el-Lisht - History and Facts | History Hit


Al Maharraqa, Giza Governorate, Egypt

On the west bank of the Nile around 100km south of Cairo lay the Twelfth Dynasty necropolis of el-Lisht, a Middle Kingdom burial site of Egypt’s royals and the upper-class elite.

Peta Stamper

26 Jul 2021
Image Credit: CC / Ernesto Graf

About el-Lisht

The two pyramids at the village of el-Lisht are the final resting places of the first pharaohs of Egypt’s 12th Dynasty, Amenemhat I and his son and heir Senusret I, rulers of a golden age in ancient Egyptian history.

While neither pyramid has the recognition of the more famous, more visited Great Pyramids of Giza, the ancient ruins at el-Lisht are the best preserved examples from the Middle Kingdom and are a very popular tourist site in Egypt.

el-Lisht history

el-Lisht is a Middle Kingdom (2055 BC – 1650 BC) burial site of royals and the upper-class elite. The pyramids are surrounded by smaller pyramids constructed for members of the royal family and mastaba (‘eternal house’ in Egyptian) tombs – rectangular, flat-roofed tombs with sides that slope inward – for high-ranking officials and their families.

Also at el-Lisht is the tomb of Senebtisi, a mysteriously unknown Egyptian woman that very little is known about, aside from the facts that her second name was Zathapy, or daughter of Apis and she was the bearer of the common title ‘lady of the house’.

Another mystery that lingers is that at el-Lisht, the looted, partially destroyed tomb of early 13th Dynasty priest Sesenbef was excavated in around 1900 and inscribed on it were texts and spells from the Book of the Dead, a late 13th Dynasty funerary text of spells written over 200 years later and intended to guide the dead through the ‘Duat’ or underworld and into the afterlife.

The site was first excavated in 1882 by French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, founder of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology.

el-Lisht today

Over the years the two main pyramids have been subject to robberies and neglect and coupled with the fact that they were made from unfired mudbrick and stone cannibalised from other monuments that have not withstood the tests of time, the el-Lisht pyramids are a lot smaller than when they were originally built.

However, regardless of their condition, the pyramids at el-Lisht are considered masterpieces of ancient Egyptian architecture and are worth visiting.

Getting to el-Lisht

Located about 100 kilometres south of modern-day Cairo on the west bank of the Nile, the el-Lisht pyramids are an hour and 40 minutes drive from Cairo.

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