A detailed History of Dynasty 18New Kingdom Period - Egypt Through Time - What is Ancient Egypt?
New Kingdom Period 1550 BC to 1069 BC
18th to 20th Pharaonic Dynasties
The Bronze Age and the height of Ancient Egyptian power
Pharaoh Ahmose I who is given the title as creator of the 18th Dynasty was the final Theban Ruler who defeated and swiftly banished the Hyksos, taking the country out of the Second Intermediate Period in roughly his 10th Regnal Year. He destroyed their Capital City at Avaris allowing his loyal officers and soldiers from his Army to be rewarded with their spoils and any of the defeated followers as slaves which allowed the rise of an influential and powerful Military Class in society.
He modelled his enlarged Government, as now Egypt was once again unified, on the successful bureaucracy of the Middle Kingdom and employed people depending on their knowledge, training, and experience rather than allowing the inheritance of important governmental positions. Many of these new incumbents had been trained specifically for these roles in the newly popular Temple Schools.
His son inherited his Throne, Pharaoh Amenhotep I, and with Egypt’s strengthened government was able to look to expanding Egypt’s territories to the Third Cataract of the Nile in the south, campaigning in Syria and gathering the traditional “tributes” from Egypt’s Vassal States. He began the development of Rock Cut Tombs in the Theban Valleys over any Pyramidal style Necropoli.
The Dynasty was continued by Pharaoh Tuthmose I and his son, Pharaoh Tuthmose II, and his son Pharaoh Tuthmose III. The original Tuthmose was a general in Pharaoh Amenhotep I’s army, showing the power that Egypt’s new Military Class now wielded. He increased Egypt’s lands to the South and to the North, which were upheld by his successor, continuing his military training whilst Egypt’s government remained centralised and strong.
Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut ruled next on behalf of her infant stepson first as Regent and then as a full Pharaoh. She extended trade with various neighbouring countries but especially with Punt which is depicted on her biggest building achievement of her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri. Hatshepsut did not neglect her stepson and had him fully educated as a royal Crown Prince, and it has been reported that he held human life to have a high value, prized Art and Music, and respected other cultures and religions. Whilst being fully trained in the use of Weapons, Battle Tactics, and the Art of War. At the end of his education period, Pharaoh Hatshepsut put him in control of the Armies of Egypt.
On her death he was crowed Pharaoh Tuthmose III and should be remembered today for the expansion of the Empire of Egypt throughout the 17 Military Campaigns that he undertook during his reign. In doing so he created an Empire for Egypt that at the very least covered all the lands between Nubia, to the South of Egypt, and the Asiatic Regions of modern-day southern Syria in the North. Therefore, the wealth of Egypt was magnified and Temples to the deities were built in celebration of their successes. He co-reigned with his son and heir, future Pharaoh Amenhotep II for approximately 2 years before his death, but the realm was left is safe military forward hands as his son continued with his father’s style of military campaigns which allowed him to collect tribute from Babylon, the Hittites, and the Mitanni.
In turn, he passed the Throne to his own son after a short reign of 9 years. Pharaoh Amenhotep III could be described as the greatest Pharaoh of his Dynasty especially considering he inherited the Throne at the age of 12 and reigned for a further 40 odd years. He is remembered as a prolific builder as well as reigning over a time of prosperity and with a firm grasp of the governance offering a time of stability.
His father had left him a strong base from which to reign with gold to support the royal family. Pharaoh increased his power base and immediately restrengthened the diplomatic ties that his father had used and was well known for enticing States into his debt by using extravagant gifts of gold to bribe them through generosity. This worked in nearly every case as his reign was known to be peaceful with its neighbours. Although inscriptions have been found which confirm that he did campaign in a Nubian expedition.
In Regnal Year 2 Pharaoh Amenhotep III married Great Royal Wife, Queen Tiye; a Royal Lady through her mother’s ancestry. His marriage to a woman who held her own strong Royal Links only assisted in strengthening his claim to the Throne, being the son of a secondary wife. He continued this theme throughout their marriage, and they portrayed Queen Tiye as his near equal and physically represented this in her physical height next to his own on many Statues that he had commissioned.
It appears that Queen Tiye remained in charge of the daily running of the administrative affairs and the Palace whilst Pharaoh Amenhotep III would deal with affairs of State, Diplomacy, Building Projects, and the Military side of Egypt. Though they were often seen by the Populace as undertaking outings together and they enjoyed the time they spent together in both their private and public lives.
The Throne was inherited by his second son, now Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, his first having predeceased, who was married to Great Royal Wife, the infamous Queen Nefertiti. In his first Regnal Year he erected Chapels and commissioned art-work specific to the God Aten at Karnak Temple, Thebes. But under his specific direction, artwork became entirely new. Literally revolutionised. The artisans were to depict who and what they saw as realistic. This change was the first of many as soon the Pharaoh changed his name to Pharaoh Akhenaten and introduced a whole new Religion to one God, the Aten, a Solar Deity: “both the mother and father of all”. To do this he commissioned the building of a whole new Capital City at Akhetaten, now Amarna, closed Temples to the other Deities and proclaimed himself the living personification of the Aten. By doing so, he supplanted more than 2,000 Deities which left most of the Priesthood unemployed. As with his father and grandfather, the political reasons for doing so seem to lie in the staggering wealth and enormous power that the Priesthood of Amun wheedled from their power bases of Thebes. As their wealth now rivalled the whole State, their power was building steadily and was edging toward the power needed for the Priesthood to form a rival Court and maybe even break free from Egypt itself.
The Royal Court, their entourage, and all the necessary workers moved into the new Capital City at Akhetaten in roughly Regnal Year 7. This included Pharaoh, his Great Royal Wife, his Lesser Wives, Pharaoh’s children, and Pharaoh’s mother. Before, during and after the move the government of the land was mainly handled by his mother, the formidable Queen Tiye, with his Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertiti. After King Mother Tiye’s death it appears that Pharaoh Akhenaten simply could not or would not take on her long held governmental and especially her Diplomatic role with foreign estates. For he disdained the previously strong adherence to Foreign Policy and allowed lands to be taken. He reduced the Military, the Defences and ceased Foreign Militaria Campaigns. Furthermore, he refused to support any of them with Gold or reinforcements.
Crown Prince Tutankhaten grew up in his father’s capital of Akhetaten, but he would have known little to nothing of the religion that his father had abandoned or the vibrancy of the Priesthood and Temples that are found all over Egypt. Crown Prince Tutankhaten would have only known about the Aten, which is represented on the Throne found in his Tomb. He was married to his half-sister, Queen Nefertiti’s daughter, Princess Ankhesenpaaten, and together they would have 2 children who did not live long after their births.
On his ascension to the Throne at around 9 years old Pharaoh Tutankhaten would have been advised by his advisers that he would have to restore Egypt’s standing on the international scale or risk total invasion. To begin these monumental tasks, it is known that the new Pharaoh took on the advice of his great-uncle, the Vizier Ay, Treasurer Maya, and his father’s Head of the Military, General Horemheb.
In his first Regnal Year he used Vizier Ay’s knowledge and experience as his main Vizier to reunite the country under the previously known system of rule; ensured that every member of the Royal Family renounced the God Aten and welcomed back the traditional deities; reached out to his neighbours with gifts to restore Egypt’s foreign relations; dispatched his army under General Horemheb when his offerings of peace did not work with the Nubians or the Asiatics; restored all the priests, attendees and their Temples; appointed a Principal Vizier for Upper Egypt and separate Principal Vizier for Lower Egypt; gave large personal donations to reprise the Cults and Priests for the God Amun and the God Ptah; reinstated the traditional Festivals; and erected new Statues of the Deities all to be carefully made from the most expensive metals or stone available.
To give further validation to his reign, he married Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s widow, Queen Ankhesenamun. Little to nothing is known about Pharaoh Ay’s reign due to the systematic removal or usurpation of Ay’s monuments, statues, and cartouches by his successor. When Pharaoh Ay died, he was buried in KV23 in the Valley of the Kings. His Tomb was attacked by his successor Pharaoh Horemheb shortly after Ay’s internment inside. Pharaoh Horemheb’s workers erased all of Ay’s Cartouches and smashed his Sarcophagus into small pieces. Luckily for us they left the lid of the Sarcophagus intact and so Historians were able to identify Ay’s mummy and his Tomb.
Pharaoh Horemheb undertook the Throne after Ay’s demise and married his daughter, Princess Mutnedjmet, to sure up his link and legitimacy to rule which would last for 28 Regnal Years. Immediately after his Throne was secure, he dismantled Akhetaten City; dated the start of his Reign to the end of Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s reign; returned all properties that had been owned by the Temples back to them; integrated Priests into the Army to ensure that a divide between the Army and Priesthood could not occur again; developed legislation and laws to regulate public life and appointed judges to prevent abuses of power.
Began his own Building Programs, such as the usurpation of Pharaoh Ay’s Mortuary Temple, the creation of his own Tomb in the Valley of the Kings and removed Akhenaten’s additions to Karnak Temple and used them as “filler” inside the Pylons he then erected there; Pylons 2, 9 and 10. Regrettably he did not have any surviving male heirs to take the Throne on his death, so Pharaoh Horemheb appointed his trusted Vizier and Army General, Paramessu, who when he inherited the Throne, changed his name to Ramses I and founded Dynasty 19.
The New Kingdom Period heralded the introduction of the Book of the Dead, which was written on Papyrus and placed into the Coffin of the deceased, it included the previously used Pyramid and Coffin Texts. It was to be used by those Souls who dwelt in the Akhet, or the Horizon and was also known as the Book on Coming Forth by Day and the Book of Emerging Forth into the Light.
There was no single version of the Book of the Dead and the general populace were free to commission their own Books with specific spells included or omitted at their own request. The Spells were also added to Tomb Walls and Coffins as with the previous Coffin Texts. To learn more about the Book, the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts, click on the image to the left.
Pharaoh Amenhotep II also followed his late father’s examples in government and retained many of his father’s administrators who continued with his father’s governing ideals. He finalised many of his father’s and his own building initiatives, completing new Temples and Chapels in Upper Egypt and Nubia. His Mortuary Temple was erected in Thebes and his Mummy was placed in the Valley of the Kings Tomb KV35. His son inherited his Throne after he had been told he would by the Great Sphinx of Giza when he fell asleep inside his paws when he was Crown Prince on a break from his Military Training in Memphis. This was Pharaoh Tuthmose IV.
After his promise to the Great Sphinx and his ascension to the Throne, Pharaoh erected an Open-Air Chapel which included the Stele which still rests between the front paws of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Apart from this the Art and Architecture of the reign leant towards a style of art that would be echoed in Amarna by his grandson, Pharaoh Akhenaten. He also worried about the power that was being amassed by the Theban priesthood, so he showed a passion for the God Aten, deity of the Sun. Nothing like that of his grandson’s interesting obsession and experiment.
Later in his reign, Pharaoh undertook Military Campaigns in Syria, Canaan, and to quell a revolt in Lower Nubia. As a result, he ended up signing an agreement with Egypt’s long-time foes of the Mitanni although this agreement did not appear to hold. His building achievements included a small Mortuary Temple, memorials in the Capital City of Memphis, his King’s Valley Tomb of KV43, and the Obelisk which now stands in Rome.
Queen Tiye’s influence remained in force within the Royal Family when Pharaoh died as many of the diplomatic correspondences the Queen had continued on Pharaoh’s behalf continued after his passing with the offering of condolences to Queen Tiye and speaking of the future Pharaoh and the hope that the diplomatic relationships would remain intact throughout the new Pharaoh’s reign.
Pharaoh was a strong believer in the Egyptian Religion and through this he began improving the Temples in honour to the Deities. Of note is the amount of works he added to Karnak Temple, Thebes, and his Mortuary Temple Complex, Theban Necropolis, a new Temple to Goddess Ma’at at Luxor Temple, and the Malkata Palace City Complex on the West Bank at Thebes.
Like his father and to counter some of their influence, Pharaoh highlighted the God Aten as a deity which he personally felt aligned with. This was not an unnecessarily unusual practise for Pharaohs although Amenhotep III seems to have played on this direct worship stronger than many of his compatriots.
By the end of his reign, it has been evidenced that he was suffering from ill health, arthritis, and dental issues. He died in 1353BC in his Malkata Palace and was buried in KV22, the Western Valley arm and his Mortuary Cult was celebrated in his Mortuary Temple in the Theban Necropolis.
Around Regnal Year 10, Pharaoh Akhenaten began a campaign that changed the Aten’s name from meaning the Supreme God or higher than any other God to The Only God. He went on to change the hieroglyphic word “Gods” to “God” alone, erasing the names of all other Deities from Temples, Tops of Obelisks, Chapels, within the Diplomatic Archive and Reliefs; especially those of God Amun and Goddess Mut.
Wrapped up in his religion, secluded from much of the populace, hidden in his new Capital City Pharaoh was isolated from his people’s problems and could not garner the mood. On top of this Pharaoh failed to see the suffering in his own new Capital. Archaeologists have discovered that the average inhabitants suffered with nutritional deficiencies, degenerative joint disease, common deaths from broken bones and, a low age death rate for those who survived childhood. For children they suffered with a high child mortality rate and those children who survived infancy were stunted in their growth.
Pharaoh died in 1335 BC; Regnal Year 17 and was buried in an Amarna Tomb. His successor seems to have been the shadowy figure known as Pharaoh Smenkhkare who was married to Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s oldest daughter, Meritaten who ruled for 1 year; and then Pharaoh Neferneferuaten who was married to Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s second oldest daughter, Setepenre who ruled for 2 years. Little to nothing is known or understood about this period and it can be considered that this was a Regency for the Pharaoh who is forever labelled the “Boy King”.
Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten.
He carried on in his next two years by changing his name and that of his wife’s to praise the God Amun: Pharaoh Tutankhamun and Great Royal Wife, Queen Ankhesenamun; moved his Royal Court and the Capital City back to the area of Thebes; probably back into his Grandparent’s Malkata City Palace Complex; removed all important burials from Akhetaten and reburied them in the Theban Valleys; and began a campaign to rebuild and restore all the damage created by his father’s Followers of the Aten.
Pharaoh Tutankhamun also built the Ram headed Avenue of Sphinx between the Precinct of Amun Ra and the Precinct of Mut at Karnak Temple. Whilst at Luxor Temple he finished the Decorating of the entrance way that had been commenced by his grandfather, Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Due to the short length of his Reign, many of his building projects were not finished before his death. He was buried in the infamous Valley of the Kings Tomb KV62 and rediscovered by Archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Leaving no heir, Pharaoh Tutankhamun was succeeded by his uncle and Vizier, Pharaoh Ay who was roughly 60 years old when he took on the Throne. General Horemheb was slated to be the next Pharaoh after Tutankhamun, but it appears that Vizier Ay outmanoeuvred him and placed himself in the central role as Tutankhamun’s primary mourner and heir.