April 6, 2012

Senusret I Pharaoh Biography | 1971-1926 BC

Senusret I
(Kheperkare)
1971-1926 BC

Judging by the 'The Story of Sinuhe', the young prince Senusret was away on an expedition against the Libyans in the western desert when Amenemhet was murdered. Senusret obviously hurried back to the capital and brought matters swiftly under control: he scotched any further attempts to spread the coup, and made arrangements for his father's burial at Lisht. The old king's astute decision to rule with his son for a decade paid dividends, and Senusret entered on a reign that was to last a further 34 years. The period from the 20th to the early 19th century BC in the 12th Dynasty was the zenith of Egyptian literature and craftsmanship, as attested by the remarkable examples of jewellery found in the tombs of the royal ladies at Dahshur and Lahun.

Bust of Senusret I in the Neues Museum, Berlin
Senusret I consolidated many of the policies established by his father. Egypt looked to the south for gold and agricultural goods, maintaining its control over the region through a series of at least 13 forts which extended as far as the Second Cataract. Quarries and mines were exploited throughout the country, with hardstones coming from the Wadi Hammamat and gold from the mines near Coptos. Senusret also led various expeditions to the south and - for the first time - to the desert oases, as recorded on inscriptions and stele at Beni Hassan and Assuit in Middle Egypt. The king's overall control of Egypt is documented at almost three dozen sites, from Alexandria to Aswan, where he carried out building work.

In Year 3 of his reign, Senusret rebuilt the temple to Re-Atum at the ancient centre of the sun cult, Heliopolis, and he actually appears to have performed part of the re-foundation ceremonies there. In Year 30, his Jubilee year, he erected two 66-ft (20-m) red granite obelisks there, each weighing 121 tons. One of the pair still stands and is the oldest standing obelisk in Egypt. Although the temple has entirely disappeared, an exceptionally rare and fragmentary leather scroll records part of the text from the great dedicatory stele of Senusret, probably copied down as a scribal exercise some 500 years afterwards.

Senusret took Amenemhet II, his son by his chief wife Queen Nefru, as co-ruler at least three years before his death, as recorded on a private stele of Simontu now in the British Museum. Senusret died in about 1926 BC, but not before he had built a pyramid at Lisht, a mile south of his father's monument. As in Amenemhet I's pyramid, the burial chamber is inaccessible due to ground water. Nine small satellite pyramids belonging to the royal ladies were also built within the complex. Excavations by the Metropolitan Museum, New York between 1908 and 1934 revealed the names of some of the tomb owners, but others lacked any identifying inscriptions on their sarcophagi or funerary equipment. Queen Nefru's pyramid, slightly larger than the others, stood in the south-east corner and that of Senusret's daughter Itekuyet was to the south of the king's pyramid. Other daughters probably included the princesses Nefru-Sobek, Nefru-Ptah and Banebdjedet.

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