AMENEMHET III, THE 6TH RULER OF EGYPT'S 12TH DYNASTY
by Jimmy Dunn.
Amenemhet III was the son of Senusret III and the last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom. Amenemhet III appears to have shared the throne
with is father as co-regent for at least a while before the death of his father. The king's principle wives were buried in his pyramid at
Dahshur in their own chambers, a very unusual feature at this time. The Chief wife was probably Aat. The second queen we are unsure of.
We also know of a daughter named Neferuptah and of course his successor who was probably his son, Amenemhet IV. However, Amenemhet IV may
have been a grandson, but in any event, Amenemhet III probably made him a co-regent. It is also possible that the queen who ruled as the
last pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty, Sobkhotpe IV, was also his daughter.
Every king before him or after him in the 12th Dynasty, with perhaps the exception of the last female ruler, would either be named
Amenemhet, as the dynasty's founder was, or Senusret, the first of whom was probably the non royal father of Amenemnet I. This is the
king's birth name, meaning "Amun is at the head". His throne name was Ny-maat-re, meaning "Belonging to the Justice of Re". To the
Greeks, he was Ammenemes III. Amenemhet III was the 6th ruler of the 12th Dynasty, and may have reigned for as long as 45 years. According
to Clayton he ruled from 1842 through 1797 BC.
It was a good thing he ruled this long, because his first tomb, his pyramid at Dahshur, started collapsing about the time it was finished.
It took about 14 or 15 years to build, and he had to start completely over with a new pyramid near to the Fayoum at Hawara. At Hawara, we
believe the complexity and splendor of his mortuary temple made it commonly known as the Labyrinth. Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo
and Pliny all make reference to this structure. According to Diodorus, Daedalus was so impressed by the temple that he built his own
labyrinth for Minos in Crete based on Amenemhet III's temple.
In some respects, the disaster associated with his first pyramid worked in this king's favor, for it provided him the opportunity to
build his tomb closer to the region that he seemed to flourish with attention. Because of his interest in the agricultural economics of
the Fayoum, his reign became perhaps the apex of the Middle Kingdom and he reciprocated with an interest in its needs, as well as founding
temples and building statues.
Building activity in the Fayoum, besides his pyramid, included the the Temple of Sobek, the principle local deity, in the city the Greeks
called Crocidopolis. (Kiman Faris or Faras). In the Fayoum, Sobek was closely related to a more national god, the falcon, Horus the Elder.
He also built a chapel dedicated to Renenutet, the goddess of the harvest, at Medinet Maadi. He participated in agricultural projects in
the Fayoum as well. For example, he built a barrage to regulate the flow of water into the large lake, Birket Qarun from the Bahr Yousef
canal. This reclaimed a large fertile area, perhaps as much as 17,000 acres, that was further protected by an earthen embankment. To
celebrate this achievement, he erected two colossal statues of himself at Biyahmu. The statues stand upon very impressive bases, and
overlook the lake. He was so much connected to the Fayoum that during the Greco-Roman era, during which time there was a revival of the
area, he was probably worshipped as a god under the name Lamares.
Probably because of the connecting mortuary temple, his pyramid complex at Hawara was world renown. The mortuary temple was complex with
many columned courtyards, chambers and passages. It was known in antiquity to travelers as the Labyrinth. Herodotus wrote of it:
"To strengthen the bond between them, they decided to leave a common memorial of their reigns, and for this purpose constructed a
labyrinth a little above Lake Moeris, near the place called the City of Crocodiles. I have seen this building, and it is beyond my power
to describe; it must have cost more in labor and money than all the walls and public works of the Greeks put together - though no one
would deny that the temples at Ephesus and Samos are remarkable buildings. The pyramids, too, are astonishing structures, each one of them
equal to many of the most ambitious works of Greece; but the labyrinth surpasses them. It has twelve covered courts - six in a row facing
north, six south - the gates of the one range exactly fronting the gates of the other, with a continuous wall round the outside of the
whole. Inside, the building is of two stories and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half
directly above them. I was taken through the rooms in the upper story, so what I shall say of them is from my own observation, but the
underground ones I can speak of only from report, because the Egyptians in charge refused to let me see them, as they contain the tombs of
the kings who built the labyrinth, and also the tombs of the sacred crocodiles. The upper rooms, on the contrary, I did actually see, and
it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an
endless wonder to me, as we passed from a court-yard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms, and thence
into yet more courtyards. The roof of every chamber, courtyard, and gallery is, like the walls, of stone. The walls are covered with
carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade. Near the corner where the labyrinth
ends there is a pyramid, two hundred and forty feet in height, with great carved figures of animals on it and an underground passage by
which it can be entered".
Outside of the Fayoum, we also know that he built a temple of Quban in Nubia and expanded the temple of Ptah at Memphis.
Considering his building projects, it is not surprising that Amenemhet III was very active in various quarries. He was especially
interested in the turquoise mines in Sinai such as those at Serabit el-Khadem. He probably at least extensively rebuilt and enlarged the
Temple dedicated to Hathor and other gods at Serabit el-Khadem. In fact, there were some 49 rock inscriptions there, as well as ten more
at Wadi Maghara and Wadi Nasb in the Siani that record almost continuous mining operations between years two and forty-five of his reign.
Yet within Egypt, is is curious that we actually have very few inscriptions from Amenemhet III. But he was also active at Wadi Hammamat,
where alabaster is mined, in the diorite quarries of Nubia, at Tura for its fine while limestone, and other mining sites.
What we do not see during Amenemhet III's time is a lot of military action, other then perhaps strengthening the defenses at Semna. The
military activities of his predecessors allowed him a peaceful reign upon which to build, as well as to exploit the mineral wealth of the
quarries. He does build, politically, reorganizing the domestic administration. He continued to reform the national administration as did
his father. It was probably his father that divided the country into three administrative regions, controlled by departments based at the
capital. This "federal bureaucracy" oversaw the activities of local officials, who no longer possessed any extensive power. Amenemhet III
continued to refine this new administration.
Apparently Amenemhet III was also able to continue with good foreign relations also without much military action. It is said that he was
honored and respected from Kerma to Byblos, and during his reign many eastern workers, including peasants, soldiers and craftsmen, came to
However, the extensive building works, together with possibly a series of low Nile floods, may have exhausted the economy by the end of
his reign. Ironically, all of these foreign workers, many employed for building activities, may have also encouraged the Hyksos to settle
in the Delta, thus leading eventually to the collapse of native Egyptian rule. Upon the king's death, he was buried in his second pyramid
Amenemhet III is also attested to by an unusual set of statues probably of Amenemhet III and Senusret III that shows the two in archaic
priestly dress and offering fish, lotus flowers and geese. These statues are very naturalistic. but show the king in the guise of a Nile
god.. There was also a set of sphinxes that were once thought to have been attributable to the later Hyksos rulers, but are now believed
to have been built on the orders of Amenemhet III. Originally all these statues were discovered reused in the Third Intermediate Period
temples at Tanis. We also know of an inscription by the king at Koptos (Coptos).
Amenemhat III, also spelled Amenemhet III was a pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from c.1860 BC to c.1814 BC,
the latest known date being found in a papyrus dated to Regnal Year 46, I Akhet 22 of his rule. He is regarded as the greatest
monarch of the Middle Kingdom. He may have had a long coregency (of 20 years) with his father, Senusret III.
Towards the end of his reign he instituted a coregency with his successor Amenemhet IV, as recorded in a now damaged rock
inscription at Konosso in Nubia, which equates Year 1 of Amenemhet IV to either Year 46, 47 or 48 of his reign. His daughter,
Sobekneferu, later succeeded Amenemhat IV, as the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty. Amenemhat III's throne name, Nimaatre, means
"Belonging to the Justice of Re."
He built his first pyramid at Dahshur (the so-called "Black Pyramid") but there were construction problems and this was
abandoned. Around Year 15 of his reign the king decided to build a new pyramid at Hawara. The pyramid at Dahshur was used
as burial ground for several royal women.
His mortuary temple at Hawara (near the Fayum), is accompanied by a pyramid and was known to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus as
the "Labyrinth". Strabo praised it as a wonder of the world. The king's pyramid at Hawara contained some of the most complex
security features of any found in Egypt and is perhaps the only one to come close to the sort of tricks Hollywood associates
with such structures. Nevertheless, the king's burial was robbed in antiquity. His daughter, Neferuptah, was buried in a
separate pyramid (discovered in 1956) 2 km southwest of the king's.
The vizier Kheti held this office around year 29 of king Amenemhet III's reign. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is thought to
have been originally composed during Amenemhat's time.