- el-Lisht -

Monuments and Sites of Ancient Egypt
  Monuments and Sites   Amenemhat I  
  el-Lisht   Sesostris I    


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When Amenemhat I came to power, he left Thebes and founded a new capital, somewhere in the north. This new capital, which he named Itj-Tawi, "the one that seizes the Two Lands", has never been located. The fact, however, that almost every king of the 12th Dynasty built his funerary monument near the Fayum oasis, has led to the assumption that Amenemhat's new capital must have been located somewhere near that oasis.

Amenemhat I's funerary monument can be found near the modern-day village of el-Lisht, a site located to the south of Dashur, not far away from Meidum. It is not unreasonable to assume that he choose this site because it was near to his new capital, all the more so since he was followed in this by his successor, Sesostris I.

Amenemhat I

Having moved closer to the burial sites of the kings of the Old Kingdom, Amenemhat I also built his own pyramid complex closer to the standards of the Old Kingdom kings. Thus his pyramid's size and general shape was very similar to those built during the 6th Dynasty.

The core of the pyramid was made of small blocks, sand, debris and mudbrick. Several of the smaller blocks that were used as filling actually came from other burial sites, such as the complexes of Kheops and Khefren at Giza! It is odd that Amenemhat would go that far north to quarry for limestone fillings for his pyramid, but perhaps he believed that having parts of the monuments of his predecessors integrated into his would validate his kingship and his rights for an afterlife.


Locator Map of Abydos/Umm el-Qa'ab

The site of el-Lisht is located between Dashur and Meidum.

The pyramid's internal structure is fairly simple, be it somewhat different from the Old Kingdom standard. The entrance was located, traditionally, at ground level, in the centre of the north face of the pyramid.

A corridor descends gently towards a chamber in the middle of the pyramid, but below ground level. The passage was blocked with huge stone blocks to prevent tomb robbers from entering.

A vertical shaft descends from the central chamber towards the burial chamber. The burial chamber is below the ground water level, which has prevented anyone from entering it. If tomb robbers left anything, it is unlikely that this would still be preserved.

Almost nothing remains of Amenemhat's mortuary temple, which was built on a terrace cut into the hill below the pyramid. All that is clear is that the temple stood east of the pyramid and that there was a causeway, probably connecting it to a Valley Temple, which has not been excavated because it lies below ground water level as well.

The complex had two enclosure walls: the inner one was made of limestone and enclosed the pyramid and the mortuary temple; the outer one was made of mudbrick. There are several mastabas within the outer enclosure, belonging to members of the royal family and entourage, including Amenemhat's mother Nefret, one of his wives, Neferi-Tatenen, and his daughter, Neferu, who were the mother and principal wife of Sesostris I respectively.

Sesostris I


Map of the funerary complex of Amenemhat I, showing the mastabas and tombs within the complex' enclosure.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 169.

Sesostris I built his funerary monument on a prominent hill some 2 kilometres south of his father's.

With its base width of 105 metres and (calculated) height of 61.25 metres, Sesostris I's pyramid is the biggest since the end of the 4th Dynasty. Today, however, the only remains of this once great pyramid is a low mound of rubble, the lower part of which is still encased in limestone.

This has been caused by stone robbers, as well as the innovative building technique that Sesostris I used for his monument. The core of this pyramid was a skeleton of limestone walls that radiate from the centre. The walls were made of rough blocks which became smaller towards the top. The resulting sections were then divided into smaller compartments, which were filled with stone slabs. This was encased in fine white limestone.

The entrance to the pyramid is located traditionally at ground level in the centre of the north side. The pyramid's internal structure is extremely simple and straightforward: a corridor descends from ground level to deep underneath the pyramid. It ends in the burial chamber, which was located underneath the pyramids middle.

The roof of the burial chamber was pyramid-shaped as well. The burial chamber was dug so deep that it lay just above groundwater level, but as the ground water level has risen since it was built, the burial chamber is now inaccessible.

The complex's mortuary temple stood traditionally east. It was very similar in structure to the temples of the kings of the 6th Dynasty. All the traditional elements were present, be it that alabaster, basalt or diorite were not used.

The complex had two enclosure walls. The inner enclosure wall was built around the pyramid itself and enclosed the Satellite Pyramid, located, traditionally, in the southeast, as well as the inner part of the mortuary temple. The outer enclosure wall incorporates the outer part of the mortuary temple, as well as 9 Queen's Pyramids into the complex.

Except for the first, which also seems to be the oldest, all the Queen's Pyramids had approximately the same base size. It has been suggested that these pyramids were built over time, the last one as late as the reign of Amenemhat II or Sesostris II. Each pyramid had a small chapel, which was decorated, but the internal structure of none of the pyramids seems to have been finished. In fact, it is not even certain that all of them received a burial. The name of Sesostris I' principale queen, Neferu, has been found in the first and largest pyramid, but there too, no trace of a burial has been found.

A causeway leads from the outer enclosure wall to the Valley Temple, which has never been found.


Map of the funerary complex of Sesostris I, showing the 9 Queen's Pyramids within the complex' enclosure.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 170.