Pharaoh Sobekneferu: The Beauty of Sobek

It is not until the end of the Middle Kingdom that we find, for the first time, clear evidence for a female king of Egypt. Her name was Sobekneferu. She is the first queen of Egypt that can be verified to actually have ruled as a pharaoh. The name 'Sobekneferu' means "The beauty of Sobek,” the Egyptian god of crocodiles.

According to the Turin Canon, she reigned 3 years, 10 months and 24 days from the El-Faiyum Oasis, her seat of power located around 50 miles south of Giza. The Faiyum was a religious and economic center established by the rulers of the 12th Dynasty where the crocodiles were nurtured and worshipped.

Here next to Birket Quran, the Lake Moeris of antiquity, was the city of Shedet, called by the Greeks Crocodopolis, the city of crocodiles.

Sobekneferu was the daughter of Pharaoh Amenemhat III, whose reign is considered to be the golden age of the Middle Kingdom. Her mother's identity is unknown. Amenemhat III had two known wives, Aat (“The Great One”), and an unnamed queen. He had at least one other daughter, Neferuptah.

Sobekneferu ascended to the throne following the death of Amenemhat IV, left with the unresolved governmental issues that are noted as arising during his reign. She may have been Amenemhat IV’s wife and sister, as well.

Upon his death, she became the heir to the throne since her older sister, Neferuptah, who would have been the next in line to rule, died at an early age.

Sobekneferu is known from a number of monuments and artifacts, including five statues, fragments relating to the mortuary temple of Amenemhat III at Hawara, scarabs, seals and beads, as well as from a Nile inundation record.

Her monumental works consistently associate her with Amenemhat III rather than Amenemhat IV, suggesting that she was the royal daughter of Amenemhat III and perhaps only a stepsister to Amenemhat IV.

Her legacy has been preserved through the buildings attributed to her, including the expansion of her father Amenemhat III’s funerary complex in Hawara and some structures in Heracleopolis Magna.

While there were many queens, wives, and mothers of pharaohs who exercised significant influence and power in ancient Egypt, only a few women were able to rule as pharaohs in their own right.

Sobekneferu was one of these women. She ruled independently as the first female pharaoh of Egypt, and did not have a successor to claim the throne. On her death the 12th Dynasty ended, and the Middle Kingdom Period ceased. To date, no burial place has ever been located.

Sobekneferu was the last pharaoh of the twelfth dynasty. There is no record of her having an heir. She is mentioned on the Karnak list of early Egyptian kings, the Saqqara Tablet, and Turin King List, but excluded from the Abydos king list. Nothing is known of her death or burial.


Like this post? Stop by and read Cleopatra: Last Ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.” Cleopatra ruled an empire that included Egypt, Cyprus, part of modern-day Libya and other territories in the Middle East. She first ascended the throne in 51 B.C. with her brother Ptolemy XIII as co-monarch. Following her return to Alexandria at 21-years-old, her surviving half-brother, Ptolemy XIV, was elevated to the position of pharaoh at about age 12.  She was the first Ptolemaic queen with her head and name minted on coins.

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