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Highlights of Ancient Egypt: Middle Kingdom
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/6/12
By: Yona Williams

Following the Old Kingdom, there was a period of time that lasted 258 years where rulers were not as strong and chaos played a significant role in the atmosphere of the civilization. All of this ended when Amenemhet I came into power in 1991 BC. Amenemhet was responsible for reunifying Egypt – an accomplishment that marks the Middle Kingdom.

During the Middle Kingdom times, many political campaigns were launched, which were based on the imperialistic approach. In the process, they expanded the territory associated with the civilization and conquering lands, such as Palestine and Syria in the east. Semitic nomads entered Egypt around 1720 BC with their eyes on lassoing the power away from the pharaohs.

The Middle Kingdom is seen as lasting from the end of the first intermediate period to the start of the second. This time period lasted from about 2055 to 1650 BC, and encompassed part of the 11th Dynasty, the 12th Dynasty, and if you speak to a current scholar – the first half of the 13th Dynasty.

When Theban king Nebhepetra Mentuhotep II (2055-2004) ruled Egypt, the capital of the civilization was at Thebes. Amenemhat shifted the capital to a new town, which was called Amenemhat-itj-tawy (Itjtawy). This location was in the Faiyum region – most likely close to the necropolis at Lisht. The people would continue to recognize this destination as the capital of Egypt for the rest of the Middle Kingdom.

Changes that emerged during the Middle Kingdom involved the traditions of the people, as well as achievements in progress. For example, there were three types of burials used during the Middle Kingdom. You were either placed in a surface grave (with or without a coffin). Some people were placed in shaft graves – usually with a coffin. The rest of the people were laid to rest in tombs with a coffin and sarcophagus.

In politics, military campaigns took place in Nubia – thanks to Mentuhotep II. They wanted to reclaim what had been lost during the 1st Intermediate Period. Expeditions took place. Mentuhotep III was the first Middle Kingdom ruler to send some of his people to Punt to bring back incense. He is also responsible for constructing fortifications at Egypt's northeastern border. There was more cult worship emerging throughout the land. He also built fortifications at Egypt's northeastern border. Senusret started the practice of building monuments at every cult site. He also heavily acknowledged the cult of Osiris.

Nomarchs still existed during the Middle Kingdom, but they were no longer separate from other rulers. They lost power over this period. Under the pharaoh, the next powerful person was the vizier, who served as his chief minister. At times, there could be two viziers at once. Other players in politics included a chancellor, overseer, and governors of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Towns had their own mayors. The royal wealth was amassed by the mining and trade of the civilization.

In agriculture, the Faiyum irrigation scheme (complete with dykes and canals) was the handiwork of Khakheperra Senusret II (1877-1870). At Fayum, a dam was established as a way to direct the overflow of the Nile into a natural lake that could be used for irrigation purposes.


 

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