Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Column Fragment of Amenemhat I

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
reign of Senwosret I
ca. 1981–1952 B.C.
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Pyramid Temple of Amenemhat I, MMA excavations, 1906–07
Column: H. 33 × W. 67.3 × Diam. 74.9 cm (13 × 26 1/2 × 29 1/2 in.); Abacus: W. 79.5 × D. 79.5 cm (31 5/16 × 31 5/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1909
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
The upper section and part of the abacus of a thirty-two sided column found in the ruins of the funerary temple of Amenemhat I at Lisht. Flat panels on opposing sides were inscribed with the king's titulary, of which only the beginning is preserved.
In 1906-07, Lythgoe found at Lisht North at least 6 fragments of what he called "Proto-Doric" columns. Five of them disappeared more or less unrecorded. The best-preserved, a part of the upper end of a fluted column, was allocated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (visible on photo L6-7: 37).

The piece is the only fragment that provides some important measurements of the column. It originally had thirty-two flat, 7 cm wide grooves, separated on two opposite sides by a 21 cm wide text column. The abacus, which was worked from the same block, protruded 2 cm over the shaft and may have been over 20 cm high. One might assume that the top surface of the abacus had a (round?) socket for the insertion of a dowel connecting it with the architrave, but the upper part of the abacus is missing. One may assume that the column was not monolithic, but composed of several drums that tapered just enough to visually disconnect the column shaft from the abacus.*

One has to mention that three surprisingly similar column pieces were excavated by Gautier at Lisht South (Gautier, Licht, fig. 9. No scale is given. The pieces are lost.). Two pieces preserve the top of the text column, starting with "Horus///." The third piece seems to have been considerably larger than the other two. Gauthier assumes that they were part of "propylées ornées de colonnes" in the pyramid temple of Senwosret I. Since Gautier’s observations are generally reliable, one is inclined to trust his judgment. However, it is not possible to accommodate such columns in the plan of the Senwosret I pyramid temple (Arnold, Senwosret I, vol. 1, foldout II.). For this reason, one might be slightly suspicious about the origin of the three column pieces. Did Gautier, who worked at both sites, perhaps find them at Lisht North?

Dieter Arnold, 2015

*Channeled or fluted columns were also used in the pyramid complex of Senwosret I: see Arnold, Senwosret I, vol. 1, p. 54, pl. 25a; vol. 3, p. 24, pls. 17c, 19a. The most famous examples adorn the façade of the Beni Hasan tombs: Percy E. Newberry, Beni Hasan, with plans and measurements of the tombs by G. Willoughby Fraser. Published under the Auspices of the Egypt Exploration Fund, vol. 1 (London, 1893), frontispiece, pls. 3-4, 39-40; Herbert Ricke, Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Baukunst des Alten Reichs, vol. 1 (Zurich, 1944), pp. 77-84.
Excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds.

Newberry, Percy E. 1893. Beni Hasan, Part I. Archaeological survey of Egypt, 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench Trubner & Co. Ltd., cf. pls. 4-5, 22.

Lythgoe, Albert M. 1907. "The Egyptian Expedition." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 7 (July), p. 116.

Arnold, Dieter, Dorothea Arnold, and Peter F. Dorman 1988. The South Cemeteries of Lisht, vol. I: The Pyramid of Senwosret I, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 22. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 54, pl. 25a.

Phillips, J. Peter 2002. The Columns of Egypt. Manchester: Peartree Publishing, pp. 233–35.

Arnold, Dieter, Peter Jánosi, and Adela Oppenheim 2014. The Pyramid Complex of Amenemhat I at Lisht : The Architecture, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 29. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pls. 57a-b, 58a, 59.

Related Objects

Relief Block from a Building of Amenemhat I

Date: ca. 1981–1952 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 08.200.6 On view in:Gallery 108

Ritual Scene with Senwosret I

Date: ca. 1961–1917 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 14.3.6 On view in:Gallery 110

Name Panels from the Inner Wall of Senwosret I's Pyramid Complex

Date: ca. 1961–1917 B.C. Medium: Limestone Accession: 34.1.205–.208-related On view in:Gallery 110

Seated Statue of the Steward Sehetepibreankh

Date: ca. 1919–1885 B.C. Medium: Limestone Accession: 24.1.45 On view in:Gallery 110

Relief of Offering Bearers

Date: ca. 1961–1917 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 09.180.13a, b On view in:Gallery 110