The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt

By W. Stevenson Smith | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 10
DYNASTY XII 1991-1786 B.C.

THE vizier of the last king of Dynasty XI was a certain Amenemhat whom we know from an inscription at the quarries in the Wady Hammamat. It is probable that this was the man who seized the throne and, as Amenemhat I, founded the powerful Twelfth Dynasty. One of the important measures adopted by this king was the establishment of his capital in the north at Ith-tawe, not far south of Memphis, and it was at Lisht nearby that he built his tomb. In thus attempting to control more securely the northern part of his kingdom, Amenemhat brought the court within range of old Memphite influences which still survived in the form of ancient monuments, and the effect is strongly evident in the art of the Twelfth Dynasty. Except for funerary structures, the great architectural projects of the Middle Kingdom have disappeared under the rebuilding of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom. This is particularly evident in the temple of Karnak at Luxor and at Medamud, Tod, and Erment in the Theban district,1 as well as in the temple precincts of the Delta cities. Some of these earlier temples seem to have vied in grandiose scale with those of the Empire, as is suggested by the obelisk of Sesostris I, which is all that remains standing of his temple at Heliopolis, or the huge architectural members of granite usurped in a hall or court at Bubastis by Ramesses II. Only the very general outlines of this building have been recovered, and it is impossible to visualize how the parts were related to one another even in Ramesside times. However, columns corresponding to two sizes of architrave blocks bearing the names of Sesostris III were found, and all seem to have belonged to the same Middle Kingdom structure.2 There were four very large papyrus-bundle columns and four smaller palm columns like those used in the Old Kingdom temples of Sahura and Unas. With these were found four large Hathor-head capitals and four smaller ones. The architraves evidently rested directly on the Hathor heads without the intervening naos-shaped block which appears later. From the size and shape of the under part of the large capitals it appears that they surmounted square pillars.3

At Karnak it has been possible to reconstruct a small Heb-Sed pavilion of Sesostris I (Figure 40). Almost all of its limestone blocks were recovered from the Third Pylon of Amenhotep III, where they had been used in the foundations.4 It stood on a raised base and was approached by ramps on two sides. Low balustrades connected the outer pillars and, inside, four pillars surrounded the throne for the Jubilee ceremonies. Later in the Middle Kingdom this throne was replaced by a stone stand, which suggests that the building was converted into a way station for the bark of Amon such as are known from the New Kingdom. The pillars were decorated with reliefs of the finest work

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