Head of king Senusret III with nemes headdress

Fragment of a granite head from a statue of king Senusret III with royal nemes headdress and cobra uraeus. The face of Senusret III is one of the most individual and recognizable in all of Egyptian art.

The deep-set, heavy-lidded eyes, the thin lips, and the series of diagonal furrows marking the rather hollow cheeks give representations of this king a brooding expression not usually found on the faces of Egyptian kings, who are generally portrayed with a more youthful countenance.

Head of king Senusret III with nemes headdress
Head of king Senusret III with nemes headdress

This image is one of the few instances in Egyptian art in which the ruler seems consciously to have chosen to represent his humanity rather than an idealized image of eternal kingship.

Although it lacks any inscription, this fragment of a granite head is easily identified as a likeness of king Senusret III or Senwosret III. However, unlike the stern features seen on the face of the king’s gneiss sphinx, the expression here is somewhat softened, suggesting the face of a living, aging man.

Senusret III, who ruled Egypt for about 39 years, was a significant king of the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and is considered to be, perhaps, the most powerful and influential kings ruler of the dynasty.

Senusret is known for his military campaigns, which expanded Egypt’s territory and secured its borders. He conducted successful military expeditions into Nubia and the Levant, establishing Egypt’s dominance in these regions.

His military achievements brought wealth and resources to Egypt, contributing to its prosperity during his reign. The Sebek-khu Stele, dated to the reign of Senusret III records the earliest known Egyptian military campaign in the Levant.

Senusret III’s reign was characterized by stability, economic growth, and cultural development. He implemented effective administrative reforms, improving the efficiency of the government and promoting trade and agriculture. His patronage of the arts and literature contributed to a flourishing cultural scene during his time.

Senusret III’s significance lies in his military achievements, architectural projects, and contributions to the stability and prosperity of ancient Egypt during the Middle Kingdom period. His reign marked a period of strength and expansion for the Egyptian empire.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Senusret III, ca. 1878-1839 BC. Dimensions: length: 0.335 m width: 0.34 m. Probably from Faiyum. Now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. E.37.1930