|1991 BC-1802 BC|
|Common languages||Egyptian language|
|Religion||ancient Egyptian religion|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
Known rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty are as follows:
|Name of King||Horus (Throne) Name||Date||Pyramid||Queen(s)|
|Amenemhat I||Sehetepibre||1991 - 1962 BC||Pyramid of Amenemhet I||Queen Neferitatjenen|
|Senusret I (Sesostris I)||Kheperkare||1971 - 1926 BC||Pyramid of Senusret I||Queen Neferu III|
|Amenemhat II||Nubkhaure||1929 - 1895 BC||White Pyramid||Queen Kaneferu |
|Senusret II (Sesostris II)||Khakheperre||1897 - 1878 BC||Pyramid at El-Lahun||Queen Khenemetneferhedjet I |
Queen Nofret II
|Senusret III (Sesostris III)||Khakaure||1878 - 1839 BC||Pyramid at Dahshur||Queen Meretseger |
Queen Khnemetneferhedjet II
|Amenemhat III||Nimaatre||1860 - 1814 BC||Black Pyramid; Pyramid at Hawara||Queen Aat |
Queen Khenemetneferhedjet III
|Amenemhat IV||Maakherure||1815 - 1806 BC||Southern Mazghuna pyramid (conjectural)|
|Queen Sobekneferu||Sobekkare||1806 - 1802 BC||Northern Mazghuna pyramid (conjectural)|
The chronology of the 12th dynasty is the most stable of any period before the New Kingdom. The Ramses Papyrus canon (1290 BC) in Turin gives 213 years (1991-1778 BC). Manetho stated that it was based in Thebes, but from contemporary records it is clear that the first king moved its capital to a new city named "Amenemhat-itj-tawy" ("Amenemhat the Seizer of the Two Lands"), more simply called Itjtawy. The location of Itjtawy has not been found, but is thought to be near the Fayyum, probably near the royal graveyards at el-Lisht. Egyptologists consider this dynasty to be the apex of the Middle Kingdom.
The order of its rulers is well known from several sources — two lists recorded at temples in Abydos and one at Saqqara, as well as Manetho's work. A recorded date during the reign of Senusret III can be correlated to the Sothic cycle, consequently many events during this dynasty can be frequently assigned to a specific year.
This dynasty was founded by Amenemhat I, who may have been vizier to the last pharaoh of Dynasty XI, Mentuhotep IV. His armies campaigned south as far as the Second Cataract of the Nile and into southern Canaan. He also reestablished diplomatic relations with the Canaanite state of Byblos and Hellenic rulers in the Aegean Sea. His son Senusret I followed his father's triumphs with an expedition south to the Third Cataract, but the next rulers were content to live in peace until the reign of Senusret III.
Finding Nubia had grown restive under the previous rulers, Senusret sent punitive expeditions into that land; he also sent an expedition into the Levant. These military campaigns gave birth to a legend of a mighty warrior named Sesostris, a story retold by Manetho, Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus. Manetho claimed the mythical Sesostris not only subdued the lands as had Senusret I, but also conquered parts of Canaan and had crossed over into Europe to annex Thrace. However, there are no records of the time, either in Egyptian or other contemporary writings that support these claims.
Senusret's successor Amenemhat III reaffirmed his predecessor's foreign policy. However, after Amenemhat, the energies of this dynasty were largely spent, and the growing troubles of government were left to the dynasty's last ruler, Queen Sobekneferu, to resolve. Amenemhat was remembered for the mortuary temple at Hawara that he built, known to Herodotus, Diodorus, and Strabo as the "Labyrinth". Additionally, under his reign, the marshy Fayyum was first exploited.
It was during the twelfth dynasty that Ancient Egyptian literature was refined. Perhaps the best known work from this period is The Story of Sinuhe, of which several hundred papyrus copies have been recovered. Also written during this dynasty were a number of Didactic works, such as the Instructions of Amenemhat and The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant.