last ruler of the twelfth dynasty, Middle Kingdom. Her name was originally pronounced Nofrusobek, but it was later reinterpreted. The Greek form was Scemiophris, as preserved in a quotation from the Greek-speaking Egyptian historian Manetho of the third century BCE.

According to the Turin Canon, a papyrus in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy, she ruled for three years, ten months, and twenty-four days. Her reign has left few traces; apart from some small objects, there are a handful of architectural and statue fragments, three of which were found at Hawara and Herakleopolis. Like the earlier rulers of her family, Sobekneferu concentrated her building activities in the Faiyum. Three of her statues discovered near Tell ed-Dabʿa in the Nile Delta were probably moved there in Ramessid times. That she exercised full dominion over her realm is shown by an inscription marking the height of the flood made at the Nubian frontier fort at Kumma during her third year.

Manetho stated that Sobekneferu was Amenemhet IV's sister, but her own inscriptions emphasized her relationship to her father, the illustrious Amenemhet III. Like some earlier female rulers of Egypt, she probably gained her position through the lack of a viable male heir; unlike the others, however, she assumed the full royal titulary, where her feminine gender was carefully noted. Two of her statues from the Delta show her in women's clothing, although in traditional male attitudes, trampling the Nine Bows (that represented the subdued enemies of Egypt) and kneeling before the gods. One (in the Louvre in Paris) has women's clothing with the royal costume worn over it. The persistance of her name in New Kingdom grafitti and on king lists show that she was regarded as a legitimate ruler. Nevertheless, her reign was brief and her burial place has never been identified, although the dismantled northern pyramid at Mazghunah in the Faiyum has been suggested.

Bibliography

  • Berman, Lawrence, and Bernadette Letellier. Pharaohs: Treasures of Egyptian Art from the Louvre. Cleveland, 1996. Illustrates Sobekneferu's Louvre statue with its unique costume; includes discussion and bibliography.
  • Byran, Betsy. “In Women, Good and Bad Fortune Are on Earth: Status and Roles of Women in Egyptian Culture. Sobeknefru.” In Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt, edited by Anne K. Capel and Glenn E. Markoe, pp. 29–30. New York, 1996. Summarizes what is known about this ruler.

Robyn A. Gillam