SENUSRET II, 4TH KING OF EGYPT'S 12TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN.
Senusret II, the birth name of the fourth king of Egypt's 12th Dynasty, means "Man of Goddess Wosret". It was the name that
seems to enter the royal linage because of this king's non-royal, great, great grandfather, the original Senusret and father
of the founder of the Dynasty, Amenemhet I. Senusret II's name is also found in various references as Senwosret II, or the
Greek form, Sesostris II. His throne name was Kha-khaeper-re, meaning "Soul of Re comes into Being". We are told that he
succeeded his father, Amenemhet II in about 1895 BC, after a short co-regency of at least three years. References differ on
the length of his rule, varying between about seven and fifteen years. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt gives his reign as
1877-1870, while Clayton gives him a reign from 1897-1878 BC.
A group of statues was discovered, two of which had been usurped by Ramesses II, portraying Senusret II with wide, muscular
shoulders like his father, but with a more vigorous face, lacking the blandness of older 12th Dynasty statuary. Indeed, this
was a period of fine portraitures art, reflected in the distinctive broad cheekbones and other characteristics portrayed in
the statues. In fact, even a number of private statues have been found that also reflect this high art, and the late 12th
dynasty is seen as a milestone of human portraiture in Egyptian art.
Better known then Senusret II's statues are a pair of of highly polished black granite statues of a lady Nefret, who did not
carry the title of "Royal Wife", but who was probably either a wife of Senusret II's who died before he ascended the
throne, or a sister. She did, however, have other titles usually reserved for queens. His principal royal wife was
Khnumetneferhedjetweret (Weret), who's body was found in a tomb under the pyramid of her son, Senusret III at Dahshure.
Senusret III would become Senusret II's successor, though so far their is no evidence of a co-regency with his father as
their had been for every king from the time of Amenemhet I. Senusret II probably also had several daughters, one of which
would have probably been Sathathoriunet (Sithathoriunet) , who's jewelry was discovered in a tomb behind the king's
Like his his father's, Senusret II's reign is at least considered to be a peaceful one, with more diplomacy with many
neighbors then warfare. We are told that trade with the Near East was particularly prolific. His cordial relations with the
regional leaders in Egypt is attested to at Beni Hassan, for example, and especially in the tomb of Khnumhotep II, who he
gave many honors. In fact, we are told of no military campaigns during his rule, though he undoubted protected Egypt's
mineral interests and their expanded territory in Nubia.
His efforts seem to have been more directed at expanding cultivation within the Fayoum rather then making war with his
neighbors and regional nobles. In the Fayoum, his projects turned a considerable area from marshlands into agricultural land.
He established a Fayoum irrigation project, including building a dyke and digging canals to connect the Fayoum with a
waterway known today as Bahr Yusef.
He seems to have had a great interest in the Fayoum, and elevated the region in importance. Its growing recognition is
attested to by a number of pyramids built before, and after his reign in or near the oasis (though the Fayoum is not a true
oasis). It should also be remembered that kings usually built their royal palaces near their mortuary complexes, so it is
likely that many of the future kings made their home in the Fayoum. These later kings would also continued and expanded upon
Senusret II's irrigation projects in the Fayoum. Senusret II built a unique statue shrine of Qasr es-Sagha on the north
eastern corner of the region, though it was left undecorated and incomplete.
His father, Amenemhet II built his pyramid at Dahshure, but Senusret II built his pyramid closer to the Fayoum Oasis at
Lahun. His pyramid definitely established a new tradition in pyramid building, perhaps begun by his father. But, for
example, beginning with Senusret II, the location of the door was less important from a religious then from a security
standpoint, so rather then being on the north side of the structure, it was hidden in the pavement of the south side.
To the south side of the pyramid Petrie excavated four shaft tombs that belonged to Senusret II's family and in one of
these, discovered a fine, gold inlaid uraeus that may have come from the king's mummy.
Senusret II is further attested to by a sphinx, now in the Egyptian Antiquity Museum in Cairo and by inscriptions of both he
and his father near Aswan.
It should also be mentioned that the pyramid town associated with Senusret II's complex, known as Lahun (Kahun) after the
nearby modern village, provided considerable information to archaeologists and Egyptologists on the common lives of
Egyptians. Pyramid towns were communities of workmen, craftsmen and administrators that grew up around a king's pyramid
Khakeperre Senusret II was the fourth pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from 1897 BC to 1878 BC. His pyramid
was constructed at El-Lahun. Senusret II took a great deal of interest in the Faiyum oasis region and began work on an
extensive irrigation system from Bahr Yusuf through to Lake Moeris through the construction of a dike at El-Lahun and the
addition of a network of drainage canals. The purpose of his project was to increase the amount of cultivable land in that
area. The importance of this project is emphasized by Senusret II's decision to move the royal necropolis from Dahshur to
El-Lahun where he built his pyramid. This location would remain the political capital for the 12th and 13th Dynasties of Egypt.
The king also established the first known workers' quarter in the nearby town of Senusrethotep (Kahun).
Unlike his successor, Senusret II maintained good relations with the various nomarchs or provincial governors of Egypt who were
almost as wealthy as the pharaoh.  His Year 6 is attested in a wall painting from the tomb of a local nomarch named
Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan.
Of the rulers of this Dynasty, the length of Senusret II's reign is the most debated amongst scholars. The Turin Canon gives
an unknown king of the Dynasty a reign of 19 Years, (which is usually attributed to Senusret II), but Senusret II's highest
known date is currently only a Year 8 red sandstone stela found in June 1932 in a long unused quarry at Toshka. Some
scholars prefer to ascribe him a reign of only 10 Years and assign the 19 Year reign to Senusret III instead. Other
Egyptologists, however, such as Jürgen von Beckerath and Frank Yurco, have maintained the traditional view of a longer 19 Year
reign for Senusret II given the level of activity undertaken by the king during his reign. Yurco noted that limiting Senusret
II's reign to only 6 or 10 years poses major difficulties because this king:
" ... built a complete pyramid at Kahun, with a solid granite funerary temple and complex of buildings. Such projects
optimally took fifteen to twenty years to complete, even with the mudbrick cores used in Middle Kingdom pyramids. "
Pectoral of Senusret II (tomb of Sit-Hathor Yunet)
Senusret II may not have shared a coregency with his son, Senusret III, unlike most other Middle Kingdom rulers. Some scholars
are of the view that he did, noting a scarab with both kings names inscribed on it, a dedication inscription celebrating the
resumption of rituals begun by Senusret II and III, and a papyrus which was thought to mention Senusret II's 19th year and
Senusret III's first year.' None of these three items, however, necessitate a coregency. Moreover, the evidence from
the papyrus document is now obviated by the fact that the document has been securely dated to Year 19 of Senusret III and Year
1 of Amenemhet III. At present, no document from Senusret II's reign has been discovered from Lahun, the king's new capital
Crown of Princess Sit-Hathor Yunet
In 1889, the English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie found "a marvellous gold and inlaid royal uraeus" that must have originally
formed part of Senusret II's looted burial equipment in a flooded chamber of the king's pyramid tomb. It is now located in
the Cairo Museum. The tomb of Princess Sit-Hathor-Iunet, a daughter of Senusret II, was also discovered by Egyptologists in a
separate burial site. Several pieces of jewellery from her tomb including a pair of pectorals and a crown or diadem were found
there. They are now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of New York or the Cairo Museum in Egypt.
In 2009, Egyptian archaeologists announced the results of new excavations. They described unearthing a cache of pharaonic-era
mummies in brightly painted wooden coffins near the Lahun pyramid. The mummies were reportedly the first to be found in the
sand-covered desert rock surrounding the pyramid.