Amenemhet III


1842 - 1797 

 12th Dynasty

Amenemhet III was handed a peaceful reign, his father Sesostris III had given him a land on good diplomatic terms with her northern neighbours, Nubia firmly under Egypt's control and the power of the Nomarchs finally ended.

His long reign of 45 years once more followed the policies of his predecessors of the 12th Dynasty - economic growth in Egypt was at an all time high, agriculture increased at the Fayium (it was here that Amenemhet III completed a land reclamation scheme probably started by his father, Sesostris III, this scheme was to gain 17,000 acres of farm land from the lake).

Amenemhet III also built temples at the Faiyum to the god Sobek at Shedet / Crocodilopolis ( Kiman Faris), and a temple to the cobra goddess Renenutet at Medinet Maadi.
Mining operations also were concentrated on heavily - inscriptions show that mining in either the quarries of Egypt or the tuquoise mines in the Sinai date from Year 2 right up to Year 45 of his reign (at the Sinai Amenemhet III enlarged the temple to Hathor).

His principal wife was Aat, her tomb was discovered in Amenemhet III's first pyramid at Dahshur (the king abandoned this pyramid for his own burial due to major structural problems discovered while the pyramid was still being built). - this same pyramid was also used for the burials of other female royal family members.

Two colossal statues of Amenemhet III (left) were erected at Biyahmu to commerate his achievement (the high bases were discovered by Petrie).

The final few years of Amenemhet III's reign were spent in co-rule with his son, Amenemhet IV.


The Labyrinth of Amenemhet III

On the south of Amenemhet III's second pyramid, a tremendous structure was built - his mortuary temple. When classical writers visited this building (1000 x 800ft - 305 x 244m) they referred to its huge number of rooms as a great Labyrinth.

Sadly very little remains of this structure - the site has been virtually completely destroyed over the centuries (when Petrie discovered the site in 1888-9 he had great difficulty in finding any real architecture to match the description given from ancient times.

 Herodotus on the Labyrinth:

"To strengthen the bond between them, they decided to leave a common memorial of their reigns, and for this purpose constructed a labyrinth a little above Lake Moeris, near the place called the City of Crocodiles. I have seen this building, and it is beyond my power to describe; it must have cost more in labour and money than all the walls and public works of the Greeks put together - though no one would deny that the temples at Ephesus and Samos are remarkable buildings. The pyramids, too, are astonishing structures, each one of them equal to many of the most ambitious works of Greece; but the labyrinth surpasses them. It has twelve covered courts - six in a row facing north, six south - the gates of the one range exactly fronting the gates of the other, with a continuous wall round the outside of the whole. Inside, the building is of two storeys and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them. I was taken through the rooms in the upper storey, so what I shall say of them is from my own observation, but the underground ones I can speak of only from report, because the Egyptians in charge refused to let me see them, as they contain the tombs of the kings who built the labyrinth, and also the tombs of the sacred crocodiles. The upper rooms, on the contrary, I did actually see, and it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from a court-yard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms, and thence into yet more courtyards. The roof of every chamber, courtyard, and gallery is, like the walls, of stone. The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade. Near the corner where the labyrinth ends there is a pyramid, two hundred and forty feet in height, with great carved figures of animals on it and an underground passage by which it can be entered".

The Pyramids of Amenemhet III

(Amenemehet III built two pyramids - one at Dahshur, and the second at Hawara)

 The Pyramid of Amenemhet III at Dahshur

(the Black Pyramid)

Original Height - 81.5 m

Length of Side - 105m

His first Pyramid ­ the pyramid at Dahshur, it's name 'Black Pyramid' comes from the dark materials it was built with (unfired brick and basalt).
This pyramid was first excavated by Jaques De Morgan in 1894-5, he found the pyramidion (which originally topped the pyramid) amongst the rubble at the base of the pyramid. Once inside the pyramid, De Morgan found the sarcophagus originally intended for Amenemhet III - made from pink granite.
Jack Hawkins - Land of the Pharaohs.


(the pyramidion which originally topped the pyramid)

 A - Pyramid  G - Burial shafts of Kings and Princes
 B - Entrance  H - Burial shaft of King Hor-Auibra (13th Dynasty)
 C - Funerary Apartment  I - Tomb of Princess Nubhotep
 D - Burial Chamber  J - Enclosure wall
 E - Sarcophagus  K - Processional Ramp
 F - Remains of Funerary Temple    L - Remains of residential buildings

 The Pyramid of Amenemhet III at Hawara

Original Height - 58 m

Length of Side - 100m

Amenemhet III's second pyramid and the last big pyramid which was to be built in Egypt. It was built from unfired brick and was covered with limestone slabs. The Labyrinth / Funerary Temple is now reduced to strange muddy heaps which can only just show that an ancient building once stood beside the pyramid. Two sarcophagi were discovered inside the pyramid - the larger was made from quartzite, a smaller sarcophagus was also found but the identity of the owner remains unknown.

 A - Pyramid  D - Burial Chamber
 B - Entrance  E - North Chapel
 C - Corridor  F - Remains of Funerary Temple - More comonly known as the "Labyrinth" - see above

In 1965 the tomb of Princess Neferuptah was discovered (2km south of the pyramid). Her funerary treasure was also found - including - a collar made from golf and semi-precious stones, and a ritual scourge made from gold and semi-precious stones.

While working in a Graeco-Roman necropolis north of the pyramid in 1888, Petrie discovered the 'Faiyum Portraits'.