Statue of Amenemhat III as a Priest

This black granite statue of Amenemhat III as a priest, of which only the torso remains, was discovered in 1862 by Auguste Mariette in the ancient capital of the Faiyum Oasis, known by the Greeks as Crocodilopolis. The king is dressed as a priest, evidenced by the leopard skin and paw over both shoulders. He has a heavy and unusual haircut and a real beard.

The high cheekbones, wrinkled face, and bitter, pouted mouth identify the statue as belonging to the 12th Dynasty ruler, King Amenemhat III. This statue had been formerly attributed to a Hyksos king of the 17th Dynasty. One can still see where the false beard was once attached, as well as the hole for the missing uraeus. He is wearing the Menat necklace. This statue shows highly individualistic facial features, which goes against the usual idealizing tendencies.

Statue of King Amenemhat III as a Priest
Statue of Amenemhat III as a Priest. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 20001

The area of Faiyum, largely drained by Amenemhat III, was chosen by the king as his burial place where he built a pyramid and a large funerary complex celebrated in classical sources as the “Labyrinth.”

The torso of a sculpture of the king portrayed with the semblances of a primordial priest was discovered in the ancient capital of Faiyum, called Crocodilopolis by the Greeks. The face of the monarch is framed by a bulky and unusual haircut, seemingly Archaic in style, that falls heavily onto his shoulders in braids; traces of the missing uraeus serpent remain on his forehead. Nor has the false beard survived, but finely engraved indications of a real beard can be seen on the king’s chin.

Statue of King Amenemhat III as a Priest
Statue of King Amenemhat III as a Priest

Amenemhat Ill’s features are clearly marked and give life to a highly individualistic portrait quite unlike the idealized models of the ruler. The cheekbones protrude, the eyelids are heavy, the curves of the mouth evident, and the deep lines that indicate his advanced age express a sense of deep tension. Some observers have found in this statue an allegorical representation of the ancient institution of the monarchy rather than a realistic image of the king.

Amenemhat wears a leopard skin – indicated by a paw and the head on the king’s shoulders – which is held in place by a double ribbon that crosses his chest diagonally. The upper parts of two divine insignia in the form of a falcon, held in his hand, can be seen on either side of the king’s hair. This series of attributes refers to his function as a priest, traditionally held by each king in his role as an intermediary between men and the gods.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of king Amenemhat III, ca. 1860-1814 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 20001