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Middle Kingdom Period

Egypt Through Time - What is Ancient Egypt?

The Middle Kingdom Period 2055 BC to 1650 BC

The 11th and 12th Pharaonic Dynasties

Middle Bronze Age

Pharaoh Mentuhotep II’s work to unify the country was not completed after he announced his achievement. He then had to set to the role of stabilising the country and bringing it back to bring a whole. He commenced this by reforming the Government, centralising the power back in the Royal Court in the Capital City at Thebes, stripping the hereditary appointed Nomarchs of their previous unwieldy powers, and ensuring that new Nomarchs only inherited a post if they were loyal to the Throne and up to the job.

To keep control of this he appointed Theban men to be the Governor of Upper Egypt and his ‘Royally appointed Court Officials’, and the Governor of Lower Egypt and his ‘Royally appointed Court Officials’. These men were loyal only to him and were instructed to travel regularly across the country to keep the regional Nomarchs under the ultimate control of the King. One of these was his Chancellor and High Steward called Meketre who is buried near Pharaoh’s Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri.

To discover Pharaoh Mentuhotep II’s Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri, click on the image
Pharaoh then upheld his military prowess by posting a Garrison in a Fort on the Island of Elephantine, today near modern day Aswan. From where they launched Campaigns, in Regnal Years 29 and 31, into Nubia which had regained their country during the First Intermediate Period. He also looked to the north and undertook Campaigns in Canaan and Libya.
Pharaoh Mentuhotep II was accredited as the saviour of Egypt when the reunification happened, and he used the adoration to his advantage. He added his deification to the Reliefs which portrayed himself in his Temples wearing the Deity Crowns of Min and Amun. Pharaoh resurrected this deification whilst still alive policy from the Old Kingdom Period which had been vastly ignored by either the Lower or Upper Egyptian Rulers during the First Intermediate Period.
To visit the location of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II’s Fort on Elephantine Island, click on the image

He was succeeded by his son, Pharaoh Mentuhotep III who continued with his father’s governmental policies: sending an expedition to Punt and fortifying his north-eastern borders in the Delta area. In turn he was succeeded by his own son and namesake, Pharaoh Mentuhotep IV who employed the Vizier Amenemhat and again continued the same governmental policies.

The Vizier rose to become Pharaoh Amenemhat I and commenced Dynasty 12 which would rule continually for approximately 200 years. His reign instigated an era of successful art and architecture that is still seen as unique today. To guarantee he was seen as being a successful ruler in his own right, he moved the Capital City to Itjtawy, just south of Memphis.

To visit the new Capital City of Itjtawy, click on the image
To learn more about Vizier Amenemhat’s life and work, click on the image

Although historians cannot be certain, it appears as though Pharaoh took on his son and heir as co-regent, the future Pharaoh Senusret I, around Regnal Year 20, probably to ensure a smooth onward reach of power considering this being a new dynasty. They ruled together for approximately 10 years during which they looked to expand Egypt’s southern borders down towards the Second Cataract of the Nile.

Pharaoh Senusret I continued his father’s works and ideas of how to form a successful government. He only granted power to trusted advisors and family members whilst also limiting the amount of power the nomarchs could hold. In doing so he managed to improve the country’s infrastructure, art, defence, agricultural output, literature, and building projects which in their style revived the artistic and architectural styles reminiscent of the Old Kingdom Period. The military was created as a full-time standing Army so that the nomarchs could no longer form their own smaller armies of conscripts if they felt powerful enough to stand up to the Pharaohs. Now the military was under the sole control of Pharaoh and the Vizier. In carrying out this method of centralised government, Pharaoh Senusret I was careful to allow for the individual nomarchs to nurture, blossom and announce their cultural differences to their neighbours whilst remaining solely loyal to the Throne.
His White Chapel at Karnak Temple remains as a unique architectural example as externally the Chapel has the names and the deities of the different Nomes of Egypt etched into its Walls; the West side has the Nomes of Upper Egypt whilst the East side has the Nomes of Lower Egypt. To learn more and see images of the White Chapel, click on the image to the left.
Much of the artistry of this period had its focus taken away from the standardised art of the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Periods and moved towards images which reflected people’s daily lives: fishing, walking, and working in daily life as this is how they wished to be seen in the Afterlife.
The Pharaohs continued down the familial line after Pharaoh Senusret I, who was followed by his son Pharaoh Amenemhet II, Pharaoh Senusret II who vastly improved agricultural projects which made Egypt’s arable land much easier to work on, his namesake Pharaoh Senusret III who conquered and traded throughout Nubia’s and Palestine’s territories and was thought to be the epitome of the ideal Egyptian warrior king, Pharaoh Amenemhet III who connected the Nile River to the Fayum area via canals which enabled more land to be fertilised, and Pharaoh Amenemhet IV who only ruled for 9 years.
The last Pharaoh of the period was female Pharaoh Sobekneferu who was the probable wife and sister of Pharaoh Amenemhet IV. It is likely that she founded the city of Crocodilopolis, made additions to her late father’s Mortuary Complex at Hawara and built more monuments at Heracleopolis Magna. But all of her constructed monuments align her with her father rather than her brother-husband. This could well be because her mother was not a Great Royal Wife but a minor Queen and so she was trying to “sure up” her authority to rule alone.

On her death the 12th Dynasty ended as she had no heir and so the Throne passed to Pharaoh Sobekhotep I who began the 13th Dynasty and the beginning of what we now term the Third Intermediate Period.

During this 12th Dynasty many of the populace became scared about losing what their powerful lines of Pharaohs had allowed them to gain. This led to the huge rise in popularity of the God Osiris, his Cult at Abydos, and the enthronement of the new chief deity, God Amun who combined the creator God Amun with the Sun God Ra, who was also known as Amun Ra with his Precinct of Amun at Karnak Temple.

To learn more about the God Osiris, his Cult, and his deity wife, the Goddess Isis, click on the image
To see more of the Precinct of Amun at Karnak Temple, click on the image
To learn more about Pharaoh Sobekneferu, click on the image

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