Pyramid of Senusret III

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Pyramid of Senusret III
The pyramid of Senusret III in the 1890s
Senusret III, 12th Dynasty
Coordinates 29°49′8″N31°13′32″E / 29.81889°N 31.22556°E / 29.81889; 31.22556 Coordinates: 29°49′8″N31°13′32″E / 29.81889°N 31.22556°E / 29.81889; 31.22556
Constructed19th century BCE
Type True pyramid (now ruined)
MaterialMudbrick (core)
Tura limestone (casing)
Height78 m (256 ft)
Base105 m (344 ft)
Volume288,488 m3 (10,187,900 cu ft)
Slope56° 18' 35"

The Pyramid of Senusret III ( Lepsius XLVII) is an ancient Egyptian pyramid located at Dahshur and built for pharaoh Senusret III of the 12th Dynasty (19th century BCE).

Lepsius list of pyramids 1842 list by Karl Richard Lepsius

The Lepsius list of pyramids is a list of sixty-seven Ancient Egyptian pyramids established in 1842–1843 by Karl Richard Lepsius (1810–1884), an Egyptologist and leader of the "Prussian expedition to Egypt" from 1842 until 1846.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Egyptian pyramids Ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt. As of November 2008, sources cite either 118 or 138 as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.


The pyramid is the northernmost among those of Dahshur, and stands around 1.5 km northeast of Sneferu's Red Pyramid. It was erected on leveled ground and composed of a mudbricks core covered with a casing of white Tura limestone blocks resting on foundations. It was first excavated in 1894 by the French Egyptologist Jacques de Morgan, who managed to reach the burial chamber after discovering a tunnel dug by ancient tomb robbers. [1] A more recent campaign was led by Dieter Arnold during the 1990s.

Sneferu Pharaoh and founder of the 4th dynasty of Ancient Egypt

Sneferu, well known under his Hellenized name Soris, was the founding pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Estimates of his reign vary, with for instance The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt suggesting a reign from around 2613 to 2589 BC, a reign of 24 years, while Rolf Krauss suggests a 30-year reign, and Rainer Stadelmann a 48-year reign. He built at least three pyramids that survive to this day and introduced major innovations in the design and construction of pyramids.

Red Pyramid smooth-sided pyramid

The Red Pyramid, also called the North Pyramid, is the largest of the three major pyramids located at the Dahshur necropolis in Cairo, Egypt. Named for the rusty reddish hue of its red limestone stones, it is also the third largest Egyptian pyramid, after those of Khufu and Khafra at Giza. It is also believed to be Egypt's first successful attempt at constructing a "true" smooth-sided pyramid. Local residents refer to the Red Pyramid as el-heram el-watwaat, meaning the Bat Pyramid.

Mudbrick Unbaked earth used as building material blocks

A mudbrick or mud-brick is an air-dried brick, made of a mixture of loam, mud, sand and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. Though mudbricks are known from 7000 to 6000 BCE, since 4000 BC, bricks have also been fired, to increase their strength and durability.

Pyramid complex

Map of the complex Sesostris3-plan-complexe.jpg
Map of the complex

The original project included the main pyramid along with a northern chapel and a small eastern mortuary temple, all surrounded by an enclosure wall. Outside this enclosure were seven tombs belonging to Senusret's queens and princesses, and the whole complex was again surrounded by an outer wall; this wall was enlarged during the works in order to accommodate a large temple on the southern side and a causeway. [1] The remains of six sacred barques were excavated outside the outer enclosure on the southern side. [2]
The now-demolished eastern temple was very small in size, perhaps a sign of the decline of the traditional funerary cult, as Arnold suggested. On the remaining reliefs were depicted conventional scenes of offerings to the enthroned Senusret III. The southern temple was likely demolished during the New Kingdom and according to its foundations it consisted in a colonnaded courtyard and an inner shrine. The valley temple has not been discovered. [3]

Mortuary temple a type of ancient Egyptian temple

Mortuary temples were temples that were erected adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, royal tombs in Ancient Egypt. The temples were designed to commemorate the reign of the Pharaoh under whom they were constructed, as well as for use by the king's cult after death.

Many shaft tombs belonged to the royal women were discovered on the northern and southern sides of the main pyramid; it was believed that these shafts were topped by mastabas until Arnold in 1997 demonstrated that these consisted in the intricated rock-cut hypogea of seven small pyramids. Explorations of the northern tombs led to the discovery of the treasures of princesses Sithathor and Mereret (among these objects, the famous pectorals with the names of Senusret II, Senusret III and Amenemhat III now exhibited at the Cairo Museum), as well as the sarcophagi of princesses Menet and Senetsenebtysy and of queen Neferthenut. [2] [4] Among the southern tombs, the easternmost was discovered in 1994 and its hypogeum led to a burial chamber located under the main pyramid. Here, a granite sarcophagus was found, along with some objects bearing the name of Khenemetneferhedjet I Weret, Senusret III's royal mother. [2]

Shaft tomb

A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of deep rectangular burial structure, similar in shape to the much shallower cist grave, containing a floor of pebbles, walls of rubble masonry, and a roof constructed of wooden planks.

Mastaba type of ancient Egyptian tomb

A mastaba or pr-djt is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides, constructed out of mud-bricks. These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. In the Old Kingdom epoch, local kings began to be buried in pyramids instead of in mastabas, although non-royal use of mastabas continued for over a thousand years. Egyptologists call these tombs mastaba, from the Arabic word مصطبة (maṣṭaba) "stone bench".

Sithathor ancient Egyptian princess

Sithathor was an Ancient Egyptian princess with the title king's daughter. She is only known from her burial at Dahshur. Next to the pyramid of king Senusret III were found underground galleries as a burial place for royal women. Most of the burials were found looted, but there were two boxes for jewellery overlooked by tomb robbers. Both boxes contained an outstanding collection of jewellery. They were called the first and the second treasure of Dahshur. The first treasure was discovered on 6 March 1894 and belonged most likely once to Sithathor. Several scarabs with her name were found. The treasure contained a pectoral with the names of king Senusret II, one of the masterpieces of Egyptian goldwork. Other objects were golden shells, golden bracelets, a mirror and several stone vases. Sithathor is not known for sure outside her tomb. She was perhaps a daughter of Senusret III, but it is also possible that she was the daughter of Senusret II and buried as sister of king Senusret III next to him.


Graffito of the striking-haired digger Pyramide-sesostrisIII-graffitis2.jpg
Graffito of the striking-haired digger

De Morgan struggled for months to find the original entrance; after digging several tunnels directed towards the center of the monument, he finally found the thieves' tunnel. One of the passages was covered by graffiti which were rather alien to the Egyptian canons, the most famous among these represents a human head with a striking hairstyle. De Morgan argued that the tunnels and the graffiti were made by Semitic grave robbers during the Hyksos occupation. From the thieves' tunnels, de Morgan was able to trace the original entrance. [5]

A graffito, in an archaeological context, is a deliberate mark made by scratching or engraving on a large surface such as a wall. The marks may form an image or writing. The term is not usually used of the engraved decoration on small objects such as bones, which make up a large part of the Art of the Upper Paleolithic, but might be used of the engraved images, usually of animals, that are commonly found in caves, though much less well known than the cave paintings of the same period; often the two are found in the same caves. In archaeology, the term may or may not include the more common modern sense of an "unauthorized" addition to a building or monument. Sgraffito, a decorative technique of partially scratching off a top layer of plaster or some other material to reveal a differently colored material beneath, is also sometimes known as "graffito".

Art of ancient Egypt Art produced by the Ancient Egyptian civilization

Ancient Egyptian art refers to paintings, sculptures, architecture, and other arts produced in ancient Egypt between the 31st century BC and the 4th century AD. It is very conservative; Egyptian styles changed remarkably little over time. Much of the surviving art comes from tombs and monuments, which have given more insight on the Egyptians' belief of the afterlife. This has caused a greater focus on preserving the knowledge of the past. Wall art was not produced for people to look at but it had a purpose in the afterlife and in rituals.

Semitic people group of people, culture and languages in Middle East

Semites, Semitic people or Semitic cultures was a term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group who speak or spoke the Semitic languages.

Hypogea of the main pyramid (left) and of the four northern small pyramids (right) Sesostris3-plan-appartements.jpg
Hypogea of the main pyramid (left) and of the four northern small pyramids (right)

From the entrance, located on the western side of the pyramid, a long descending hallway led to an antechamber which connects a storeroom on the west wall to the king's chamber on the east wall, the latter made from granite and provided with a granite sarcophagus on the western side, and a niche for the canopic chest on the southern one. The granite walls of the burial chamber were whiten with gypsum. Above the chamber Arnold found three relieving vaults made from granite (the bottom one), limestone (the middle one) and mudbricks (the top one) which were meant to discharge the weight on the underlying chamber's walls in order to prevent a roof collapse. The king's chamber contained pottery and a dagger, while the granite sarcophagus was empty. It is possible that Senusret III was never buried there and that he might have preferred his Abydene tomb as his final resting place, as suggested by the lack of a blocking system within this hypogeum. [1]

Canopic chest

Canopic chests are cases used by Ancient Egyptians to contain the internal organs removed during the process of mummification. Once canopic jars began to be used, in the late Fourth Dynasty, the jars were placed within canopic chests. Although the first proven canopic burials date from the Fourth Dynasty reign of Sneferu, there is evidence to suggest that there were canopic installations at Saqqara dating from the Second Dynasty.

Gypsum mineral, calcium sulfate with bounded water

Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard/sidewalk chalk, and drywall. A massive fine-grained white or lightly tinted variety of gypsum, called alabaster, has been used for sculpture by many cultures including Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire, and the Nottingham alabasters of Medieval England. Gypsum also crystallizes as translucent crystals of selenite. It also forms as an evaporite mineral and as a hydration product of anhydrite.

Vault (architecture) architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof

In architecture, a vault is a self-supporting arched form, usually of stone or brick, serving to cover a space with a ceiling or roof. The simplest kind of vault is the barrel vault, which is generally semicircular in shape. The barrel vault is a continuous arch, the length being greater than its diameter. As in building an arch, a temporary support is needed while rings of voussoirs are constructed and the rings placed in position. Until the topmost voussoir, the keystone, is positioned, the vault is not self-supporting. Where timber is easily obtained, this temporary support is provided by centering consisting of a framed truss with a semicircular or segmental head, which supports the voussoirs until the ring of the whole arch is completed. With a barrel vault, the centering can then be shifted on to support the next rings.


  1. 1 2 3 Lehner 1997, p. 177
  2. 1 2 3 Lehner 1997, p. 179
  3. Lehner 1997, p. 178
  4. Grimal 1992, p. 178
  5. Cimmino 1996, pp. 288-9; n. 9

Further reading

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