wara (34)

As the oasis of el-Faiyum became more important during Dynasty XII, a number of religious monuments were built there and the next pharaoh to construct his pyramid in the region was Amenemhet III. This was not the king’s first choice of burial site – he had previously built a pyramid at Dahshur, to the north, during the early part of his long reign, but due to structural stresses which became apparent during the construction, Amenemhet opted to begin a second pyramid at Hawara, near the site of his grandfather’s monument at el-Lahun during the reign of the 12th dynasty. Today; Hawara pyramid situated 9km to the Southeast of the modern city of Fayoum.


It was to be the last major pyramid complex in Egypt. The King’s second pyramid was built with a core of mud bricks and a white limestone casing, which was removed in Roman times. Hawara pyramid (the black pyramid) was was entered directly through the casing on the south side with a stairway and corridor descending into the substructure, which today is flooded by groundwater. A series of corridors and blind passages wound around the inside of the pyramid, before finally coming to the burial chamber at a higher level to the west of the pyramid’s centre. 


This was reached via a concealed entrance in the ceiling of one of the passages and was blocked by a massive quartzite slab. Because of his experience with the Dahshur pyramid, Amenemhet’s architects took extra care in reinforcing and protecting the burial chamber, by constructing a series of triangular lintels which supported a high gabled roof of large limestone blocks beneath another vault of mudbricks. The chamber itself was a single piece of quartzite, weighing over 100 tonnes, into which was carved a trough which held the sarcophagus and canopic chests. The sealing block of the chamber was an enormous slab of quartzite which was ingeniously lowered into place by means of slowly releasing the sand which had supported the stone slab into side galleries. The King’s burial chamber was sufficiently protected to withstand the enormous weight of the brickwork and stone above it, but it would seem that the complicated precautionary measures taken to deter robbers was ultimately unsuccessful. 


When Petrie investigated the sarcophagus in Amenemhet’s burial chamber he discovered remains of a burned inner coffin, presumably damaged by ancient grave-robbers. A second wooden coffin was found in an antechamber, along with a carved alabaster offering-table bearing the names of a Princess Neferu-ptah, thought to be a daughter of the King and it was assumed that the princess had been buried with her father. However, in 1956 the remains of an almost destroyed small pyramid 2km south-east of the King’s pyramid was investigated, and the tomb of Neferu-ptah was found. Her red granite sarcophagus and other objects inscribed with her name were found in the burial chamber, but up to date archaeologists are still puzzling about the real location of Neferu-ptah’s burial. 


Within the enclosure, immediately to the south of Amenemhet’s pyramid, Petrie excavated the King’s mortuary temple – an extensive and very complicated structure, which is now so ruined that it is difficult to reconstruct a plan. This is probably the structure which classical authors referred to as ‘the Labyrinth’ which so impressed early travellers. This unique building, covering an area of 2.8 hectares, was described by Herodotus as having been constructed from a single rock and to contain three thousand rooms connected by winding passages and courts. He may have exaggerated as other writers disagreed about the number of chambers and courts. Strabo called the complex ‘a palace composed of as many smaller palaces as were formerly nomes’, that is, forty two. Petrie discovered remains of two statues of the gods Sobek and Hathor in the structure and a statue of Amenemhet III nearby in the irrigation canal. Unfortunately the ‘Labyrinth’ today is little more than a bed of rubble, its stone quarried away since Roman times. It extends across the modern canal to the south of the pyramid. 


The pyramid complex was enclosed by a perimeter wall with a causeway leading from the south-eastern corner to the valley temple, neither of which have been fully investigated.In a cemetery north of the pyramid complex, Petrie also found 146 mummy-portraits dating to the Roman Period. One of these can be seen in the small museum at Kom Ushim and more Faiyum Portraits are in Cairo Museum.