Sesostris II


Sesostris II
King 1897-1878 BC.
    Sesostris II succeeded *Ammenemes II and continued to pursue a peaceful policy abroad and to improve agricultural and economic conditions at home. His reign saw no military expeditions, but Egypt maintained close contact with her neighbours. There is evidence that foreigners visited and settled in Egypt and that trade between Egypt and other countries flourished. Throughout the Twelfth and Thirteenth Dynasties, *'Asiatic' men and women from Syria/Palestine came in large numbers to live in Egyptian households as servants, and it is evident from the household goods and papyri found at Kahun, the pyramid workmen's town of this reign, that foreigners were engaged at the town as part of the workforce and as temple employees. Even in the contemporary tomb-scenes there is a cosmopolitan influence; one example is the tomb of the nomarch Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt, where scenes depict the arrival in Egypt of a *Beduin chief and his retinue.
    In the Fayoum, Sesostris II may have inaugurated the great land reclamation project which was completed by and accredited to his grandson, *Ammenemes III. Here also, at Lahun, Sesostris II chose to build his pyramid; it incorporated a major innovation in that the entrance was placed outside the main pyramid structure in a vain attempt to deter robbers.
    The king's pyramid was plundered, but the Sir Flinders Petrie made one of the greatest discoveries of Egyptian jewellery at this site in 1914. The jewellery was found in the shaft-tomb of the princess Sit-Hathor-Iunet, situated inside the pyramid complex enclosure walls. It included two exquisite pectorals and other pieces which are among the finest examples of Egyptian art. A similar discovery was made by another Egyptologist, de Morgan, at the pyramid enclosure of *Sesostris III at Dahshur in 1849.
    Petrie also excavated the pyramid town and temple of Sesostris II which lay a short distance from his pyramid. The town is known today as 'Kahun', but in antiquity both the town and temple were called 'Hetep-Sesostris', meaning 'Sesostris-is-satisfied'. The town site is of great interest because it is one of the few examples of domestic, purpose-built architecture that have been uncovered in Egypt. The populace deserted this town in haste, for some unknown reason leaving behind their possessions, including furniture, jewellery, toys, tools and clothing with the result that this site provides a unique insight into living conditions in the Middle Kingdom. Papyri found in the temple and in the houses preserve temple accounts, letters, wills, household censuses, hymns, medical and veterinary treatments, and illustrate the strict administrative measures in force in such a community. The town housed not only workmen (and their families) who were engaged in building and decorating the pyramid, but also officials and temple personnel and all those people required to organise and service such a community. There was also a small palace where Sesostris II rested on his visits to inspect progress on his pyramid.
BIBL. Petrie, W.M.F. Illahun, Kahun and Gurob. London: 1890; Petrie, W.M.F. Kahun, Gurob and Hawara. London: 1890; Griffith, F. Ll. Hieratic papyri from Kahun and Gurob. (two vols) London: 1890; Brunton, G. Lahun, l. The Treasure. London: 1920.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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