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Senusret III
Sesostris III or Senwosret III
Heads of Senusret III from the British Museum
Heads of Senusret III from the British Museum
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign 1878 – 1839 BC,  Twelfth Dynasty
Predecessor Senusret II
Successor Amenemhat III
Consort(s) Meretseger, Neferthenut Khnemetneferhedjet II
Children Amenemhat III, Khnemet, Menet, Mereret, Senetsenbetes, Sithathor (?)
Father Senusret II
Mother Khnemetneferhedjet I
Monuments Buhen and Toshka

Khakhaure Senusret III (also written as Senwosret III or Sesostris III) was a pharaoh of Egypt. He ruled from 1878 BC to 1839 BC, and was the fifth monarch of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He was a great pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty and is considered to be perhaps the most powerful Egyptian ruler of this time. Consequently, he is regarded as one of the sources for the legend about Sesostris. His military campaigns gave rise to an era of peace and economic prosperity that reduced the power of regional rulers and led to a revival in craftwork, trade and urban development.[1] Senusret III was one of the few kings who were deified and honored with a cult during their own lifetime.[2]



Senusret III (Metropolitan Museum)

Senusret III cleared a navigable canal through the first cataract[3] and relentlessly pushed his kingdom's expansion deep into Nubia (from 1866 to 1863 BC) where he erected massive river forts including Buhen, Semna and Toshka at Uronarti.

He carried out at least four major campaigns deep into Nubia in his Year 8, 10, 16 and 19 respectively.[4] His Year 8 stela at Semna documents his victories against the Nubians through which he thought having made safe the southern frontier, preventing further incursions into Egypt.[5] Another great stela from Semna dated to the third month of Year 16 of his reign mentions his military activities against both Nubia and Canaan. In it, he admonished his future successors to maintain the new border which he had created:

Year 16, third month of winter: the king made his southern boundary at Heh. I have made my boundary further south than my fathers. I have added to what was bequeathed me. (...) As for any son (ie. successor) of mine who shall maintain this border which my Majesty has made, he is my son born to my Majesty. The true son is he who champions his father, who guards the border of his begetter. But he [who] abandons it, who fails to fight for it, he is not my son, he was not born to me. Now my majesty has had an image made of my majesty, at this border which my majesty has made, in order that you maintain it, in order that you fight for it.[6]

His final campaign in Year 19 was less successful because the king's forces were trapped by a low Nile current and had to retreat and abandon their campaign to avoid being trapped in hostile Nubian territory.[7]

Such was his forceful nature and immense influence that Senusret III was worshipped as a god in Semna by later generations.[8] Jacques Morgan, in 1894, found rock inscriptions near Sehel Island documenting his digging of a canal under the king. Senusret III erected a temple and town in Abydos, and another temple in Medamud.[9]

Reign Length

The Year 16 border stela of Senusret III (Altes Museum), Berlin

His pyramid was constructed at Dahshur.[10] A papyrus in the Berlin Museum shows Year 20 of his reign is equivalent to Year 1 of his son Amenemhat III. This means that he initiated a coregency with his son in this year. According to Josef W. Wegner, a Year 39 hieratic control note was recovered on a white limestone block from

...a securely defined deposit of construction debris produced from the building of the Senwosret III mortuary temple. The fragment itself is part of the remnants of the temple construction. This deposit provides evidence for the date of construction of the mortuary temple of Senwosret III at Abydos.[11]

Wegner stresses that it is unlikely that Amenemhet III, Senusret's son and successor would still be working on his father's temple nearly 4 decades into his own reign. He notes that the only possible solution for the block's existence here is that Senusret III had a 39-year reign, with the final 20 years in coregency with his son Amenemhet III. Since the project was associated with a project of Senusret III, his Regnal Year was presumably used to date the block, rather than Year 20 of Amenemhet III. This implies that Senusret was still alive in the first two decades of his son's reign prior to his death.

Visually, Senusret III is known for his strikingly somber sculptures in which he appears careworn and grave.[12]

His court included the viziers Sobekemhat, Nebit and Khnumhotep. The famous treasurer Iykhernofret worked for the king at Abydos.

Pyramid and complex

Plan of the Pyramid complex at Dashur

Senusret's pyramid complex was built north-east of the Red Pyramid of Dashur and in grandeur far surpassed those from the early 12th dynasty in size and underlying religious conceptions.

There has been speculation that Senusret was not necessarily buried here but rather in his sophisticated funerary complex in Abydos with his pyramid more likely to have been a cenotaph.[1]

Senusret's pyramid is 105 meter square and 78 meters high. The total volume was about 288,000 cubic meters. The pyramid was built of a core of mud bricks. They were not made a consistent size implying that standardized moulds weren't used. The burial chamber was lined with granite. Above the vaulted burial chamber was a second relieving chamber that was roofed with 5 pairs of limestone beams each weighing 30 tons. Above this was a third mudbrick vault.

The pyramid complex included a small mortuary temple and 7 smaller Queens pyramids. there was also a southern temple however this has since been destroyed.[13]


In the arts

Senusret is a major character in Christian Jacq's historical fiction series The Mysteries of Osiris [2]

See also


  1. ^ a b "The Pyramids: Their Archeology and History", Miroslav Verner, Translated by Steven Rendall,p386-387 & p416-421, Atlantic, ISBN 1-84354-171-8
  2. ^ "The Oxford Guide: Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology", Edited by Donald B. Redford, p. 85, Berkley, 2003, ISBN 0-425-19096-X
  3. ^ J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, Chicago 1906, §§642-648
  4. ^ J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, Chicago 1906, §§640-673
  5. ^ J.H. Breasted, §652
  6. ^ Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian literature: a Book of Readings, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1973. pp.119-120
  7. ^ Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press 2003, p.155
  8. ^ Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, (1994),p.86
  9. ^ [1] Senusret (III) Khakhaure
  10. ^ Katheryn A. Bard, Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.107
  11. ^ Josef Wegner, The Nature and Chronology of the Senwosret III–Amenemhat III Regnal Succession: Some Considerations based on new evidence from the Mortuary Temple of Senwosret III at Abydos, JNES 55, Vol.4, (1996), pp.251
  12. ^ Robert G. Morkot, The Egyptians: An Introduction, Routledge 2005, p.14
  13. ^ Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997)p.177-9 ISBN 0-500-05084-8.


  • W. Grajetzki, The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: History,Archaeology and Society, Duckworth, London 2006 ISBN 0-7156-3435-6, 51-58
  • Josef Wegner, The Nature and Chronology of the Senwosret III–Amenemhat III Regnal Succession: Some Considerations based on new evidence from the Mortuary Temple of Senwosret III at Abydos, JNES 55, Vol.4, (1996), pp. 249-279

External links


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