Sobekneferu or Neferusobek (Ancient Egyptian: sbk-nfrw) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.[a] She ascended to the throne following the death of Amenemhat IV, possibly her brother and husband, though their relationship is unproven and she instead asserted legitimacy through her father Amenemhat III. Her reign lasted precisely 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days according to the Turin Canon. Contemporary evidence for her reign is scant: there are a few partial statues – one with her face – and inscriptions that have been uncovered. It is assumed that the Northern Mazghuna pyramid was built for her, though only the substructure of the monument was ever completed. She is also mentioned on several king lists. Sobekneferu adopted the full royal titulary, distinguishing herself from prior female pharaohs.


Sobekneferu was the daughter of Pharaoh Amenemhat III.[8][17] He had two known wives, Aat and an unknown queen, both buried in his pyramid at Dahshur. He had at least one other daughter, Neferuptah, who had a burial at his second pyramid at Hawara that was eventually moved to her own pyramid.[18] Neferuptah appears to have been groomed as Amenemhat III's heir as she had her name enclosed in a cartouche.[19] Evidence of burials of three other princesses – Hathorhotep, Nubhotepet, and Sithathor – were found at the Dahshur complex, but it is not clear whether these princesses were his daughters as the complex was used for royal burials throughout the Thirteenth Dynasty.[20]

Amenemhat III's eventual heir, Amenemhat IV, is attested to be the son of Hetepti, though her titulary lacks reference to her being a 'King's Wife'.[21] The relationship between Amenemhat IV and Sobekneferu remains unclear. According to the ancient historian Manetho in Aegyptiaca they were brother and sister.[8] They were also likely married.[22] Sobekneferu's accession may have been motivated by the lack of a male heir for Amenemhat IV.[8] However, two kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty, Sobekhotep I and Sonbef, have been identified as possible sons of his based on their shared nomen 'Amenemhat'.[23] As such, Sobekneferu may have usurped the throne after Amenemhat IV's death, viewing his heirs as illegitimate.[24]


Sobekneferu was one of the few women that ruled in Egypt,[25][26] and the first to adopt the full royal titulary, distinguishing herself from prior female rulers.[8][27] There are earlier women who are known to have ruled. As early as the First Dynasty, Meritneith ruled as regent for her son.[28] In the Fifth Dynasty, Setibhor may have been a female king regnant based on the manner her monuments were targets for destruction.[29] Another candidate, Nitocris, is generally considered to have ruled in the Sixth Dynasty,[30] though there is little proof of her historicity.[31][29] She is not mentioned before the Eighteenth Dynasty.[30] Instead, it may be that the kingship of Nitocris is just a Greek legend,[31] and that the name originated with an incorrect translation of Neitiqerty Siptah.[32]

At the time of Sobekneferu's accession, the Middle Kingdom was in decline.[33] The peak of the Middle Kingdom is attributed to Senusret III and Amenemhat III.[34][35] Senusret III formed the basis for the legendary character Sesostris described by Manetho and Herodotus.[36][37] He led military expeditions into Nubia and into Syria-Palestine[38][39] and built a 60 m (200 ft) tall mudbrick pyramid as his monument.[40] He reigned for 39 years, as evidenced by an inscription in Abydos, where he was buried.[41] Amenemhat III, in contrast, presided over a peaceful Egypt that consisted of monumental constructions, the development of Faiyum, and numerous mining expeditions.[42][43] He built two pyramids, one in Dahshur and one in Hawara.[44] His reign lasted at least 45 years, probably longer.[45] The Egyptologist Nicolas Grimal notes that such long reigns contributed to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, but without the collapse that ended the Old Kingdom.[33] Amenemhat IV ruled for 9 or 10 years,[45] and little is known of the events during his reign.[22] It is to this backdrop that Sobekneferu acquired the throne.[33] She reigned for around 4 years, but as with her predecessor, there are few records of her reign.[46] Her death brought a close to the Twelfth Dynasty.[47][48] She was succeeded by either Sobekhotep I[49] or Wegaf,[50] who inaugurated the Thirteenth Dynasty.[33]


Contemporary evidenceEdit

Bust of Sobekneferu in the Louvre Museum

Only a small collection of sources attest to Sobekneferu's rule as pharaoh of Egypt.[46] A graffito in Kumma, a Nubian fortress, recording the height of the Nile inundation at 1.83 m (6.0 ft) during her third regnal year is the latest epigraphic evidence during her reign.[45][46] Another inscription discovered in the Eastern Desert records "year 4, second month of the Season of the Emergence".[51] The British Museum has a fine cylinder seal bearing her name and royal titulary in its collection.[46][52] The seal is made of glazed steatite and is 4.42 cm (1.74 in) long with a diameter of 1.55 cm (0.61 in).[53]

There are a handful of headless statues of Sobekneferu that have been identified.[8][46][54] In one quartzite image, she blends feminine and masculine dress with an inscription reading 'daughter of Re, of his body, Sobekneferu, may she live like him forever'.[46][54] In another, she is depicted trampling the Nine Bows, representing the subjugation of Egypt's enemies.[8] In a third, she wears a ḥb-sd cloak and a crown of unknown iconography.[46] Statues of the female king have been found in Tell ed-Dab'a.[55] The base of another statue bearing her name and identified as the representation of a king's royal daughter was discovered in Gezer.[56] One statue with her head is known. The bust was held in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin but was lost during World War II. Its existence is confirmed by photographic images and plaster casts. It fits on top of the lower part of a seated statuette discovered at Semna which bears the royal symbol smꜣ tꜣwy on the side of the throne.[57]

There is evidence that she had structures built in Heracleopolis Magna and added to the Pyramid of Amenemhat III in Hawara.[46] She left inscriptions on four granite papyriform columns at a temple in Kom el-Akârib. There are a further ten granite beams at the site that may date to the same period.[58] Her monumental works consistently associate her with Amenemhat III rather than Amenemhat IV, supporting the theory that she was the royal daughter of Amenemhat III and perhaps only a stepsister to Amenemhat IV, whose mother was not royal. Contemporary sources from her reign show that Sobekneferu never adopted the title of 'King's Sister' only 'King's Daughter', which further supports this hypothesis.[56] An example of such an inscription comes from a limestone block of 'the Labyrinth' of the Pyramid at Hawara. It reads 'Beloved of Dḥdḥt the good god Nỉ-mꜣꜥt-rꜥ [Amenemhat III] given [...] * Daughter of Re sbk-šdt-nfrw [Sobekneferu lord of Shedet] given all life'. The inscription is also the only known reference to a goddess Dḥdḥt.[59][60]

Historical sourcesEdit

Drawing by Flinders Petrie of the cylinder seal of Sobekneferu in the British Museum[61]

She is mentioned on the Karnak,[62] Saqqara,[63] and Turin king lists,[46] but is conspicuously excluded from the Abydos king list.[64] Her exclusion, along with all other female kings, pharaohs of the First and Second Intermediate Periods, and of the Amarna Period, is an indicator of whom Ramesses II and Seti I viewed as the legitimate rulers of Egypt.[64] She is credited in the Turin Canon with a reign of 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days.[45][46][65][66] She is also mentioned by Manetho under the name 'Scemiophris' where she is credited with a reign of 4 years.[67]

Funerary monumentEdit

Sobekneferu's tomb has not yet been positively identified. The Northern Mazghuna pyramid is assumed to be her monument. There is, however, no clear evidence to confirm this assignment[68][69] and the pyramid may date to a period well after the end of the Twelfth Dynasty.[70] Only its substructure was completed; construction of the superstructure and wider temple complex was never begun. The passages of the substructure had a complex plan. A stairway descended south from the east side of the pyramid leading to a square chamber which connected to the next sloping passage leading west to a portcullis. The portcullis consisted of a 42,000 kilograms (93,000 lb) quartzite block intended to slide into and block the passage. Beyond the passage wound through several more turns and a second smaller portcullis before terminating at the antechamber. South of this lay the burial chamber which was almost entirely occupied by a quartzite monolith which acted as the vessel for a sarcophagus. In a deep recess lay a quartzite lid which was to be slid into place over the coffin and then locked into place by a stone slab blocking it. The builders had all exposed surfaces painted red and added lines of black paint. A causeway leading to the pyramid was built of mudbrick, which must have been used by the workers. Though the burial place had been constructed, no burial was interred at the site.[70][69] A place called Sekhem Neferu is mentioned on a papyrus found at Harageh which may be the name of her pyramid.[71][72] On a funerary stela from Abydos, now in Marseille, there is mention of a storeroom administrator of Sobekneferu named Heby. The stela dates to the 13th Dynasty and attests to an ongoing funerary cult.[73][74]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Proposed dates for the reign of Sobekeneferu: c. 1805–1802 BC,[7] c. 1790–1786 BC,[8][9] c. 1790–1785 BC,[10] c. 1787–1783 BC,[11] c. 1785–1782 BC,[12] c. 1785–1781 BC,[13] c. 1777–1773 BC,[14][15] c. 1763–1760 BC,[2] c. 1760–1755 BC.[16]


  1. ^ Schneider 2006, p. 174.
  2. ^ a b Krauss & Warburton 2006, pp. 480 & 492.
  3. ^ a b c d e Leprohon 2013, p. 60.
  4. ^ Cooney 2018, p. 88.
  5. ^ The British Museum n.d., Description.
  6. ^ Cooney 2018, p. 87.
  7. ^ Keller 2005, p. 294.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Gillam 2001, p. 301.
  9. ^ Redford 2001, Egyptian King List.
  10. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 391.
  11. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 8.
  12. ^ Clayton 1994, p. 84.
  13. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 289.
  14. ^ Shaw 2003, p. 483.
  15. ^ Cooney 2018, p. 6.
  16. ^ Wilkinson 2010, p. 5.
  17. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 92 & 95.
  18. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 93, 95–96 & 99.
  19. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 98.
  20. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 92, 95–98.
  21. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 95.
  22. ^ a b Callender 2003, p. 158.
  23. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 102 & 104.
  24. ^ Ryholt 1997, p. 294.
  25. ^ Cooney 2018, pp. 12 & 14.
  26. ^ Wilkinson 2010, pp. 128–129.
  27. ^ Robins 2001, p. 108.
  28. ^ Cooney 2018, p. 30.
  29. ^ a b Roth 2005, p. 12.
  30. ^ a b Ryholt 2000, p. 92.
  31. ^ a b Cooney 2018, pp. 9–10.
  32. ^ Ryholt 2000, pp. 92–93.
  33. ^ a b c d Grimal 1992, p. 171.
  34. ^ Callender 2003, pp. 154–158.
  35. ^ Grimal 1992, pp. 166–170.
  36. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 166.
  37. ^ Callender 2003, p. 154.
  38. ^ Callender 2003, pp. 154–155.
  39. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 168.
  40. ^ Callender 2003, p. 156.
  41. ^ Schneider 2006, p. 172.
  42. ^ Callender 2003, pp. 156–157.
  43. ^ Grimal 1992, p. 170.
  44. ^ Callender 2003, pp. 157–158.
  45. ^ a b c d Schneider 2006, p. 173.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Callender 2003, p. 159.
  47. ^ Gillam 2001, p. 403.
  48. ^ Simpson 2001, p. 456.
  49. ^ Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 100&102.
  50. ^ Callender 2003, pp. 159–160.
  51. ^ Almásy & Kiss 2010, pp. 174–175.
  52. ^ The British Museum & n.d. b, description.
  53. ^ The British Museum & n.d. b, materials, technique & dimensions.
  54. ^ a b Berman & Letellier 1996, pp. 46–47.
  55. ^ Bietak 1999, p. 950.
  56. ^ a b Ryholt 1997, p. 213.
  57. ^ Fay et al. 2015, pp. 89–91.
  58. ^ Arnold 1996, p. 46.
  59. ^ Uphill 2010, p. 34.
  60. ^ Petrie 1890, p. Pl. XI.
  61. ^ Petrie 1917, p. pl. XIV.
  62. ^ Louvre n.d., Chambre des Ancêtres.
  63. ^ Hawass 2010, pp. 154–157.
  64. ^ a b The British Museum n.d., curator's comments.
  65. ^ Ryholt 1997, p. 15.
  66. ^ Malék 1982, p. 97, fig. 2, col. 10, row. 2.
  67. ^ Waddel, Manetho & Ptolemy 1964, p. 69.
  68. ^ Lehner 2008, p. 184.
  69. ^ a b Verner 2001, p. 433.
  70. ^ a b Lehner 2008, p. 185.
  71. ^ Cooney 2018, p. 96.
  72. ^ The Petrie Museum n.d.
  73. ^ Siesse 2019, p. 130.
  74. ^ JGU n.d.


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Royal titularyEdit