SENUSRET I, 2ND KING OF THE 12TH DYNASTY
by Jimmy Dunn.
Senusret I was the second king of the 12th Dynasty and ascended to the throne after the murder of his father, Amenemhet I. There had
apparently been a harem plot, and with good timing, Amenemhet I was assassinated in the absence of his son, who was fighting in Libya. It
would seem that his son either swiftly left the campaign, or was already heading home at the time of the murder. However, this was not
the first harem conspiracy, and Amenemhet I had performed his due diligence in respect to assuring a successful transition for his heir.
For the first time that we know of in Egyptian history, Senusret I was made a co-regent in the 20th year of Amenemhet I's rule, and so
was by the time of his father's death firmly established as the heir to the throne. Therefore, regardless of the intentions of the
conspirators, he managed to ascend the throne with little difficulty.
Senusret I was this king's birth name, and means "Man of goddess Wosret". However, it was also the name, we believe, of his non-royal
grandfather and so it may give little insight into his character. In references, he is also sometimes called Senwosret I, or Sesostris I
(Greek). His throne name was Kheper-ka-re, which means, "The Soul of Re comes into Being". His mother was probably Neferytotenen
(Nefrutoteen, Nefrytatenen), one of Amenemhet I's chief wives. He married a Queen Nefru, who was the mother of his successor son,
Amenemhet II. Like his father, Amenemhet II was also made a coregent, but only perhaps three years prior to Senusret I's death. The
coregency was recorded by a private stele of Simontu that is now in the British Museum. From her pyramid near her father's we also know
that he had a daughter (or possibly a wife) by the name of Itakaiet. He may have had other daughters, including princesses Nefru-Sobek,
Nefru-Ptah and Nenseddjedet.
Senusret I probably ruled Egypt for a period of about 34 years after his father's death during a period in Egypt's history where
literature and craftsmanship was at its peek. We believe he may have been a co-regent of his father far perhaps another ten years. He
probably ruled Egypt from about 1956 through 1911 BC.
It was a period of affluence, and a remarkable time for mineral wealth, gold and the fine jewelry produced with this abundance. Jewelry
masterpieces have been found, particularly in the tombs of the royal ladies at Dahshur and Lahun, attributable to his reign. Considerable
efforts were made to procure amethyst, turquoise, copper and gniess for both jewelry and sculptures. But it was also a time of great
stability and development.
However, we also learn from letters of an old farmer named Hekanakhte to his family, that there was apparently a famine during the time
of Senusret, a fact that is also implied by an inscription in the tomb of a nomarch (governor) named Amenemhat at Beni Hassan. But along
with this news, we also are provided considerable insight into the life of the common Egyptians of this period by Hekanakhte's letters,
and a better understanding of the details of agricultural.
He continued many of his father's policies, including the expansion in northern Nubia. We know that he sent one expedition to Nubia in
his tenth year of reign, and that eight years later, he sent another army as far south as the second cataract. His general, Mentuhotep,
went even deeper into Nubia. However, Senusret I established Egypt's southern border at the fortress of Buhen near the second cataract,
where he placed a garrison and a victory stele, thereby adding to the already substantial military presence established by his father.
Now, there were at least 13 fortresses that extended as far as the Second Cataract, and while Egypt's border may have been at the
Nile's second cataract, he exercised control of Nubia as far as the Third Cataract. Inscriptions attributable to Senusret I can be found
as far south as the island of Argo, north of modern Dongola.
He also protected the Delta region and the Western desert Oases from Libyan invasion by means of a series of military campaigns and by
establishing control over oases in the Libyan Desert. Several of the expeditions also appear to have been lead by him personally.
However, he radically changed the policy towards Syria/Palestine by seeking stable commercial and diplomatic relations rather then a
policy of expansion and control. Trading caravans passed between Syria and Egypt exchanging cedar and ivory for Egyptian goods.
Religiously, Senusret contributed considerable attention to the cult of Osiris, and over his long rule, this deity's beliefs and
practices flourished in Egypt. Osiris was a god of the people and in expanding this cult, Senusret I gave his subjects what John Wilson
has described as the "democratization of the afterlife".
Senusret I had already established himself as a builder during the co-regency with his father by extending and and embellishing some
major temples, particularly at Karnak, where he is considered to have founded the temple of Ipet sut (Karnak), and Heliopolis. As early
as year two of his reign, he rebuilt the very important temple of Re-Atum at Heliopolis, a center of the sun cult. He probably even
personally participated in the foundation ceremonies for the temple's reconstruction. He also had two, massive 20 meter (66 foot) red
granite obelisks erected at the same temple on the occasion of his jubilee celebrating his 30th year in office. These monoliths would
have weighed 121 tons each. One of the pair remains the oldest standing obelisk in Egypt. He also built the famous bark shrine, or White
Chapel, that has been reconstructed by Henri Chevrier in the Open Air Museum at Karnak. It was built in order to celebrate his sed
festival (Jubilee) in the 30th year of his reign, but the blocks for the temple were reused to build the third Pylon at Karnak. A scene
within the White Chapel records the coronation of Senusret I, and is the oldest such scene so far discovered.
The more important projects included remodeling the temple of Khenti-amentiu-Osiris at Abydos. He also erected many memorial stele and
small shrines, or cenotaphs, at Abydos, a practice that would be followed by many Middle and New Kingdom pharaohs. We also find temples
built by Sunusret I at Elepantine and Tod. In fact, he is attested to at almost three dozen sites from Alexandria to Aswan and down into
Nubia where he carried out building projects.
Senusret I also set up a program to build monuments in each of the main cult sites all over Egypt. This was really an extension of an Old
Kingdom policy, but in reality he was following his fathers efforts to consolidate and centralize power. This move undermined the power
bases of local temples and priests.
In order to facilitate these building projects, he sent expeditions to exploit the stone quarries of Wadi Hammamat, the Sinai at Serabit
el-Khadim, Hatnub, where two expeditions were sent in years 23 and 31 of his reign for alabaster, and Wadi el Hudi. One of these
expeditions extracted enough stone to make sixty sphinxes and 150 statues. Many of his statues did not survive the ages, but the Egyptian
Antiquity Museum includes a large collection of those that did.
He also built a large pyramid, very reminiscent of older complexes, at Lisht, near Itjtawy, the capital apparently founded by his father.
His pyramid is located just to the south of his father's pyramid at el-Lisht.
Senusret I (also Sesostris I and Senwosret I) was the second pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from 1971 BC to 1926
BC, and was one of the most powerful kings of this Dynasty. He was the son of Amenemhat I and his wife Nefertitanen. His own wife
and sister was Neferu. She was also the mother of the successor Amenemhat II. Senusret I was known by his prenomen, Kheperkare,
which means "the Ka of Re is created."
He continued his father's aggressive expansionist policies against Nubia by initiating two expeditions into this region in his
10th and 18th Years and established Egypt's formal southern border at the fortress of Buhen near the second cataract where he
placed a garrison and a victory stele. He also organized an expedition to a Western Desert oasis in the Libyan desert. Senusret
I established diplomatic relations with some rulers of towns in Syria and Canaan. He also tried to centralize the country's
political structure by supporting nomarchs who were loyal to him. His pyramid was constructed at el-Lisht. Senusret I is mentioned
in the Story of Sinuhe where he is reported to have rushed back to the royal palace in Memphis from a military campaign in Asia
after hearing about the assassination of his father, Amenemhat I.
Senusret I dispatched several quarrying expeditions to the Sinai and Wadi Hammamat and built numerous shrines and temples
throughout Egypt and Nubia during his long reign. He rebuilt the important temple of Re-Atum in Heliopolis which was the centre of
the sun cult &ndash. He erected 2 red granite obelisks there to celebrate his Year 30 Heb Sed Jubilee. One of the obelisks still
remains and is the oldest standing obelisk in Egypt. It is now in the Al-Masalla (Obelisk in Arabic) area of Al-Matariyyah district
near the Ain Shams district (Heliopolis). It is 67 feet tall and weighs 120 tons or 240,000 pounds.
Senusret I is attested to be the builder of a number of major temples in Ancient Egypt, including the temple of Min at Koptos, the
Satet-Temple on Elephantine, the Month-temple at Armant and the Month-temple at El-Tod, where a long inscription of the king is
A shrine (known as the White Chapel) with fine, high quality reliefs of Senusret I, was built at Karnak to commemorate his Year 30
jubilee. It has subsequently been successfully reconstructed from various stone blocks discovered by Henri Chevrier in 1926.
Finally, Senusret remodelled the Temple of Khenti-Amentiu Osiris at Abydos, among his other major building projects.
The royal court
Some of the key members of the court of Senusret I are known. The vizier at the beginning of his reign was Intefiqer, who is known
from many inscriptions and from his tomb next to the pyramid of Amenemhat I. He seems to have held this office for a long period of
time and was followed by a vizier named Senusret. Two treasurers are known from the reign of the king: Sobekhotep (year 22) and
Mentuhotep. The latter had a huge tomb next to the pyramid of the king and he seems to have been the main architect of the Amun
temple at Karnak.
Senusret was crowned coregent with his father, Amenemhat I, in his father's 20th regnal year. Towards the end of his own life,
he appointed his son Amenemhat II as his coregent. The stele of Wepwawetō is dated to the 44th year of Senusret and to the 2nd year
of Amenemhet, thus he would have appointed him some time in his 43rd year. Senusret is thought to have died during his 46th year
on the throne since the Turin Canon ascribes him a reign of 45 Years.