12th Dynasty

12th Dynasty.jpg

After the vizier Amenemhat at the end of the 11th Dynasty was able to prevent Egypt from falling apart, he seized power himself and became the first king of the 12th Dynasty. He moved the residence, called (Imenemhat) Itjitawy ('Amenemhat is the one who controls the Two Lands'), to a location near el-Lisht. Thebes remained important as the old residence and the city of Amun. This god was rapidly becoming important, as is shown by the frequency of the royal name Amenemhat ('Amun is in front'). The god would soon be equated with the sun god to become Amun-Re. Amenemhat I built his pyramid near the residence at el-Lisht, partly using stones from older constructions. In general, the pyramids from this period are of a lesser quality, partly because they were built using mudbricks. An assassination attempt was made on Amenemhat; it is uncertain whether it was successful (see the Story of Sinuhe and the Teachings of Amenemhat for his Son). Senwosret I, his successor, undertook various expeditions, such as a journey to the Wadi Hammammat with 17,000 men and campaigns to western Asia and especially Nubia. The latter country was conquered as far as the 2nd cataract and controlled by military outposts. A number of forts, of which Buhen is the most important, were occupied. Later on, Senwosret III moved the border further south to Semna where a fortress was also built. The pyramid of Senwosret I is also in el-Lisht, that of his son Amenemhat II at Dahshour. During the reign of Senwosret II, a start was made on draining the Faiyum, completed under Amenemhat III. The pyramid of Senwosret II lies near el-Lahun, along with the remains of the associated pyramid town (called Kahun). Papyri have been found here containing, among other things, astronomical data which make a precise chronology possible. Near Hawwara is the pyramid of Amenemhat III with the so-called Labyrinth nearby; a second pyramid belonging to this king is at Dahshour. In tombs of family members of the king, both there and in el-Lahun, many pieces of gold jewellery have been found. Under the royal family of the 12th Dynasty, the local nomarchs acquired a certain independence and wealth. They built wonderful rock tombs, particulary in Elephantine, Asiut, el-Bersha and Beni Hassan. The tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hassan contains a famous representation of Asiatics who have come to Egypt bearing eye paint, a scene which has often been linked to the entry into Egypt of the Children of Israel. Towards the end of the dynasty, after the influence of the nomarchs had been severely curtailed, their property confiscated and the heredity of offices forbidden, the situation became less stable. The measures were regarded as a heavy burden and this eventually led to the end of the unity of the country. Further, the nobility had also literally lost their wealth. A new period of unrest broke out, usually called the 2nd Intermediate Period.