Pyramid of Senusret II
The pyramid of Senusret II (in ancient Egyptian Kha Senusret meaning Senusret Shines) at El Lahun is the pyramid complex constructed for the pharaoh Senusret II in the Twelfth Dynasty.
Location and early excavation
Karl Richard Lepsius visited the pyramid in the 1840s and conducted a brief archaeological survey of the site. Fifty years later, Flinders Petrie conducted the first comprehensive excavations there. Petrie spent several unsuccessful months searching for the entrance into the pyramid on the north face of the pyramid. Senusret II had, however, taken a complete departure from the usual practice of having a corridor on the north side – typical of Old Kingdom and early Middle Kingdom pyramids – and had instead built a narrow, vertical entrance shaft under a princess’ tomb located about a dozen yards off to east of the southern pyramid face. The Czech Egyptologist Miroslav Verner explains that the decision had been made for a combination of religious reasons, and to thwart grave robbers. The builders had even constructed the usual small chapel on the north face, which typically concealed the entrance. Petrie did eventually find the entrance, after many months and multiple failed attempts. A small team headed by N. B. Millet of the Royal Ontario Museum and the architect J. E. Knudstad has been working at the site of the pyramid town and pyramid since 1989. Their goal is to expand on Petrie’s work by re-gathering architectural details of the monuments there, which Petrie had neglected to record in his reports. On 28 June 2019, the pyramid was opened to visitors for the first time since its discovery.
The core of the pyramid was constructed from mudbrick around a stump of four steps of yellow limestone. The builders utilized a rock outcropping to anchor the pyramid and reduce construction time and cost. The completed pyramid was originally encased in white limestone, though an inscription found by Petrie indicates that the casing was removed in the Nineteenth Dynasty for reuse in a different structure built by Ramesses II. Only remnants of the black granite pyramidion, which topped the pyramid, have been found. The pyramid was protected from flooding by a trench surrounding the perimeter of the pyramid and filled with sand to absorb rainwater. Around this trench, a stone perimeter wall was built and decorated with deep niches.
Most pyramids have a substructure entry somewhere on their north face. This had been the traditional entry point since Djoser built his step pyramid in the Third Dynasty. Although Senusret II’s pyramid was built with a north chapel included, its real entry was hidden-away under the floor of a princess’ tomb to the south-east. This was used for the burial rites of the king but was too narrow for use during construction. Instead, a larger 16 m (52 ft) deep construction shaft found further south was used for transporting the sarcophagus and building material into the substructure. This was then reworked into a fake burial chamber in an attempt to deceive thieves attempting to enter the king’s tomb.