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Audio guide: Senusret III

Audio guide stop: 2002

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

A granite statue of Senusret III (E.37.1930)
A granite statue of Senusret III (E.37.1930)
Creative Commons Licence

This statue represents the king of Egypt, and dates to the later part of the Middle Kingdom. Senusret Khakaure was one of seven kings who made up the Twelfth Dynasty. He ruled from around 1872 to 1853 BCE, so just over 3,800 years ago.

Today we would refer to him as Senusret III. This time was one of political change for Egypt, with a more centralised administration coming into effect. Senusret led a series of campaigns against Kush, the country to the south of Egypt, and also built a series of fortifications to protect his realm.

One of the most notable developments during this period was the way in which Senusret and his successor Amenemhat Nimatre were depicted on statues. Prior to this period, the king had always been represented with stylised facial features.

If we look at this particular representation, which is typical of Senusret's statues, we see that the facial features appear to be more lifelike. The heavy-hooded eyelids, prominent broad cheekbones and strong jawline are all typical of Senusret's representations.

However, rather than accepting that this is how Senusret may have looked, the majority of Egyptologists prefer to see this is what we call a psychological portrait.

In other words, the features symbolise wisdom through his aged appearance, or vigilance through the prominence of his eyes.

If we consider that this representation of Senusret may be based on his actual appearance, the features also offer a clue to the ethnic and racialised backgrounds of some of Egypt's earliest kings.

The strong jawline, heavy eyelids and prominent cheekbones are commonly associated with the physical features of people of African descent. And although Egypt is of course on the continent of Africa, it is often assumed that the ancient population was the same as the people who live there today.

However since the time of Senusret, people of many different cultures and backgrounds have migrated and settled in Egypt, most recently the Greeks, the Romans and people of Arab descent.

Statues of kings were typically placed at the entances of temples. In this way they served the double purpose representing him in his religious role, as ruler of Egypt, but also promoted him and publicised his patronage.

Co-production of this resource

The MicroPasts logo

The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Thais, Michael Norman, Anonymous, Anna, Roger Wilmot, T May and Lekha

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