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Second Intermediate Period

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Title: Second Intermediate Period  
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Second Intermediate Period

History of Egypt
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Prehistoric Egypt pre–3100 BC
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Early Dynastic Period 3100–2686 BC
Old Kingdom 2686–2181 BC
1st Intermediate Period 2181–2055 BC
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2nd Intermediate Period 1650–1550 BC
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3rd Intermediate Period 1069–664 BC
Late Period 664–332 BC
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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt fell into disarray for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom. It is best known as the period when the Hyksos made their appearance in Egypt and whose reign comprised the Fifteenth dynasty.

End of the Twelfth dynasty

The brilliant Egyptian twelfth dynasty came to an end in the 18th century BC with the death of Queen Sobekneferu (1806 BC – 1802 BC).[1] Apparently, she had no heirs, causing the twelfth dynasty to come to a sudden end as did the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom, which was succeeded by the much weaker thirteenth dynasty of Egypt. Retaining the seat of the twelfth dynasty, the thirteenth dynasty ruled from Itjtawy ("Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands") near Memphis and el-Lisht, just south of the apex of the Nile Delta.

Thirteenth dynasty

The thirteenth dynasty is notable for the accession of the first formally recognised Semitic king, Khendjer. The thirteenth dynasty proved unable to hold onto the entire territory of Egypt, however, and the provincial ruling family in Xois, located in the marshes of the western delta, broke away from the central authority to form the fourteenth dynasty. The splintering of the land accelerated after the reign of the thirteenth dynasty king Sobekhotep IV. It was sometime after the reign of Sobekhotep IV that the Hyksos may have made their first appearance, and around 1710 BC took control of the town of Avaris (the modern Tell ed-Dab'a/Khata'na), a few miles from Qantir.

The outlines of the traditional account of the "invasion" of Egypt by the Hyksos is preserved in the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Manetho recorded that it was during the reign of "Tutimaios" (who has been identified with Dedumose I of the Thirteenth Dynasty) that the Hyksos overran Egypt, led by Salitis, the founder of the fifteenth dynasty. This dynasty was succeeded by a group of Hyksos princes and chieftains, who ruled in the eastern delta region with their local Egyptian vassals and are known primarily by scarabs inscribed with their names and the period of their reign is called the sixteenth dynasty by modern Egyptologists.

The later rulers of the thirteenth dynasty appear to be only ephemeral monarchs under the control of a powerful line of viziers, and indeed, it has been suggested that the ruler in this period might have been elected, if not appointed. One monarch late in the dynasty, Wahibre Ibiau, may have been a former vizier elevated to the office. Beginning with the reign of Sobekhotep IV, the power of this dynasty, weak to begin with, deteriorated. The later king Merneferre Ay (ruled c. 1700 BC) appears to have been one of the last kings who is known to have left either monuments or traces of their rule in the form of scarab seals in both Lower and Upper Egypt--which is to be expected since the Turin King List records that he ruled Egypt for 23 years and 8 months which was an unprecedented period of political stability in a time when many other 13th dynasty kings ruled the country for only 2 to 4 years at the most before dying or being removed from office.

Fourteenth dynasty

It is possible, however that even during Merneferre Ay's reign that Egypt's unity had been lost since to the emergence of the separate 14th dynasty under Nehesy at Avaris has been dated to "stratum F (or b/3), corresponding to the late 13th Dynasty" at Tell el-Daba (Avaris)--according to the Austrian Egyptologist Manfred Bietak who dates this event to the period around or just after 1710 BC.[2] Avaris was a strong candidate to be an independent kingdom after the unity of Egypt began to lapse after the reign of the last powerful king of the 13th dynasty, Sobekhotep IV, since it was a rich and powerful city.[3] Thenceforth "no single ruler was able to control the whole of Egypt" until the New Kingdom under Ahmose I.[4] Nehesy's kingdom may have extended "from Tell el-Habua and Tell el-Daba" in the Eastern Nile Delta.[5] After Nehesy's death, numerous ephemeral successors ruled his kingdom. However, the Hyksos 15th dynasty had already emerged in the middle of the 13th dynasty by the reign of king Sobekhotep IV from new archaeological evidence found at Edfu.[6]

The Seventeenth dynasty

Around the time Memphis and Itj-tawy fell to the Hyksos, the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from the vassal dynasty in Itj-tawy and set itself up as the seventeenth dynasty. This dynasty was to prove the salvation of Ancient Egypt and eventually would lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos back into Asia. The Theban based Seventeenth dynasty was led by ruled from Rahotep to Sobekemsaf I, Sobekemsaf II, Sekhemre-Wepmaat Intef and Nubkheperre Intef who restored numerous temples throughout Upper Egypt while maintaining peaceful trading relations with the Hyksos kingdom in the north. Indeed, Senakhtenre Ahmose, the first king in the line of Ahmoside kings even imported white limestone from the Hyksos controlled region of Tura in Lower Egypt to make a granary door at the Temple of Karnak. However, his successors--the final two last kings of this dynasty--Seqenenre Tao and Kamose are traditionally credited with initiating the final defeat of the Hyksos since they launched the wars of liberation against the foreign Asiatic Hyksos kings. With the creation of the eighteenth dynasty around 1550 BC--with the accession of Ahmose I, the New Kingdom period of Egypt begins. Ahmose I would succeed in expelling the Hyksos from Egypt and placing the country under a centralised administrative control for the first time since the mid-13th dynasty.

See also


  • Von Beckerath, Jürgen. "Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten," Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23. Glückstadt, 1965.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Oxford, 1964, 1961.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II." Chapter 2, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I." Chapter 8, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A., "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," Chronique d'Egypte, 63 (1968), pp. 313–324.
  • Oren, Eliezer D. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives Philadelphia, 1997.
  • Ryholt, Kim The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C., Museum Tuscalanum Press, 1997. ISBN 87-7289-421-0
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven, 1966.


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