1991 - 1962 BC
According to Manetho, the 12th Dynasty consisted of seven kings from Thebes. Our present lists agree, with the addition of a queen, Sobeknefru, at the close of the dynasty. The first king of the dynasty was Amenemhet I and, assuming that it was he who had been vizier to Mentuhotep III (p. 77), he seems to have risen from humble parents. An inscription from Karnak records a 'god's father' Senusret, a commoner, as the father of Amenemhet; his mother, Nefert, came from the area of Elephantine. Amenemhet was thus of Upper Egyptian origin and his religious allegiance was to the god Amun. It is from this period that Amun begins his rise to prominence, taking over from Montu, god of war, as supreme deity at Thebes; he was to reach his apogee in the 21st Dynasty when Herihor, High Priest of Amun, declared himself pharaoh.
|Relief of Amenemhat I from his mortuary complex at El-Lisht|
Following his enthronement in c. 1991 BC, Amenemhet's first move was to cruise the Nile with his fleet, crushing recalcitrant nomarchs, Asiatics and Nubians on the southern frontiers. He then set up a new power centre, away from both Thebes and Herakleopolis, almost 20 miles (32 km) south of the old capital of Memphis. The king chose the site so that he might keep a watchful eye on both Upper and Lower Egypt, and accordingly called his new city Itjtawy, 'Seizer-of-the-Two- Lands'. The actual site of this fortified city has yet to be found.
Amenemhet's reign brought many changes, and to emphasize this renaissance, the king took the additional title of Wehem-meswet, 'Repeater-of-Births', implying that he was the first in a new line. Amenemhet's most significant act, however, was the introduction of the practice of co-regency, an institution that was to endure throughout the 12th Dynasty. Thus, in Year 20 of his reign, he associated his son Senusret with him, and they shared the throne for the ten years before Amenemhet's murder. During this period, the younger man was mainly in charge of military matters, such as maintaining the eastern and western borders and continuing to push to the south. An inscription dated in Year 24 of Amenemhet and Year 4 of Senusret, for example, records an expedition against the 'sand-dwellers' - the Asiatics who lurked on Egypt's north-eastern frontier towards the Gaza Strip.
The royal burial ground was moved once again and now located at Lisht, not far from the new capital, at the entrance to the Faiyum. Amenemhet's pyramid was similar to those built during the Old Kingdom, only smaller. The inner core was constructed with small limestone blocks, many of them taken from ruined Old Kingdom monuments at Giza and Abusir, while the exterior was faced with white Tura limestone, long since stolen. Likewise, the once finely relief-decorated mortuary temple on the east face has been largely destroyed. Little is known of the internal arrangements of the pyramid since access is denied by ground water seepage,- the burial chamber was probably robbed in antiquity, although this has yet to be confirmed.