jennfier, Wegner's wife. You get a good idea
of the size of the stones with her standing there.
The burial chamber was particularly ravaged. It seems the tomb robbers
didn't at first recognize it for what it was because they couldn't find
anything in there, and pushed on into the remaining corridor and
chambers. Eventually, however, they came back and found what they were
looking for. As another security measure the tomb builders had actually
built the sarcophagus and canopic chest into the walls of the chamber,
and then concealed them behind dressed blocks of limestone. The tomb
robbers pulled out the dressed stones and freed the sarcophagus and
canopic equipment from their concealed niches.
Past the burial chamber is where the tomb starts to arch, and it ends
up swinging back and pointing easterly. At the center of the arch is
another chamber and at the end, the final chamber. Both chambers are
dressed in quartzite but it's not clear what may have been placed
within them; to this point no artifacts have been found in either.
But the shape of the tomb is intriguing. As I mentioned earlier, it is
similar to the shapes of numerous Dynasty 18 royal tombs in the Valley
of the Kings, but there's something more that might explain why
Senusret III's tomb is shaped this way.
Egyptologists believe that Middle Kingdom royal tombs are uninscribed
because for his burial the king would've been provided funerary texts
on papyrus. Papyrus is of course a perishable material, so this might
be why kings at the start of the New Kingdom, in Dynasty 18, started to
have royal netherworld texts painted or inscribed on the walls of their
The netherworld text scholars call the Amduat is of particular
importance here. It describes how the solar god Re (and the king thus
associated with him) and the god Osiris unite in the netherworld to
regenerate each other. This unification of the gods occurs in the sixth
hour, in the middle of the text in the land of Osiris, and from there
Re proceeds on his journey to rise in the east, reborn, in the twelfth
and final hour.
Returning to KV34 in the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Tuthmosis
III, we see the Amduat painted on the walls of the burial chamber. This
particular tomb is a good example because of the odd, stick-like
composition of the figures featured in the text. Click here for an
example. It is generally agreed that the figures in the text look like
this because the paintings in the burial chamber are meant to represent
one huge papyrus scroll that has been unwound and affixed to the walls.
Recall again that it is believed kings back in the Middle Kingdom were
provided funerary texts on actual papyrus.
Josef Wegner is one of a growing number of scholars who believes the
Abydos tomb of Senusret III is meant to be a physical representation of
the Amduat, which would explain its shape. It's fascinating to think
that the Amduat existed as far back as the Middle Kingdom, but there's
no record of it because the perishable scrolls on which it had been
written, disintegrated to dust long ago.
Compare the layout of Senusret III's tomb to the hours of the Amduat.
At the center of the tomb is the burial chamber, representing the realm
of Osiris and equating to the sixth hour of the Amduat. Here is where
Re (and the king) will unite with Osiris for regeneration. The tomb
proceeds in its arc and loops back to the east, ending in a chamber
that can be equated with the twelfth hour of the Amduat, where Re (and
the king) are reborn.
one of the corridors within the tomb, and you can see how high the
depositis of sand are. This is what Wegner and his team have had to
face all the way through, together with the piles of huge, toppled
blocking stones. At the far end you can see the top of a doorway
peeking out. And note the ceiling, carved in limestone to resemble
log-hewn rafters. [courtesy J. deWerd]
Dashur: The Pyramid complex of Senusret
III is the northern-most complex at Dashur. A small mortuary temple was
built on the east face of the pyramid.
Early in his reign Senusret III built a
complete pyramid complex at Dashur, south of Cairo, and many scholars
believe this is where he was buried. This is a view of the east side of
the Dashur pyramid, and here is a schematic of the entire complex. The
complex included a mortuary temple, causeway, valley temple, boat pits,
cult pyramid, and subsidiary tombs for queens. Family members were
definitely buried here, and the complex is complete, so why say that
the king himself wasn't buried here?
One of the most compelling
arguments is the state in which the burial chamber beneath the main
pyramid was found. Here is a terrific photo of it, with a view of the
sarcophagus. The burial chamber is in absolutely pristine condition and
was clearly never disturbed. There is no sign that anything (or anyone)
was ever placed in the chamber and it seems never to have been used.
Tomb robbers never ravaged the chamber for signs of hidden rooms--even
they didn't bother with it, so it would appear they knew there was
nothing to find. [text by John deWerd]
Rushdi: A temple was founded
by Amenemhat I and expanded during the reign of Senusret III. This site
is located a little to the
North of Tell el-Daba. The temple was built according to common Middle
Kingdom designs. It had a small pillared court before a tripartite
sanctuary. The structure was made mainly from mud-brick with some stone
elements (doorways and colums for instance).
el-Qirqafa: A small pillared
temple was constructed between the reigns of Amenemhet I and Senusret
III. A granite entrance gate still exists today.
Semna: At this Nubian site a temple was dedicated to
the deified king Senusret III and the Nubian god Dedwen.
The Museum of Ireland has an offering table in its collection.
The Global Egyptian Museum mentions:
"This offering table is
arguably the most important historical item in the NMI Egyptian
collection, as part of the evidence for the military and building
activity of king Senwosret III in Nubia. Royal offering tables are
rare, and generally in the hardest materials, as in this case granite.
Offerings were placed upon a reed mat, reproduced in stone as the
offering tables of the dynastic periods. Here the hieroglyph hetep
'offering' is written on the surface. The sign comprises a bound reed
mat with a domed offering-loaf. Around the upper edge runs a
symmetrical hieroglyphic text, giving the five royal titles and names
of Senwosret III with the epithets 'beloved of Khnum lord of the
Cataract area and of Satet lady of Elephantine' and 'beloved of Dedwen
foremost of Nubia'. The offering table may have stood originally in a
temple built by Senwosret III in his frontier fortress at Semna on the
Second Cataract." (GEM)
Offering Table Inscription
Life (to) the Horus divine of
forms, he of the Two Ladies Divine of births, the Golden Horus who has
come into being, Dual King Khakaura, son of Ra Senwosret
beloved of Dedwen lord of
the Land of the bow, given life stability and power like Ra eternally
beloved of Khnum lord of the
cataract and of Satet (?) lady of Elephantine, given life like Ra
(Translation from GEM)
Lintel from Karnak showing the name of Senusert III
The Cult of King Senusret III:
later Tuthmosis III built a small rock-cut temple at el-Lessiya. The
chapel consists of only one room and is now on display in the museum of
include Tuthmosis III before the Nubian god Dedwen and the deified
Sobekemhat , Vizier
Neb-it , Vizier
Khnumhotep , Vizier
Ikhernofret, Chief Treasurer, Wearer of the Royal Seal,
etc. Known from inscriptions at Abydos.
Sisatet, Master of the Double Cabinet (Assistant to
Ikhernofret). Son of Ameni and Sitameni (possibly a relative of
Djehutyhotep, Nomarch of the Hare Nome. He lived
during the reigns of Amenemhat II (1922-1878 BC), Senwosret II
and Senwosret III (1874-1855 BC). The tomb of his physician Gua was
found (Info from British Museum). Djehutyhotep was the son of Key and
and grand-son of Nehri (possibly the Vizier Nehri from an earlier
Khui (born of Hapi), Real King’s Confidant, Steward of the
storehouse of the leader of the works, etc.
Sehetepibre-ankh, Steward. Buried near Senwosret I, but
finds in the mastaba indicate Sehetepibre-ankh lived on until the reign
of Sesostris III. (Statue in the Metropolitan Museum)
Sebek-khu named Djaa, Commander of the king’s personal
troops, etc. Known from a stela at Abydos.
Ameni, “Magnate of the South”. An officer
commissioned to do work on the fortress of Elephantine.
Bibliography / Suggested
Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol I, The First through the Seventeenth
2001 (originally appeared in 1906)
- Dodson, A.,
Hilton, D., The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames &
The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, 2000.