Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt

Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty XII) is the apex of the Middle Kingdom. It often is combined with the Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth dynasties under the group title, Middle Kingdom. Some scholars only consider the 11th and 12th dynasties to be part of the Middle Kingdom.

History of the Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt

The chronology of the Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the most stable of any period before the New Kingdom. The Turin Royal Canon gives 213 years (1991–1778 BC). Manetho stated that it was based in Thebes. Still, from contemporary records, it is clear that the first king of this Dynasty, Amenemhat I, moved its capital to a new city named “Amenemhat-itj-tawy” (“Amenemhat the Seizer of the Two Lands”), more simply called, Itjtawy. The location of Itjtawy has not been discovered yet but is thought to be near the Fayyum, probably near the royal graveyards at el-Lisht.

The order of its rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty is well known from several sources: two lists recorded at temples in Abydos and one at Saqqara, as well as lists derived from Manetho’s work. A recorded date during the reign of Senusret III can be correlated to the Sothic cycle. Consequently, frequent events during this Dynasty can be assigned to a specific year.

Historical texts from the period mention Amenemhat I’s mother from the Elephantine Egyptian nome Ta-Seti. Many scholars in recent years have argued that Pharaoh Amenemhat I’s mother was of Nubian origin.

Rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty

Known rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty are as follows:

Amenemhat I

Amenemhat I (Ancient Egyptian: Ỉmn-m-hꜣt meaning Amun is at the forefront), also known as Amenemhet I, was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the first king of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.

Scholars differ as to whether Amenemhat I killed Mentuhotep IV. Amenemhat I was probably the same as the vizier named Amenemhat, who led an expedition to Wadi Hammamat under his predecessor Mentuhotep IV and possibly overthrew him from power. Still, there is no independent evidence to suggest this, and there may have been a period of a coregency between their reigns.

Amenemhet I was not of royal lineage, born to Senusret and Nefert, who were Nomarchs of one of Egypt’s many provinces. The composition of some literary works (the Prophecy of Neferti, the Instructions of Amenemhat) and, in architecture, the reversion to the pyramid-style complexes of the 6th dynasty rulers are often considered to have been attempts at legitimizing his rule. Texts from the period mention his mother from the Elephantine Egyptian nome Ta-Seti. Many scholars in recent years have argued that king Amenemhat I’s mother was of Nubian origin.

Amenemhat, I moved the capital from Thebes to Itjtawy and was buried in el-Lisht. He may have been assassinated.

Senusret I

Senusret I (Middle Egyptian: z-n-wsrt; /suʀ nij ˈwas.ɾiʔ/), also anglicized as Sesostris I and Senwosret I, was the second Pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from 1971 BC to 1926 BC (1920 BC to 1875 BC) and was one of the most powerful kings of this Dynasty. He expanded Egypt, which allowed him to rule over the age of prosperity. He was the son of Amenemhat I, and 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. He established Egypt’s formal southern border near the second cataract, where he placed a garrison and a victory stele. He also organized an expedition to a Western Desert oasis. Senusret I established diplomatic relations with some rulers of towns in Syria and Canaan. His pyramid was constructed at el-Lisht. He also tried to centralize the country’s political structure by supporting nomarchs loyal to him. 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 Libya after hearing about the assassination of his father, Amenemhat I.

Amenemhat II

Nubkaure Amenemhat II, also known as Amenemhet II, was the third Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Although he ruled for at least 35 years, his reign is relatively obscure, as well as his family relationships.

Senusret II

Khakheperre 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 great interest in the Faiyum oasis region and began work on an extensive irrigation system from Bahr Yussef through Lake Moeris through the construction of a dike at El-Lahun and the addition of a network of drainage canals. His project aimed to increase the amount of cultivable land in that area. Senusret II’s decision to move the royal necropolis from Dahshur to El-Lahun, where he built his pyramid, emphasizes the importance of this project. This location would remain the political capital for Egypt’s 12th and 13th Dynasties. 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 II at Beni Hasan.

Senusret III

Khakaure Senusret III (also written as Senwosret III or the hellenised form, Sesostris III) was a pharaoh of Egypt. He ruled from 1878 BC to 1839 BC during a time of great power and prosperity and was the fifth king of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He was a great pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty and is considered to be perhaps, the most powerful Egyptian ruler of the Dynasty. Consequently, he is regarded as one of the sources of the legend about Sesostris. His military campaigns gave rise to an era of peace and economic prosperity that reduced the power of regional rulers and led to a revival in craftwork, trade, and urban development. Senusret III was among the few Egyptian kings who were deified and honoured with a cult during their lifetime.

Amenemhat III

Amenemhat III (Ancient Egyptian: Ỉmn-m-hꜣt meaning ‘Amun is at the forefront), also known as Amenemhet III, was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the sixth king of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He was elevated to the throne as co-regent by his father, Senusret III, with whom he shared the throne as the active king for twenty years. Egypt attained its cultural and economic zenith of the Middle Kingdom during his reign.

The aggressive military and domestic policies of Senusret III of re-subjugating Nubia and wresting power from the nomarchs allowed Pharaoh Amenemhat III to inherit a stable and peaceful Egypt. He directed his efforts toward an extensive building program focusing on Faiyum. Here he dedicated a temple to Sobek, a chapel to Renenutet, erected two colossal statues of himself in Biahmu, and contributed to the excavation of Lake Moeris. He built for himself two pyramids at Dahshur and Hawara, becoming the first Pharaoh since Sneferu in the Fourth Dynasty to create more than one. Near his Hawara pyramid is a pyramid for his daughter Neferuptah. Amenemhat III exploited the quarries of Egypt and the Sinai for turquoise and copper to acquire resources for the building program. Other controlled sites include the schist quarries at Wadi Hammamat, Amethyst from Wadi el-Hudi, fine limestone from Tura, alabaster from Hatnub, red granite from Aswan, and diorite from Nubia. A large corpus of inscriptions attests to the activities at these sites, particularly at Serabit el-Khadim. There is scant evidence of military expeditions during his reign, though a small one is certified at Kumma in his ninth regnal year. He also sent a handful of expeditions to Punt.

Amenemhat III reigned for at least 45 years, though a papyrus mentioning the 46th year also belongs to his reign. Toward the end of his power, he instituted a coregency with Amenemhat IV, as recorded in a rock inscription from Semna in Nubia, which equates regnal year 1 of Amenemhat IV to regnal year 44, or 46–48 of Amenemhat III. Sobekneferu later succeeded Amenemhat IV as the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty.

Amenemhat IV

Amenemhat IV (also known as Amenemhet IV) was the seventh and penultimate king of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt (c. 1990–1800 BC) during the late Middle Kingdom period (c. 2050–1710 BC), ruling for more than nine years in the late nineteenth century BC or the early eighteenth-century BC.

Amenemhat IV may have been the son, grandson, or stepson of his predecessor, the powerful Amenemhat III. His reign started with a seemingly peaceful two-year coregency with Amenemhat III. He undertook expeditions in the Sinai for turquoise, in Upper Egypt for amethyst, and to the Land of Punt. He also maintained trade relations with Byblos and continued the Egyptian presence in Nubia.

The Pharaoh built some parts of the temple of Hathor at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai and constructed the well-preserved temple of Renenutet in Medinet Madi. The tomb of Amenemhat IV has not been identified, although the Southern Mazghuna pyramid is a possibility.

Amenemhat IV was succeeded by Sobekneferu, who may have been his sister or stepsister; she was a daughter of Amenemhat III. Her reign marked the end of the Twelfth Dynasty and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom’s decline into the Second Intermediate Period.


Sobekneferu or Neferusobek (Ancient Egyptian: Sbk-nfrw meaning ‘Beauty of Sobek’) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. She ascended to the throne following the death of Amenemhat IV, possibly her brother and husband, though their relationship is unproven. Instead, she asserted legitimacy through her father, Amenemhat III. According to the Turin King List, her reign lasted three years, ten months, and 24 days.

She adopted the complete royal titulary, distinguishing herself from prior female rulers. She was also the first ruler to have a name associated with the crocodile god Sobek. Her rule is attested on several king lists. Contemporary evidence for her reign is scant: there are a few partial statues – one with her face – and inscriptions that have been uncovered. It is assumed that the Northern Mazghuna pyramid was intended for her, though this assignment is speculative with no firm evidence to confirm it. The monument was abandoned with only the substructure ever completed. A papyrus discovered in Harageh mentions a place called Sekhem Sobekneferu, which may refer to the pyramid.