Episode 42: Underworld

Senuseret III (Part I): The Secret Tombs

Around 1880 BCE, one of Egypt’s most legendary kings takes the throne of the Two Lands:  Kha-kau-Re Senuseret III (“The Kas of Re Appear in Glory”). He initiates his 20+ year reign with an incredibly ambitious building program: two royal tombs are being built at once.

At the same time, a new trend in royal portraiture appears. Statues of the king display him as an careworn, dour man. This is directly opposite the youthful, idealized features of his many predecessors. Does it hearken back to the statuary of Netjer-khet Djoser?

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DP249005The careworn face of the king, similar in style to the famous imagery of Djoser below (Image Source: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).



The gorgeous sphinx of Senuseret III, carved from a single block of gneiss (Source: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Three faces of Senuseret III; a bold profile, beautifully carved (Source: Wikipedia & the British Museum).

Senuseret III (Source: the British Museum).

The pyramid burial chamber at Dahshur – his actual tomb, or not? We may never know (Source: the MMA).

The Dahshur pyramid of Senusret III (Source: the MMA).

The Abydos tomb of Senusret III (full resolution) (Source: Wegner, 2009).

Two sphinxes slay enemies beneath the cartouche of Senuseret III – from the burial of princess Mereret (Source: takenote.it)


Josef Wegner, “The Tomb of Senwosret III at Abydos: Considerations on the Origin and Development of the Royal Amduat-Tomb,” in Archaism and Innovation, 2009 (Free Download).

Josef Wegner and Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner, “Seat of Eternity” in Archaeology Magazine, July/August 2001 (JSTOR).

Vanessa E. Smith, “An Investigation of the Shena of Divine Offerings Adjacent to the Mortuary Temple of Senwosret III at Abydos, Egypt,” PhD. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2010.

Wolfram Grajetzki, The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, 2006.

Penn Museum Website – Abydos.

Ancient Egypt Online – Senwosret III at Dahshur.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Website – Senwosret III’s Pyramid at Dahshur.

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