The Pyramids of El Lisht
The Pyramid of Amenmehat I
This pyramid is built by Amenmehat I who changed the governing system of Egypt to be more centralized, Amenmehat I changed the capital of Egypt from Thebes where his ancestors ruled in the South and established a new city that was situated somewhere to the North to be in the middle between Upper Egypt in the South and Lower Egypt in the North.
Due to the fact that all the rulers of Egypt who belonged to the 12th dynasty have constructed pyramids and funerary structures near the Oasis of El Fayoum, most probably the new capital of Amenmehat I was also located near that region.
This was why Amenmehat I constructed his so called pyramid near a village titled El Lisht, situated to the South of the Dahshur Pyramids complex constructed by mainly by king Senefru, the father of King Cheops who constructed the Grand Pyramid in Giza,
The Pyramid of Amenmehat in El Lisht is also located near Meidum, the location of the first pyramid of King Senefru that turned out to be a failure attempt at the end after the pyramid collapsed during the building process
Most probably the location of the new Capital of Amenmehat was located near his pyramid because the kings of ancient Egypt always wanted to construct their funerary complexes near their cities to enable the people to view his greatness reflected in his constructions.
Seems that Amenmehat I wanted to imitate the great kings of the Old Kingdom, that were nicknamed as the pyramids builders by many historians and this was why he established his capital near theirs in Memphis and he constructed his pyramid in the same style and architecture.
However, unfortunately due to the lack of the skillful builders and maybe the lack of the resources as well, the Pyramid of Amenmehat I in El Lisht looked more like the poor shaped pyramids constructed by the Pharaohs of the 6th dynasty.
The Construction and the Design of the Pyramid of El Lisht
At the time when greater kings like Cheops and his father Senefru formed the base of their pyramids with huge blocks of stones in order to preserve their huge structures, the base of the pyramid of Amenmehat I in El Lisht was combined from many substances that includes smaller blocks of stone, sand, mud, and debris.
Moreover, some historians assert that Amenmehat I brought most of the substances he used to construct his pyramid from other funerary complexes built by the Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom as he took some of the falling stones of the Pyramids of Cheops and Khafre and this was why his pyramid never survived in the great way like the other pyramids.
As a matter of fact, it was rather weird that a king would direct his attention to the North in order to search for rocks and limestone as it was well known in ancient Egypt that these substances were brought from quarries in the South.
Scholars have debated the reason why Amenmehat took some substance for the construction of his pyramid from the necropolis of Giza. Some of them noted that maybe taking some stones from the older pyramids would make Amenmehat more legitimate to become the king of Egypt and to show off his power to his people.
The Design and the Plan of the Pyramid of El Lisht
The internal plan of the pyramid of Amenmehat is rather plain with the entrance inside the pyramid being located in the Northern section of the structure and on the ground level, the same as the pyramids that were erected during the Old Kingdom.
Inside the pyramid, there is a passageway that leads downwards towards the center of the structure that was situated below the ground level in a brilliant idea initiated by the architect who planned the pyramid.
The same as all the kings who constructed pyramids in ancient Egypt, Amenmehat tried his best to prevent thieves to steal his valuable belongings that he put inside the pyramid and this was why he put huge blocks of stone at the end of this passageway to deceive thieves and stop them from entering the pyramid.
A perpendicular tunnel slide down from the chamber in the middle of the pyramid towards the royal burial chamber of Amenmehat I, located below deep inside the ground even below the ground water level and this has stopped thieves from entering the burial chamber for a very long period of time but actually nothing was discovered when the pyramid was excavated in modern times.
Amenmehat, the same as the kings of the Old Kingdom, had constructed a mortuary temple near his pyramid in El Lisht and it was located under his pyramid.
It was recorded in some historian texts that the mortuary temple of Amenmehat I located near the village of El Lisht was situated to the East of the pyramid and two passageways linked it to the valley temple, in the same design of the pyramids constructed beforehand.
Surrounding the whole complex, there were two huge walls; the outer one was constructed mainly of mud while the inner one that protected the pyramid and the mortuary temple was stronger and it was constructed using limestone in order to protect the pyramid against thieves.
Located near the pyramid, enclosed by the outer wall, there are many "Mastaba" tombs, constructed only of one layer of mud bricks, which belonged to many royal family members like the mother of Amenmehat, some of his wives, and some of his daughters.
The Pyramid of Senosurt I in El Lisht
When Senosurt I, the son of Amenmehat, became the king of Egypt in 1965 BC, he followed the steps of his father in many aspects as he kept the capital of Egypt in the North and he constructed his pyramid near that of his father.
The base of the pyramid of Senosurt I was around 100 meters in width with a height that was estimated to be around 60 meters and this was why the pyramid was said to be the largest to be constructed in Egypt since the reign of the 4th dynasty, the one that had great pyramid builders like Senefru and Cheops, which ruling period ended in around the middle of the 25th century BC.
Although the Pyramid of Senosurt I seemed to be a great structure when it was first built in the beginning of the 20th century BC, nothing remains of this pyramid today except a large pile of sand and ruins while the base still has its original limestone.
The inner structure of the pyramid of Senosurt I was all constructed with strong limestone and maybe this was why it is the only item of the pyramid that remained in a good shape until today while the rest of the pyramid fell down with long periods of time passing by.
The walls of the inner chambers of the pyramid were constructed with blocks of stones that were larger in the base smaller towards the top and then covered with strong white limestone.
The Design and the Plan of the Pyramid of Senosurt I
In the same manner as the pyramid of his father and many of the pyramids of former kings of ancient Egypt, the entrance to the Pyramid of Senosurt I was constructed in the Northern section of the pyramid and on the ground level.
Seems like Senosurt I has followed his father even in the internal plan of his pyramid as he had a very simple plan for his pyramid in El Lisht. It consisted of a passageway going downwards below the pyramid and leading to the burial chamber at the very end located in the center of the pyramid.
A distinctive feature of the burial chamber of the Pyramid of Senosurt I in El Lisht is that the ceiling of the room was erected in the shape of a pyramid as well. The burial chamber itself was constructed extremely deep into the ground to prevent thieves from entering inside it.
The Mortuary Temples of Senosurt I
Senosurt I has been largely influenced by the kings of the 6th dynasty and he copied the design and plan of their mortuary temples that were located to the East of the pyramid and it was constructed in the common style. However, nothing remained of it today.
The same as the structure of his father, Amenmehat I, the mortuary complex of Senosurt I had two large walls surrounding his complex. The inner walls surrounded the pyramid only while the outer wall surrounded the rest of the complex.
Situated near the mortuary complex of Senosurt I, there were a number of Queens' pyramids that were constructed in different periods of time after the building of the pyramid itself, but none of them remained until today.
These Queens' Pyramids were built in the ruling periods of Amenmehat I and Senosurt I and they all had small bases and relatively small burial chambers with extensive decorations and wonderful wall paintings.