Sesostris III


1878 - 1841 

 12th Dynasty

The pharaoh who Manetho described as a 'Great Warrior', and also mentions that the king was of unusual height - '4 cubits 3 palms and 2 fingers breadth' (over 6ft 6in - 2m).

There is much evidence to suggest that Sesostris III was more military active than his 12th Dynasty predecessors, although much of this activity was against Nubia rather than Egypt's more northerly neighbours. He was to attack Nubia in several occasions - Year 8, 12 and 15 especially (the Nubians had gradually moved pass the border of the 3rd Cataract, given impetus by the two previous kings' lack of military activity). In Year 8, to facilitate the speed of his fleet attacking the Nubians, he repaired and widened a canal which bypassed the First Cataract of the Nile (this canal had originally been built in the Old Kingdom).

On a stela at Semna, Sesostris III describes how he terrified the Nubians:

"I captured their women, I carried off their subjects, went to their wells, killed their bulls: Cut down their grain and set fire to it".

You can read the full text HERE

By Year 19 the Egyptians were able to sail up the Nile as far as the 2nd Cataract, and to safeguard Egypt's power in the area Sesostris III built eight mud brick fortresses between Semna and Buhen:

 Not only did Sesostris III have to deal with his southern neighbours when he became king - the old threat to the stability and power of the Pharaoh in the Middle Kingdom once more reared its head .... the power of the Nomarchs.

Earlier rulers in the 12th Dynasty had needed the help of the nomarchs and so they had been granted and kept special privileges and ancient rights - things which were later to prove a constant threat to pharaonic power. It is not known how, but Sesostris III finally brought an end to the nomarch / nobility - a new administration took full control over the internal government (Sesostris III divided the country into 3 administrative departments - North, South and Head of the South (Nubia) all of which reported to the King's deputy - Vizier), brought an end to great regional tombs of the nomarchs - a major threat had finally gone.

Sesostris III the builder:

Money gained from his Nubian campaigns was re-directed into building works - statues of Sesostris III were placed at the temple of Mentuhotep II at Deir el-Bahri. A temple was built to Mont, a god of war at Medamud near Karnak.


 The Pyramid of Sesostris III

Original Height - 78.5 m

Length of Side - 105m

The most northerly of the pyramids at Dahsur, built of unfired brick which was originally covered with great slabs of limestone. Over the course of the centuries this limestone has been robbed away to leave a pile bricks 30m high. The trench / dip in the centre was caused by the explorers R. W. H. Vyse and J. S. Perring in 1839 to enable them to find the burial chamber.

Following the practice of his father, Sesostris II, to deter robbers in entering the pyramid, the entrance to the burial chambers of the pyramid was placed outside on the western side. However all that remains of Sesostris III's burial is an empty granite sarcophagus.

But in 1894 Jacques De Morgan found another shaft ('E' on the plan below) which led to a burial complex of four tombs of Queens and Princesses. He also found six wooden boats in two masatabas on the southern side of the pyramid ('G') - in 1994 a further expedition by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art found jewels belonging to Queen Khnemet-nefer-heget - mother of Sesostris III.

 A - Pyramid  F - Mastabas of Princesses
 B - Entrance  G - Southern Mastabas
 C - Remains of an east chapel  H - Courtyard
 D - Remains of a north chapel  I - Ramp
 E - Shaft  J - Boat Crypt

Inner Chambers of the Pyramid

 A - Corridor  E - Antechamber
 B - First Room  F - Burial Chamber
 C - Second Room  G - Sarcophagus
 D - Vestibule  

The Abydos tomb of Sesostris III:

Although he was buried in his Dashur pyramid, he also possessed a rock-cut tomb which was located at Abydos.This rock cut was purely symbolic, even so it contained a granite sarcophagus, canopic jars in the burial chamber and for protection : plug blocks and dummy passages (the tomb had been robbed in antiquity). The tomb is entered from within a T-shaped enclosure above ground - a mortuary temple was located 200m away