The pyramids and mastabas of Lisht lie to the north of the village of that name, some 19mi/30km south of Dahshur. Amenemhet I, founder of the 12th Dynasty, moved his capital from Thebes to Lisht in order to establish firmer control over Lower Egypt, and near here, on the edge of the desert, he and his son Sesostris I, who for a time ruled jointly with him, built their pyramids. The pyramids, now visible only as sand covered mounds, were surrounded by smaller pyramids for female members of the royal family and hundreds of mastabas belonging to high State officials. A few irregularities in the ground on the edge of the cultivated land no doubt markthe site of the erstwhile capital of ltj-towy.
Useful tips: ACCESS. By road from Cairo (Giza), 43mi/70km south along the left bank of the Nile.
From the valley temple, of which there are only scanty remains, a masonry causeway flanked by Osiris figures of the King led up to the mortuary temple. The line of this causeway can be traced at some points.During excavations carried out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York ten seated figures of Sesostris I, finely carved from Tura limestone, were found in one of the subsidiary chambers of the mortuary temple. The excavators also found two painted wooden figures of the King, one of which, with the White Crown of Upper Egypt, is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, while the other, with the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Pyramid of Sesostris
1mi/1.5km south of Pyramid of Amenemhet I is the larger Pyramid of Sesostris I, which is very similar to the Pyramid of Amenemhet I. It, too, is built over a framework of retaining walls with a filling of sand and rubble (cf. the El-Lahun Pyramid) and a layout, with a mortuary temple, a valley temple and a causeway, which continues the sixth Dynasty tradition. The pyramid originally had a height of 200ft/61m and a base measurement of 345ft/105m, with a limestone casing which has now almost completely disappeared. It was surrounded by a double enclosure wall. Within the inner wall, which was built of Tura limestone with slabs bearing reliefs at regular intervals, lay the mortuary temple (on the east side) and, at the southeast corner, a small subsidiary pyramid with its own cult chamber and small chapel. The entrance to the main pyramid was in the middle of the north side, with a small chapel built in front of it. A narrow passage faced with red granite led down to the tomb chamber, now filled with water and inaccessible. Within the outer enclosure wall, built of Nile bricks, were the temple forecourts (on the east side) and, set around the enclosure, nine small pyramids for female members of the royal family, each with its own chapel on the east side, a chamber for offerings in front of the entrance and its own enclosure wall. The largest of these subsidiary pyramids, to the southeast, belonged to, Queen Neferu, the one immediately west of it to Princess Itakayt. No names were found on the other small pyramids.
Mastaba of Senwosret-ankh
The most interesting of the tombs of high officials which surround the pyramid of Sesostris is the Mastaba of Senwosret-ankh, High Priest of Ptah in Memphis as well as the Royal Sculptor and Architect and thus the highest dignitary in the realm. The size and appointments of the tomb match the importance of its owner. It was surrounded by a double enclosure wall, an outer brick wall enclosing an area 305ft/93m long by 165ft/50m wide and an inner wall built of massive blocks of Tura limestone. On the east side of the mastaba was a chapel, on the north side the entrance, from which a narrow passage descended steeply to the rockcut tomb chamber. The walls of the chamber are covered with hieroglyphic texts, in the manner of the rock tombs and pyramids of the Old Kingdom. On the east side is a cavity in the floor for the sarcophagus, originally covered by four stone slabs with slightly rounded upper surfaces; on the south side is a smaller cavity for the canopic chest.Also of interest are the mastabas of Imhotep, High Priest of Heliopolis, and the Majordomo Sehetepobre-ankh.
Pyramid of Amenemhet I
The smaller and more northerly of the two pyramids is the Pyramid of Amenemhet I. This originally had a height of 190ft/58m and a base measurement of 275ft/84m and, as occasional fragments of inscriptions indicate, was partly built of stone from older tombs at Saqqara and Giza. As in most pyramids, the entrance is on the north side. From there a passage leads down to the tomb chamber, now flooded as a result of a rise in the water table and, therefore, inaccessible. Within the enclosure wall lay a smaller pyramid for the Queen and, exceptionally, the Tomb of Antefoker, Superintendent of the Royal Tombs. Around the main pyramid were found numbers of lizard mummies. The mortuary temple belonging to the pyramid lay on a lower rock terrace to the east. It was adorned with lively if sometimes rather coarsely executed reliefs.