two pyramid cemeteries of the twelfth dynasty on the western bank of the Nile, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Cairo (29°23′N, 31°9′E). They received the name el-Lisht from a nearby modern village. There are indications that Itjtawy, the royal residence city of the twelfth dynasty, was located to the east of the cemeteries under the village. A broad wadi separates the northern cemetery, dominated by the pyramid of Amenemhet I, and the southern cemetery, with the pyramid of Senwosret I. Excavations were carried out by the French Institute (J.-E. Gautier, 1894–1895), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (A. M. Lythgoe, 1906–1914, A. Lansing and A. Mace, 1914–1934, and D. Arnold, 1984–1991), and the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, 1991–1994).

Lisht, El-

Lisht, el-. Plan of el-Lisht.

The pyramid of Amenemhet I was the successor to an earlier royal tomb project begun by this king at Gurneh and abandoned when the court was moved to the Itjtawy. The poorly preserved pyramid complex shows symptoms of the loss of Old Kingdom tradition. The pyramid was 84 by 84 meters (276 by 276 feet) wide and 59(?) meters (about 195 feet) high with a slope of about 54 degrees. The core of rough fieldstone blocks contains numerous reused, decorated blocks from Old Kingdom temples (Khufus, Khafre, Userkaf, Unas, and Pepy II). The sloping entrance corridor from the north is cased with granite blocks, some of them being reused architraves with the name of Khafren. The small burial chamber was found robbed. A vertical shaft in its floor disappears into the groundwater but seems to lead to the canopic chamber. The foundation trenches of a modest pyramid temple in front of the eastern side of the pyramid contained reused blocks depicting Amenemhet I and Senwosret I as coregents. Except for a granite altar and two false doors of Amenemhet I, nothing remains of the temple. No secondary or queens' pyramids were built. The foundations of a small valley chapel were found above the edge of the cultivation. The area east of the pyramid is now covered by a huge modern cemetery.

Under Senwosret I, the builders succeeded in recreating the Old Kingdom tradition. This king's pyramid complex is an excellent successor to the prototypes of the fifth and sixth dynasties, with the name “United are the seats of Kheperkare.” The pyramid was 105 by 105 meters (345 by 345 feet) wide and 61.25 meters (201 feet) high, with a slope of 49°24′. The core is built of small fieldstone blocks retained by a grid of skeleton walls. Some areas still show the casing blocks. The name of the pyramid was “Senwosret overviews the Two Lands.” The sloping entrance passage from the north is cased with granite and disappears below 48 meters (156 feet) into the groundwater. The burial was robbed by thieves when discovered in 1882. Decorated blocks of the entrance chapel were found above the pyramid entrance. Important remains of the architecture and decoration of the pyramid temple and its granite altar were preserved to the east of the pyramid, suggesting that the temple closely followed the prototypes, except for the absence of front storerooms. Gautier discovered ten complete seated limestone figures of Senwosret I, buried in pharaonic times. An inner stone enclosure wall was decorated with one hundred relief panels showing offering-bearing fertility figures, surmounted by the palace façade, with the royal names and the Horus falcon. An outer brick enclosure surrounded the small pyramids of Queen Neferu, Princess Itakayet, and seven more pyramids and the subsidiary pyramid of the king. The causeway had side walls and a roof of stone; it contained statues of the king in Osirid shape, standing in side niches. The valley temple has not yet been found.

The pyramids are surrounded by a few tombs of contemporary and slightly later officials, as well as thousands of shaft tombs and surface burials of the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties and the much later Roman period. The southern cemetery contains three major tombs. Northeast of the cemetery of Senwosret I lies the monumental tomb enclosure of Senwosretankh; there, a mastaba is decorated with the early paneling motif and a burial chamber is inscribed with Pyramid Texts. North of the causeway are the remains of the tomb enclosure of Imhotep, with a sarcophagus pit inscribed with Coffin Texts. A wooden shrine and two wooden royal statuettes were preserved in a cache in the enclosure wall of the tomb. Southeast of the pyramid of Senwosret I, the tomb enclosure of the vizier Montuhotep was discovered, containing remains of statuary, relief decoration, and a beautifully decorated and inscribed sarcophagus. The cliffs southeast of the pyramid of Senwosret I contain numerous rock-cut tombs of the twelfth dynasty, some of them with beautiful, but heavily damaged, wall decoration.

The tombs of the northern cemetery were less monumental. The tomb of the vizier Antefoker was found southeast of the pyramid of Amenemhet I. The undisturbed burial of Lady Senebtisi (southwest of the pyramid) produced important information about a middle-class burial of the Middle Kingdom. From the Middle Kingdom onward, a settlement of tomb caretakers, funerary craftsmen, fishermen, and farmers spread over the partially abandoned and robbed northern cemetery, and this site is providing important information on domestic architecture and the life of the lower classes.


  • Arnold, Dieter. The South Cemeteries of Lisht, I: The Pyramid of Senwosret I. New York, 1988.
  • Arnold, Dieter. The South Cemeteries of Lisht, III: The Pyramid Complex of Senwosret I. New York, 1991.
  • Arnold, Felix. The South Cemeteries of Lisht, II: The Control Notes and Team Marks. New York, 1990.
  • Gautier, J.-E., and G. Jéquier. Fouilles de Licht. Cairo, 1902. On the excavation of the pyramid of Amenemhet I.
  • Hayes, W. C. The Texts in the Mastabeh of Sen-Wosret-ankh at Lisht. New York, 1937.
  • Lansing, A., and W. C. Hayes. “Report.” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 28 (November 1933), 9–38.
  • Mace, Arthur C., and Herbert E. Winlock. The Tomb of Senebtisi at Lisht. New York, 1916.
  • Note: Excavation reports for el-Lisht appeared in the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2 (April 1907), 61–63; 2 (July 1907), 113–117; 3 (May 1908), 83–84; 3 (October 1908), 184–188; 9 (October 1914), 107–111; 16 (November 1921), 5–19; 17 (December 1922), 4–18.

Dieter Arnold