Senusret III

The Pharaoh Senusret III was one of the most emblematic monarchs in Ancient Egypt. At the peak of the Middle Kingdom, his reign (circa 1872-1854 B.C.) marked a turning-point in the history of Ancient Egypt. This strategist and visionary sovereign conquered Nubia (now the Sudan) where he had a network of fortresses built; set the first boundaries of his kingdom and established trade and strong diplomatic relations with his eastern neighbours (now Cyprus, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Territories). His military expeditions and the setup of a loyal administration meant he could consolidate his power. The Egyptian state was restructured in depth.

These changes were embodied in statuary art: the surviving enigmatic portraits of the Pharaoh show a break with tradition, depicting either stern features, symbolic of wisdom, or an idealised young man. Other artistic output (jewels, objects of everyday life, burial equipment) illustrates regained prosperity and obviously vigorous cultural exchanges with neighbouring kingdoms. The public will discover the artistic riches of a key reign, considered to be a golden age of Ancient Egypt.

If this pharaoh doesn’t have the fame of Tutankhamen or Ramses II, he is, in the eyes  of historians and archaeologists, the pharaoh who in the beginning of the second millennium BC made Egypt into a powerful state, and who remained a model for his successors. Many striking examples of the numerous representations of Senusret III, for the most part statues but also low reliefs, are shown in the exhibition. They reveal the authoritarian, inflexible character of the ruler  who  could  also  be  merciful  and  attentive  to  his  people.  Providing  Egypt  with  a restructured administration that led to a new social order, he extended the limits of his empire towards the north and the south, leaving traces of his conquests on these territories.

Sculptures of Sensuret III:

Senusret III is known for his strikingly somber sculptures. Senusret III is considered to be perhaps the most powerful Egyptian ruler of the dynasty, and led the kingdom to an era of peace and prosperity. Senusret III is known for his strikingly somber sculptures in which he appears careworn and grave.

While many statues portray him as a vigorous young man, others deviate from
this standard and illustrate him as mature and aging. This is often interpreted as
a portrayal of the burden of power and kingship. Another important innovation in sculpture during the Middle Kingdom was the
block statue, which consisted of a man squatting with his knees drawn up to his

During the Middle Kingdom, relief and portrait sculpture captured subtle, individual details that reached new heights of technical perfection. Some of the finest examples of sculpture during this time was at the height of the empire under Pharaoh Senusret III.

Khakhaure Senusret III (also written as Senwosret III or Sesostris III) ruled from 1878 BC to 1839 BC, and was the fifth monarch of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. His military campaigns gave rise to an era of peace and economic prosperity that not only reduced the power of regional rulers, but also led to a revival in craftwork, trade, and urban development in the Egyptian kingdom. One of the few kings who were deified and honored with a cult during their own lifetime, he is considered to be perhaps the most powerful Egyptian ruler of the dynasty.

Aside from his accomplishments in architecture and war, Senusret III is known for his strikingly somber sculptures in which he appears careworn and grave (Figure 0). Deviating from the standard way of representing kings, Senusret III and his successor Amenemhat III had themselves portrayed as mature, aging men. Figure 2 This is often interpreted as a portrayal of the burden of power and kingship. That the change in representation was indeed ideological and should not be interpreted as the portrayal of an aging king is shown by the fact that in one single relief, Senusret III was represented as a vigorous young man, following the centuries old tradition, and as a mature aging king.

Senusret I's White Chapel

The White Chapel of Senusret I

The White Chapel was built for Senusret I's first jubilee festival, which was a celebration of a pharaoh's 30th year as ruler. Ramps and stairs led up on either side to the small rectangular building. Senusret  I himself probably sat inside the chapel during part of the festival.

Six hundred years later, another pharaoh tore down this beautiful monument. He used the pieces to fill in one of the pylons, or sloped walls, of a monument he was building. Modern-day archeologists would have never known about the White Chapel if not for an incredible stroke of luck.

In 1924, Egyptian archeologists  decided to repair the monument  in which the pieces of the White Chapel had been buried. During this work, the blocks of the White Chapel were discovered. Even though the blocks had been buried for thousands of years, the intricate carvings on them were generally  in outstanding condition. Using the broken sections of carvings like puzzle pieces, archeologists were slowly able to reconstruct  the White Chape.

The chapel is made out of Egyptian alabaster and is approximately 6.8m X 6.5m around the base and 3.8m high (it was built on a raised base).  It was oriented north/south when it was originally a part of the temple complex and has a stepped ramp leading up to both sides.  Scholars debate where the chapel was originally placed, but most reconstructions set it outside the inner enclosure wall of the temple.  There are four interior pillars which hold up the roof surrounded by twelve exterior pillars (so altogether there are four rows of four columns each).  An image of the exterior of the chapel can be found below.

Tutankhamen Treasures (Part 6)

Tutankhamun on a Funerary Bed: 

The unexpected death of the young pharaoh in 1323 B.C. was mourned throughout Egypt. Except for the busy necropolis workshops, all labor halted and a period  of  ritual fasting  was  observed in addition to which the pharaoh’s men stopped shaving  until  his  burial  70  days  later, the customary interval required for the mummification process.  One such high official was Maya, the overseer of works in the Place of Eternity (the royal necropolis), royal scribe, and overseer of the burial treasury, who appears to have felt some affection for the young pharaoh.  In addition to supervising Tutankhamun’s burial preparations in an  unfinished  and  hastily  appropriated  commoner’s  tomb,  Maya’s  personal  sentiments  are reflected in his touching funerary gift of this finely carved wooden ushabti figure, utterly unique in form, representing the pharaoh recumbent on a lionheaded bier.

Wishing Cup: 

This  stately  drinking  chalice, carved  from a single block of alabaster, represents a blooming white lotus flanked with handles sculpted in the form of blue lilies, each surmounted by a kneeling figure of the god of eternity, Heh, resting on the sign for infinity and holding the hieroglyphic symbols for 100,000 years of life. It was found directly inside the tomb entrance,  apparently the  last  object  to  be  placed  by  the  burial  priests (or abandoned by the graverobbers). Called  a  “wishing  cup”  by  Howard  Carter,  the  chalice  is  inscribed  with the pharaoh’s royal cartouches and bears a blessing engraved in a band around the lip:  May your spirit live and may you spend millions of years, you who cherish Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, you eyes gazing upon joy.

Bust of Tutankhamun on a Lotus: 

While Howard Carter was locked out of the tomb by the Egyptian government,  an  official inventory of its separately stored  contents revealed this painted wooden  bust  of  the  young  pharaoh,  undocumented  and  previously  unknown  to  the authorities, suspiciously concealed inside a small wooden box.  Bearing the misleading emblem of  the  English  vintners Fortnum & Mason, it was obviously prepared for shipping.  Carter’s embarrassed explanation was that the sculpture had been found in the rubble filling the tomb’s corridor (where it had presumably been abandoned in antiquity the fleeing robbers) along with a number of other objects that were “not yet fully registered.”  The portrait faithfully captures Tutankhamun’s elongated platycephalic skull, a common feature among members of the inbred royal family of Amarna.  A touching likeness of the young pharaoh, the sculpture represents him as the solar deity emerging from the corolla of the primordial lotus at the moment of creation.  As a ritual object it symbolizes his divine rebirth every day with the rising sun.