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Middle Kingdom Tomb at Lisht

A village Lisht, located to the south of the capital of modern Egypt, is known for the tombs of royalties and elites who lived approximately in the 2050-s – 1650-s BCE. This period is known as the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. The burials are presented in the form of pyramids. The largest pyramids belonged to the pharaoh or the head of the family and were surrounded by numerous smaller tombs of his family members. The first pyramids discovered in 1882 were created during the rule of Amenemhat I and Senusret I. Overall, there were excavated more than 25 tombs at Lisht belong to the age of the Middle Kingdom. The current paper discusses the context and function of the tombs at Lisht. It also argues that these pyramids demonstrate contact with other cultures through trade and exchange of experience.

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To begin with, pyramids are the traditional form of Egyptian tombs. The most famous one is located in Giza and was built by Cheops in the year 2600 BCE. The shape of pyramids reflects the religious views of ancient Egyptians. More precisely, they believed that souls are immortal, and when the body dies, the soul leaves it and continues its life among gods. The Egyptians of those times associated stars in the sky with gods. Therefore, a pyramid was regarded as a tool that would help the soul to leave this world and continue its afterlife with the gods.

In comparison with the modern cemeteries, the deceased was buried with his or her treasures, including beads, inlays, faience, and gold leaf. This guarantees that a comfortable and affluent afterlife. The abundance of jewels made Egyptian tombs an attractive place of destination for the thieves. The excavations of the tombs at Lisht reveal that robbers commonly entered a tomb by making a hole in its wall. Robbery of a tomb was a well-thought project and never happened accidentally because thieves had to create a plan on how to deal with the guardianship and how to take out everything that will be found.

It might be suggested that the Middle Kingdom tomb at Lisht might be an illustration of such intercultural contact as war and slave trade because of the widespread opinion that pharaohs used slaves for this purpose. Indeed, ancient Egypt is closely related to the phenomenon of slavery that begun far before the epoch of the Middle Kingdom. Slaves were commonly used as laborers and servants. However, it will be a misconception to think that tombs were built by slaves. This fallacy was popularized by Hollywood film-production and is far from the reality of those times. Instead, the builders were skilled and qualified workers. Therefore, from this, it could be inferred that in terms of the labor force, the construction of tombs does not exemplify communication between different cultures of the ancient world.

In terms of the materials that were used for the construction, tombs at Lisht also do not represent trade as a form of intercultural communication. At the times of the Old Kingdom, pyramids were constructed from mud bricks. By the time of the Middle Kingdom, the building process has become more complex: the tombs became finished using the Tura limestone. This material was extracted from the deposits near Cairo and, hence, was not imported. This way, it is evident that the tombs themselves were built by the representatives of the local population using resources that were extracted at the territory of a country. These tombs also could not be viewed as a diplomatic tool because they are merely a cemetery. Furthermore, there is no evidence that points out that the tombs at Lisht were somehow affected by the wars with the foreigners. Nonetheless, tombs at Lisht that were created at the times of the Middle Kingdom still could illustrate connections between the ancient Egyptians and other cultures.

As it has already been mentioned in the paper, the pharaohs, their family members, and other wealthy people were buried with treasures and goods that would be useful for them in their future life. Apart from money and jewelry, in some tombs, archaeologists found pottery. This pottery was imported from the Land of Canaan. This land was located in the territory of the modern Middle East. The trade between the Egyptians and the Canaanites began in the times of the Old Kingdom and did not cease until the 1650-s BCE. Egyptians, in turn, learned to copy the techniques and shapes of the foreign ceramic vessels. Undoubtedly, Egyptian copies of the pottery imported from the Land of Canaan gained their own unique characteristics. However, what is more important in this case is that the initial idea was borrowed from a foreign country.

One might claim that the evidence of intercultural connection listed above is rather far-fetched. Nevertheless, it is essential to take into consideration the fact that neither the building materials, nor the working force, nor the purpose of these constructions per se is not related anyhow to the communication with other cultures. Instead, Middle Kingdom tombs at Lisht are exclusively authentic and show the unique culture and traditions of ancient Egyptians who lived in the 2050-s – 1650-s BCE.

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To conclude, tombs at Lisht that were created during the period known as the Middle Kingdom represent peculiarities of Egyptian beliefs and culture. More precisely, they reflect a conviction that after death, a person’s soul continues living with the gods if it is pure enough. The connection of the Egyptian civilization with other cultures, the one of the Canaanites, could be observed from the import of pottery that was found in the previously described tombs. The vessels also demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians developed their skills through making copies of the imported goods. To some extent, the Canaanites enriched the manufacturing culture and techniques of the citizens of the Middle Kingdom.


Arnold Dieter, Middle Kingdom Tomb Architecture at Lisht. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

Arnold, Dorothea, Felix Arnold, and Susan Allen. “Canaanite imports at Lisht, the middle kingdom capital of Egypt.” Ägypten und Levante/Egypt and the Levant 5 (1995): 13-32.

Grigoriev, Stanislav. “Inclinations of egyptian pyramids and finding of the divine essence.” Archaeoastronomy and Ancient Technologies 3, no. 1 (2015): 1-27.

Harrell, James A. “Mapping the Tura-Masara Limestone Quarries.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 52 (2016): 199-214.

Loprieno, Antonio. “Slavery and servitude.” UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 1, no. 1 (2012): 1-19

Shaw, Jonathan. “Who Built the Pyramids?” Harvard Magazine 6 (2003): 42-99.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, September 6). Middle Kingdom Tomb at Lisht. Retrieved from


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