Egypt, from 2181 BC to 1550 BC


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First Intermediate Period of Egypt_(2181-2055 BC)

The First Intermediate Period, often described as a dark period in ancient Egyptian history, spanned approximately one hundred years after the end of the Old Kingdom from ca. 2181-2055 BC. It included the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and part of the eleventh dynasties. Very little monumental evidence survives from this period, especially towards the beginning of the era. The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time in history where rule of Egypt was roughly divided between two competing power bases. One of those bases resided at Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, a city just south of the Faiyum region. The other resided at Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is believed that during this time, the temples were pillaged and violated, their existing artwork was vandalized, and the statues of kings were broken or destroyed as a result of this alleged political chaos. These two kingdoms would eventually come into conflict, with the Theban kings conquering the north, resulting in reunification of Egypt under a single ruler during the second part of the eleventh dynasty.

It has been suggested that an invasion of Upper Egypt occurred contemporaneous with the founding of the Heracleopolitan kingdom, which would establish the Theban line of kings, constituting the eleventh and twelfth dynasties. One of them, Intef II, begins the assault on the north, particularly at Abydos. Intef III completes this attack on the north and eventually captures Abydos, moving into Middle Egypt against the Heracleopolitan kings.The first three kings of the eleventh dynasty (all named Intef) were, therefore, also the last three kings of the First Intermediate Period and would be succeeded by a line of kings who were all called Mentuhotep.

A biographical stele was discovered in the tomb in which the king Intef II is depicted with his dogs. The stele was described by tomb inspectors during the Twentieth Dynasty but is now somewhat damaged. The names of three of his dogs are still visible. They are given foreign names with egyptian translations; Behekay (Mahedj meaning "gazelle"); Abaqer ("greyhound") and Pehetez (Egyptian Kemu meaning black").

Mentuhotep II (2061 BC-2010 BC), also known as Nebhepetra, would eventually defeat the Heracleopolitan kings around 2033 BC and unify the country to continue the eleventh dynasty, bringing Egypt into the Middle Kingdom Mentuhotep II led military campaigns south into Nubia, which had gained its independence during the First Intermediate Period. There is also evidence of military actions against Canaan. The king reorganized the country and placed a vizier at the head of the administration. Mentuhotep II was buried in a large tomb he had constructed at Deir el-Bahri. Mentuhotep II built temples and chapels at several places in Upper Egypt. These places include Denderah, Abydos, Armant and Gebelein.

A view on the remains of Mentuhotep's funerary temple (foreground). The larger building in the background is Hatshepsut's temple, the design of which was largely based on Mentuhotep's.

Reconstruction of Mentuhotep II's mortuary temple by Swiss archaeologist Édouard Naville. The presence of a pyramid is debated.
Mentuhotep II commanded military campaigns south as far as the Second Cataract in Nubia, which had gained its independence during the First Intermediate Period. He also restored Egyptian hegemony over the Sinai region, which had been lost to Egypt since the end of the Old Kingdom.

The end of the First Intermediate Period is placed at the time when Mentuhotep II of the eleventh dynasty defeats the Heracleopolitan kings of Lower Egypt and reunites Egypt under a single ruler. This act helps usher in a period of great wealth and prosperity, known as the Middle Kingdom.

Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2055 BC - 1650 BC):
 

 The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate Period. During this period, the funerary cult of Osiris rose to dominate Egyptian popular religion. With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the democratization of religion offered to even his most humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person's suitability. At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the Goddess Ma'at, who represented truth and right living, the person is welcomed into the kingdom of Osiris. If found guilty the person is thrown to a "devourer" and didn't share in eternal life. The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated. These depictions of punishment may have influenced medieval perceptions of the inferno in hell via early Christian and Coptic texts. The period comprises two phases, the 11th Dynasty, which ruled from Thebes and the 12th Dynasty onwards which was centered around el-Lisht. These two dynasties were originally considered to be the full extent of this unified kingdom, but historians now consider the 13th Dynasty to at least partially belong to the Middle Kingdom.

Lisht or el-Lisht is an Egyptian village located south of Cairo. It is the site of Middle Kingdom royal and elite burials, including two pyramids built by Amenemhat I and Senusret I. The two main pyramids were surrounded by smaller pyramids of members of the royal family, and several hundred mastaba tombs of high officials and their family members. Amenemhat I built a new capital for Egypt in the north, known as Amenemhet Itj Tawy, or Amenemhet, Seizer of the Two Lands. The location of this capital is unknown, but is presumably near the city's necropolis, the present-day el-Lisht. Like Montuhotep II, Amenemhet bolstered his claim to authority with propaganda. In particular, the Prophecy of Neferty dates to about this time, which purports to be an oracle of an Old Kingdom priest, who predicts a king, Amenemhet I, arising from the far south of Egypt to restore the kingdom after centuries of chaos. The Prophecy of Neferti is an Ancient Egyptian discourse text set in the reign of the 4th dynasty Old Kingdom king Snofru (c.2550 BC), but was actually written during the early 12th dynasty (c.1991-1786 BC). The text is a pseudo-prophecy, i.e. one written after the event.

When the Eleventh Dynasty reunified Egypt, it had to create a centralized administration such as had not existed in Egypt since the downfall of the Old Kingdom government. To do this, it appointed people to positions which had fallen out of use in the decentralized First Intermediate Period. Highest among these was the Vizier. The vizier was the chief minister for the king, handling all the day to day business of government in the king's place. This was a monumental task, therefore it would often be split into two positions, a vizier of the north, and a vizier of the south. It is uncertain how often this occurred during the Middle Kingdom, but Senusret I clearly had two simultaneously functioning viziers.

Later ancient Egyptians considered the literature from this time as "classic". Stories such as the Tale of the shipwrecked sailor and the Story of Sinuhe were composed during this period, and were popular enough to be widely copied afterwards.

Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (1650 BC - 1550 BC)

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt fell into disarray for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom. It is best known as the period when the Hyksos made their appearance in Egypt and whose reign comprised the fifteenth and sixteenth dynasties. The brilliant Egyptian twelfth dynasty came to an end in the 18th century BC with the death of Queen Sobekneferu (1777 BC-1773 BC). Apparently, she had no heirs, causing the twelfth dynasty to come to a sudden end as did the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom, which was succeeded by the much weaker thirteenth dynasty of Egypt. It was during the reign of Sobekhotep IV that the Hyksos may have made their first appearance, and around 1720 BC took control of the town of Avaris (the modern Tell ed-Dab'a/Khata'na), a few miles from Qantir. The outlines of the traditional account of the "invasion" of the land by the Hyksos is preserved in the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Manetho recorded that it was during the reign of "Tutimaios" (who has been identified with Dedumose I of the Thirteenth Dynasty) that the Hyksos overran Egypt, led by Salitis, the founder of the fifteenth dynasty. This dynasty was succeeded by a group of Hyksos princes and chieftains, who ruled in the eastern delta region with their local Egyptian vassals.
The Hyksos first appeared in Egypt during the Eleventh dynasty, began their climb to power in the Thirteenth dynasty, and came out of the second intermediate period in control of Avaris and the Delta. By the Fifteenth dynasty, they ruled Lower Egypt (the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from the vassal dynasty in Itj-tawy and set itself up as the seventeenth dynasty. This dynasty was to prove the salvation of Ancient Egypt and eventually would lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos out of the country at the end of the Seventeenth dynasty,. The two last kings of this dynasty were Tao II the Brave (Seqenenre Tao II seems to have led military skirmishes against the Hyksos and, judging from the vicious head wound on his mummy in the Cairo Museum, may have died during one of them.) and Kamose, who traditionally are credited with the final defeat of the Hyksos).

The Hyksos had Canaanite names, as seen in those with names of Semitic deities such as Anath or Ba'al. They introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot.
A group of Asiatic peoples (perhaps the future Hyksos) depicted entering Egypt c.1900 BC from the tomb of a 12th dynasty official Khnumhotep

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