First Intermediate Period

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
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During the first intermediate era (2200 - 2040 BC), Herakleopolitan rulers (continued from Memphis) and Theban rulers (local leaders who amassed force) fought for control.

Kingdoms are times of political unity and strong centralized government, while intermediate periods are in contrast characterized by the rivalries of local rulers in their claims for power. The cores areas of the Herakleopolitan kingdom were Memphis and Faiyum, with hegemony ending in southern Middle Egypt. Even in areas outside Herakleopolitan control, the king was still mentioned, but only in his role as a mediator between human society and the forces of nature. His political role had been taken over by the nomarchs.

A thriving culture continued among the poorer levels of society, and vigorous social development occurred in Upper Egypt's provincial towns. Thus, the First Intermediate Period was less a total collapse and more a significant temporary shift in centers of activity an dynamism.

EventTimeDescription

Seventh Dynasty

Numerous kings.

Eighth Dynasty

Numerous kings. Kings ruled from Memphis until the end of Dynasty 8, at which point they moved to Herakleopolis.

Ninth + Tenth Dynasty

2134-1991 BC

Herakleopolitan Kings. Dynasties 9 and 10 existed at Herakleopolis, while during Dynasty 10 there arose in Thebes a competing dynasty of rulers comprising Dynasty 11. The Memphite dynasty relocated to Herakleopolis. Co-existent were various nomarchs, including those at Thebes who established themselves as the strongest of all other nomarchs.

Ankhtifi

Anktifi was a Herakleopolitan nomarch who fought against the predecessors of Mentuhotep II for control over all of Egypt. His tomb at المعلّى el-Mo'alla (ancient Hefat) detailed his biography and proclaimed himself as the best ruler ever in history and forever after -- there was only one mention of the king, as a conduit to the gods to assist in favorable weather.

Eleventh Dynasty

2134-1991 BC

Concurrent with Dynasty 10 was Dynasty 11, which existed at Thebes. A family of Theban monarchs established itself as the leading force and assumed the title of royalty. Two competing states thus existed at Herakleopolis and Thebes, until Theban king Mentuhotep II once and for all crushed his Herakleopolitan opponent and reunited the country under Theban control, thus inaugurating the Middle Kingdom.

Mentuhotep I

Menuhotep I was the first ruler of Dynasty 11. His hegemony was very localized, but he deemed himself ruler of Upper Egypt and later all of Egypt.

Intef (née Inyotef) I

Considered the founder of Dynasty 11, Intef I and his immediate successors built for themselves very similar saff tombs at the necropolis of إلطارف el-Tarif, parallel to the Saff Dawaba. When Mentuhotep II moved to the new site of الدير البحري Deir el-Bahri it was perhaps because the suitable building ground for monumental architecture at إلطارف el-Tarif had been used up by his time.

Intef (née Inyotef) II

2118-2069 BC

Intef II decisively changed the nature of the new Theban monarchy. Intef II claimed the traditional role of nesu-bit (dual kingship) and the title 'son of Ra' which referred to the dogma of divine descent. He did not assume all five of the royal Great Names; he only added the 'Horus name' Wahankh (enduring life) to his birth name and had no throne name -- early Theban kings must have thus been aware of their limited hegemony.

Intef (née Inyotef) III

The last non-royal Theban monarch had hegemony over a large part of southern Upper Egypt. Intef II launched the decisive northward push, capturing the nome of Abydos and receiving hostility from as far north as Asyut.

Mentuhotep II

2061-2010 BC

Grand construction had ended after Pepy II, and was resumed by Mentuhotep II with his mortuary temple at دير البحري Deir el-Bahri in western Thebes (earlier Dynasty 11 nomarchs had built at إلطارف el-Tarif.

Mentuhotep III

2010-1998 BC

Eleventh Dynasty

1975-1940 BC

All of Egypt

Major finds of the First Intermediate Era

ItemTimePlaceDescription

Painted stela of Inhurnakht

Dyn 9

Naga ed-Der

Shows the little figures putting food directly into the deceased's mouth. It is quintessentially First Intermediate Period -- full shoulder-length wig; nose continuous with forehead; huge eyes; bead collars; pointed kilt. (Metropolitan)

Limestone stela of Maaty

2200 BC

Thebes

Very fine relief. He is not wearing a wig. His breast is triangular, a new motif; perhaps related is the fact that he has rolls of fat. Despite this corpulent image, his silhouette is quite fit. He is shown as in the prime of his life physically, yet simultaneously with the weight of a successful man without need to exert himself. Of note, this stela is overwhelmingly similar to the Stela of Megegi. (Metropolitan)

Tomb of Ankhtify

2100 BC

Mo'alla

Goes on about how great he is. A time of economic peril. People were suffering and he was there to save them.

Seated statue of Mery

2100 BC

Thebes

Limestone seated statue of Meri. His cropped hair is often found on middle-aged men, but he has no other signs of age; his pleated kilt is appropriate to a young man. There is hieroglyphic text at the front of the plinth. (British Museum)

Limestone stela of Intef II

Dyn 11
2100 BC

Thebes

Intef II was one of the First Intermediate nomarchs who successfully seized territory and held a strong rule. (Metropolitan)

Funerary Temple of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11

ديد البحري
Deir el-Bahri

Has the pyramid on it, big open space, planted trees.

Drawing of tomb of King Mentuhotep II

Relief of Kemsit from Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

Mentuhotep's Temple
الدير البحري
Deir el-Bahri
Thebes

Painted limestone relief from early in the reign of Mentuhotep II, who reunified Egypt after the instability of the First Intermediate period. The relief depicts a seated woman holding a jar of scented ointment to her nose. The hand of a servant pouring liquid into a pottery drinking cup is visible in front of her. Also visible is a line of hieroglyphs which reads for the ka, gifts and offerings. Behind her would have been the king, with a feather from his headdress still visible. This was very unique, with the king incorporated into a theme usually found in private tombs.

Kemsit wears her natural hair, which is short, tightly curled and painted black. She wears a shawls, detailed with fine incisions and white paint. Where her shawl overlaps her dress it is painted the same green as her dress, likely a mistake by the painter. The sculptor had carved very deep 0.5 cm raised and sunk relief and incorporated different layers into the relief, though the painter was not such a virtuoso and made many mistakes. (British Museum)

Head of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

الدير البحري
Deir el-Bahri
Thebes

Painted sandstone head from an Osiride statue of Mentuhotep II. (British Museum)

Relief of King Mentuhotep II

Granite Statue of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

الدير البحري
Deir el-Bahri
Thebes

Black granite seated statue of Mentuhotep II. Represents him as Osiris, a significant shift in religion. Egyptian Museum.

Relief from Temple of Mentuhotep II

Pre-unification style. Limestone. (British Museum)

Relief from temple of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

دير البحري
Deir el-Bahri
Thebes

Post-unification style. Painted limestone. (British Museum)

Relief from temple of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

دير البحري
Deir el-Bahri
Thebes

A close-up cut out from his tomb -- absolutely beautiful.

Painted Statue of Mentuhotep II

Dyn 11
2050 BC

دير البحري
Deir el-Bahri

Sandstone painted black, recalling Osiris. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Relief of Mentuhotep III

Dyn 11
2000 BC

Armant

Limestone relief, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.