Egypt middle kingdom (1,991-1,650 BCE)

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Lintel of Amenemhet I and deities
Gold scarab
White Chapel of Senusret I reliefs
Abisha the Hyksos, Procession of the Amu
Egyptian dance
Head from a female sphinx
Head of Senusret II
Sphinx of Amenemhat III
Head of Sobekneferu
Coffin of Khnumnakht
Sekhemre Sebekhotep I, Colossus Head
Mirror with a papyrus-shaped handle
Osiris Bed, Djedkheperew
Granite statue of Imyremeshaw
Ka statue of Horawibra
Statue, Merhotepre Sobekhotep V
Statue of Gebu
Diadem, gazelles and stag
Scarab and Lion
Ruined statue appropriated
Rahotep stele
Intef V Sarcophagus
Intef VII coffin cover
Kamose Sarcophagus

The Egyptian Middle Kingdom was a period of reunification following the First Intermediate Period. Thebes, the city of the god Amon, became the capital of Egypt for much of the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms.

Today the Middle Kingdom is said to have lasted from as early as the reign of Mentuhotep II (2,061–2,010 BCE) in the middle of the Eleventh Dynasty and ran until the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty.

Other sources suggest it started at 1,991 BCE with Amenemhat I, who is said to have been the vizier to Mentuhotep IV (the last king of the Eleventh Dynasty), this continuity perhaps being the issue that confuses the dynasty’s start date.

TWELFTH DYNASTY (1,991-1,802 BCE):

The Twelfth Dynasty is one of the better documented dynasties. The eight pharoahs of this dynasty built pyramids at Lisht or Dahshur; except Senusret II who built his at Lahun. However, this dynasty’s pyramids did not stand the test of time, except for that of Senusret III’s at Dahshur.

Amenemhat I, had his armies campaign south reaching the Second Cataract of the Nile and into southern Canaan. His campaigns into Canaan reset his diplomatic relations with the Canaanite state of Byblos. He also developed relations with the Hellenic rulers in the Aegean Sea. He was the father to Senusret I, the second pharaoh of this dynasty, who followed his father’s example and reached the Third Cataract.

The last pharaoh (12th Dynasty) was Sobekneferu, a female and daughter of Amenemhat III, also perhaps Amenemhat IV was her brother. Her elder sister had died young, so she became the pharaoh. Sobekneferu had a short reign and it is conjectured that she left no heir.


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Image source: metmuseum.org
This painted limestone lintel is from a building of King Amenemhat I (1,991–1,962 BCE), the first Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh. It is 37 x 173 cm and 13 cm deep. It is on show at he Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This 1.1 cm gold scarab is dated to 1,980 BCE. The scarab, called Khepri by ancient Egyptians, were associated with the sun god, Re. Khepri pushed the sun across the sky, as it rolls a ball of dung. Thus, it was a symbol of rebirth. This one is on show at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio USA.
Senusret I, the second king of the 12th Dynasty, was the first monarch of the Middle Kingdom to invest in extensive building. He constructed temples from the Delta to Aswan, he built structures at Thebes (today’s Luxor).
This is White Chapel of Senusret I at Karnak. It was built for his first Sed festival, usually to celebrate thirty years of rule. It was purloined in the Eighteenth Dynasty by Amenhotep III. but salvaged and reassembled in the 1920s. It is on show at the Open Air Museum at Karnak.

The lower image shows that the detail of some of the deep reliefs is remarkable.

Image source: touregypt.net


Image source: Wikimedia commons
This painted relief was found at the tomb of Khnumhotep II, a 12th Dynasty official at Beni Hasan, it is dated to 1,890 BCE. This depicts a group of West Asian foreigners, known as Aamu, possibly Canaanites. Their leader is leading the Ibex and is indicated as Abisha the Hyksos. Hyskos literally meant ‘a ruler of foreign lands’, but confusingly, modern Egyptology has applied it to label the 15th Dynasty pharaohs.

Image source: britishmuseum.org

Dating from c1,900 BCE this tomb painting shows dancers musicians and singers. These images are common in tombs, showing that entertainment was significant at this time. This painting is now in the British Museum.
This head has been identified as a female sphinx head because the rear of the wig extends horizontally. The striated wig is only used on females. Here eyes were probably inlaid with metal or semi-precious stones, looted in antiquity.
Sphinxes were more usually to represent the king’s ability to protect Egypt from its enemies, and therefore usually have a male head. It may therefore be Sobekneferu (see below).
It is dated to 1,876-1,842 BCE fabricated in chlorite, it is 39 x 33 x 35. It is on show at the Brooklyn Museum.

Image source: brooklynmuseum.org

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This is the head of Senusret III (1,878 – 1,839 BCE) with youthful features. During his reign the Nubians became restless and he sent punitive missions. He also sent a mission into the Levant and made a number of umconfirmed claims of success.
This is one of seven sphinxes of Amenemhat III were found in Tanis in the eastern Delta, the Tanite sphinxes fabricated in granite. Instead of using the usual Nemes headress he sports lion’s mane to make him look more fierce. The bases were purloined by later pharaohs, by adding their cartouches (Nehsey, Ramesses II, Merneptah and Psusennes I). This is on show at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Image source: egypt-museum.com

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The last ruler of the 12th Dynasty, Sobekneferu, was the first woman confirmed as Pharaoh of Egypt. This bust is on show at the Berlin Egyptian Museum.
This painted coffin is assumed to be 12th/13th Dynasty (1,850-1,750 CE) based upon the subject matter and style. For example the goddess on the end of the coffin is not seen before the mid-twelfth dynasty The individual is identified by the coffin as Khnumnakht, for whom there is as yet no other reference. The two doors beneath the eyes (on the side) are similar to the false doors in pyramids and tombs, to allow the deceased to move between the land of the living and the land of the dead. The mummy’s head would have been behind this.Image source: metmuseum.org


The 13th Dynasty was a time of peace, and essentially a smooth continuation of the preceding 12th Dynasty. Its first ruler, Sekhemre Khutawy Sobekhotep I, is believed to have been the son (real or adopted?) of Amenemhat IV, the penultimate pharoah of the 12th Dynasty.

It has been presented as a period of chaos, yet its capital (Itj-tawy near the Faiyum) remained stable. Its economy gently declined but this is usually attributed to its main short-reigning pharaohs; there were over thirty in just 154 years.


This is said to be the head of the first 13th Dynasty pharaoh, Sekhemre Khutawy Sobekhotep, adopting an Osiris pose. However this is disputed, others suggest it is Amenemhat III.
It is larger-than-life at 87 x 33cm and fabricated in limestone.
Sobekhotep’s alleged tomb was ‘discovered’ at Abydos. This head is on show at the Louvre.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This mirror is fabricated from gold, copper and ebony. It has a papyrus-shaped handle and is dated to 1,810–1,700 BCE. It is 22 x 11 x 3cm and is on show at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
This ‘Osiris Bed’ is depicting Osiris on his death bed. It is inscribed with the name of the 13th dynasty pharaoh Djedkheperew (1,772-1,770 BCE). Fabricated in black basalt, it was found in the tomb of the 1st Dynasty king Djer at Abydos. It is now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This granite statue of Smenkhkare Imyremeshaw (1,759-1,711 BCE). Imyremeshaw means ‘overseer of troops’, there is a suggestion that he was foreign and his name was difficult for Egyptians so he took his role instead.

This mono picture shows how the statue was found at Tanis. Today, it is on show at the Egyptian Museum Cairo.
This Ka statue of Horawibra, aka Awybre Hor, (1,777-1,775 BCE). It is regarded as one of the major works of Egyptian art, for its idealised naturalism; idealised because it shows him as a young man. It was found at the tomb of king Hor, close to the pyramid of Amenemhat III at Dahshur. With its base and ka sign it stands 170cm tall. It is fabricated in wood and originally had a stucco covering, which no longer exists. It may originally have been intended for the king’s cult temple, but he reigned for such a short time that the temple was never built and it was repurposed for the tomb.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Merhotepre Sobekhotep V was a short-reigned pharoah in the Second Intermediate Period (1,650-1,550 BCE). His precise place in the pharaoh list is disputed, ultcult has taken the Neues Museum Berlin’s position for its kneeling statue of Sobekhotep V, 1,750-1,700 BCE. This seated statue is in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
This 93cm granite statue of Gebu depicts the master of the royal treasury, royal sealer and high steward. It was discovered in the temple of Amun at Karnak and is dated to 1,700-1,697 BCE. He is in an attitude of prayer and an inscription explains that he desires ‘bread, beer, beef, poultry, clothing, ointment, cool water, incense, oil – everything good and pure on which the god lives – and the sweet breath of life’. It is addressed to Amun, to whom the temple was dedicated.
Image source: wikimedia commons


Between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom, Egypt was once again in disarray. The period is referenced as the Second Intermediate Period by historians.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt consisted of a series of rulers of the Nile Delta region of Egypt, its capital was Avaris in the Eastern Delta. It coexisted with the Thirteenth Dynasty which had its capital at Memphis. The Egyptians termed 14th Dynasty people as ‘Aamu,’ which suggests they came from Syria or the Levant. But based on many of the rulers’ names they appear to have been mostly Canaanite, though two were probably Nubian. According to the historiography it lasted either 75 years (c1,725–1,650 BCE) or up to 155 years (c1,805–1,650 BCE).

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Fifteenth Dynasty (1,650-1,540 BCE) was founded by Salitis, originally based in Lower Egypt. Its peoples were termed by the Egyptians as Hyksos or Asiatic rulers. They were Canaanite given that Pharaoh Kamose referred to Apophis, one of the later kings of the 15th dynasty, as Chieftain of Retjenu or Caanan. They soon subsumed the 14th Dynasty downstream in the Delta Region.

Red = Abydos
Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Abydos Dynasty is a surmised period that ran contemporaneously with the 15th and 16th dynasties. It is estimated to have been in parts of middle and upper Egypt from 1,650-1,600 BCE. It is thought to have been basedin Abydos with its necropolis at the foot of the Mountain of Anubis. There is the rock-cut tomb of Senusret III nearby.

The Sixteenth Dynasty (1,649-1,582 BCE) controlled Upper Egypt based on Thebes. It was constantly at war with the 15th Dynasty, slowly ceding territory and eventually Thebes was lost

The Seventeenth Dynasty (1,580-1,550 BCE) was also based on Thebes and vied with the 15th Dynasty. The last king of the Seventeenth Dynasty, Kamose, was the brother of Ahmose I, the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty.


This diadem has heads of gazelles and a stag punctuated by stars or flowers. It was discovered at a tomb at Avaris (Tell el-Dab’a) and is surmised to have been the possession of an elite or royal lady.
It is dated to the late Hyksos period and is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.

Image source: wikimedia commons

Image source: wikimedia commons

The upper image is the scarab seal of Khyan the fourth king of the Fifteenth Dynasty. The red box shows where it identifies him as Hyksos.

The lower image is a Lion statuette inscribed with Khyan’s cartouche. It was found in Baghdad, suggesting there were trading relationships with Babylon. It is on show at the British Museum,
This is a damaged Twelfth Dynasty statue, which was appropriated by Khyan; he had his cartouche inscribed on it.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This drawing of a limestone stele, shows the first king of the Seventeenth Dynasty, Rahotep aka . Sekhemre-wahkhaw. He is the individual raising his arms making an offering to Osiris. It is at the British Museum, London UK.
This detail of a sarcophagus for Intef V, aka Sekhemre-Wepmaat, the fourth king of the Seventeenth Dynasty. It is on show at the Louvre, Paris France.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This is the coffin cover of Intef VII, aka Sekhemre-herhermaat, sixth king of the 17th Dynasty. It is on show at the Louvre, Paris France.
Detail of the Sarcophagus of Kamose (1,555-1,550 BCE), the last king of the Seventeenth Dynasty and brother to the first king, Ahmose I (1,549-1,524 BCE) of the New Kingdom’s Eighteenth Dynasty.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

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