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Ancient Egypt - Pharaoh Amenemhet I

Updated: Oct 17, 2021


Following his enthronement, Amenemhet's first move was to cruise the Nile with his fleet, crushing rebel nomarchs, Asiatics, and Nubians on the southern boundary. He then established a capital, at Itjtawy, in the Faiyum, away from both Thebes and Herakelopolis. This was a prominent location to keep eyes on both Upper and Lower Egypt. Itjtawy means 'Binder of Two Lands', stressing the ordeal of unification. It is from this period that the god Amun begins to rise in dominance over the previous

god, Montu.

During this time we also see large tombs of high officials being constructed at Beni Hassan in Middle Egypt. On the walls of these tombs are brightly painted representations of everyday life. These officials were called nomarchs. At this time, Egypt was divided into 42 nomes, basically states, and these nomarchs acted as the

governors for each of these locations. Their job was to collect the taxes for each nome and send the pharaoh his share in the capital, which was now in the Faiyum.

The royal burial ground was again moved from Deir el-Bahari to Lisht, at the entrance of the Faiyum.

Here Amenemhet built a pyramid, similar to those built during the Old Kingdom, only smaller. This pyramid was made of mud-brick that topped at 180 feet. The inner core was constructed with small limestone blocks, many of these taken from ruined Old Kingdom monuments at Giza and Abusir. The exterior was faced with white Tura limestone. The entrance was located on the north side, traditionally located while pointing to the North Star.

Why the North Star? All the other stars move, but the North Star appears to remain in place and was looked upon by the Egyptians as representing stability – something forever. Remember that the Egyptians hated chaos and that 'change for Egypt was usually bad'. This North Star represented peace and stability. By building his entrance on the north, Amenemhet I was proclaiming that tradition had now been re-established.

Little is known of the internal arrangements of the pyramid since access has been denied by ground water. The mortuary temple on the east face has been largely destroyed.


Amenemhet's most significant act was the introduction of co-regency, an institution that was to last throughout the 12th Dynasty. Why did he create a co-regency? Its most likely that he was looking back on the Intermediate Period and the unstable times and wanted to make sure that his son was going to rule if something happened to him. Remember that Amenemhet I was originally a commoner and with this, wanted to extend his dynasty, his legacy through his son. This is something that this dynasty is going to keep up, and future dynasties will use it very efficiently.

In year 20 of his reign, he introduced his son, Senusret I, and they shared the throne for another 10- years. During this period, Prince Senusret was placed in charge of the military and sent on expeditions to control the borders. It was on one such expedition, against the Libyans in the Western Desert, when Amenemhet was murdered. Senusret hurried back to the capital and took out the attempted coup.


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