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Title138110825 Smith Ancient Egypt
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Page 1

Ancient
Egypt

Museum
of

Fine Arts
Boston

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ANCIENT EGYPT as represented in fhe MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

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THE MIDDLE KINGDOM

plan seems to have had its origin in the cemetery of the princes of the Intef fami-
ly at Thebes, where the tomb of the ruler was cut in the back wall of a court ex-
cavated in the lower slopes of the desert. In front of the tomb chamber was a row
of square pillars cut from the solidified gravel, while along the side walls of the
court were excavated the tombs of the chief man’s followers, each preceded by a
row of pillars. Thus the impression gained was that of a long court opening into
the hillside and surrounded on three sides by a colonnade. The principal tomb
seems to have been marked further by a pyramid of brick which perhaps stood
at the back of the court. The Abbott Papyrus refers to the pyramid of Intef 11. Al-
though there seems to have been some trace of such pyramids in Mariette’s time,
these brick structures have now disappeared. The combining of colonnades and
pyramid in a terraced construction built of stone was a brilliant conception which
later seems to have suggested the form of Hatshepsut’s neighboring funerary
temple in Dynasty XVIII. Incidentally, a terraced structure is known from the
Old Kingdom, in the valley temple of Pepy 11. This, however, is scarcely more
than the manipulation of the different levels of a landing stage. At the end of the
Old Kingdom pottery offering trays were made in the form of a model house
with a columned porch. Some of them have barrel-vaulted rooms (Fig. 45) and
others an exterior staircase leading to a second story. These suggest that the
Dynasty XI tombs may have been developed from house architecture.

Mentuhotep’s great task must have been the reorganization of the country’s
administration. All formidable resistance to the royal house had been crushed,
but there may have been occasional minor uprisings. However, the political at-
mosphere of the Middle Kingdom differs from that of earlier times. The peaceful
security of the Old Kingdom was a thing of the past. While the siege scenes in
the tombs of Baket and Khety at Beni Hasan probably represent battles in the
successfully completed war with the North and were only copied again in the
later tombs there, the people of Dynasty XII had not yet forgotten the bitter
strife of the preceding dynasty nor the hard times that had preceded it in Dynas-
ties VIII and IX. Warlike equipment was painted on the chapel walls and coffins
of the Middle Kingdom nobles, while actual weapons and models are found bur-
ied with them. The desire for such protection is in sharp contrast to the peace-
ful requirements of the Old Kingdom dead and is echoed by the pessimistic note
in Middle Kingdom literature.

The reliefs of Mentuhotep’s temple have preserved fragments of a battle scene,
but in this case the attack seems to have been directed against the Bedouins of
the eastern desert. However, in spite of these lingering vestiges of strife, Egypt
must have been in a fairly prosperous state in the latter half of the reign of Men-
tuhotep II The war with Heracleopolis had been fought only in a limited section
of central Egypt and had been a desultory affair with interludes of peace punctu-
ating the periods of fighting. The House of Khety had restored Lower Egypt to a
comparatively sound condition, while Upper Egypt had been growing strong un-
der the early kings of Dynasty XI. The king’s chief problem was the consolida-

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THE MIDDLE KINGDOM

tion of the power of the administration in his own hands, and in this he was not
entirely successful. The Middle Kingdom rulers seem never to have recovered the
absolute control over the country that their predecessors had maintained in the
Old Kingdom. Although the great power of the various provincial princes was
broken they still retained a semi-feudal relationship to the king. The Nomarch
was allowed to administer the local affairs of his district, for which he was re-
sponsible to the king.

We know very little about the administration of the Delta in Dynasty XI, al-
though the letters of a man named Heka-nekht give many details about agricul-
tural conditions there. They show a Theban travelling back and forth from his
home in the south to care for the interests of the properties that he owned in the
north. In Middle Egypt the power of the princes of Assiut must have been de-
stroyed and no one of importance built a tomb there until Hepzefa gained the
favor of Sesostris I. The Nomarchs of the Hare and Oryx Nomes, on the other
hand, continued to build imposing tombs at Bersheh and Beni Hasan, as though
they had lost nothing by the Theban conquest. In Dynasty XII we find wealthy
princes also at Aswan, Qau el Kebir, and Meir. Thus, while favorites of the king
were also buried in the court cemeteries, we nevertheless find an emphasis upon
that regionalism which had begun to make itself felt towards the end of the Old
Kingdom. This is apparent in the decoration of the tombs of different districts
were local peculiarities appear, in contrast to the Old Kingdom when there had
been only one Memphite style of the court throughout the country.

On foreign relations we have little evidence. An inscription of Mentuhotep II
was found at Konosso in Nubia, while on a relief in his Gebelein temple we see
him striking down a representative of the Nubians, a Libyan, an Asiatic, and an
Egyptian who may represent the Heracleopolitans. The Deir-el-Bahari temple re-
liefs show fighting with the Bedouin tribes as well as tribute brought by men
who look like Nubians. Mentuhotep's successors, Se-ankh-kara and Neb-tawy-
ra, sent expeditions to work the Hammamat quarries and to reopen the desert
road from Coptos to the Red Sea. Se-ankh-kara also despatched an expedition to
Punt after communications had been established along this road to enable the
building of a ship on the Red Sea. The man who was in charge of quarrying op-
erations at Hammamat under Neb-tawy-ra was a certain Amenemhat, the king's
vizier who bore other great titles. It has been suggested very plausibly that this
important man, whose energetic personality speaks eloqqently from the inscrip-
tion that he has left in the quarries, is identical with the founder of Dynasty XII,
the Pharaoh Amenemhat I who seized the throne of the declining Mentuhotep
family.

Thus about the year 2000 B.C. began the succession of powerful rulers who
formed Dynasty XII. Amenemhat adopted three important measures which be-
came the core of the family policy of these kings. First he established a new capi-
tal at a place called Ith-tawe, not far south of Memphis, where he could better
control Lower Egypt and the Delta. At Lisht nearby he built his tomb, reverting

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THE NEW KINGDOM

cut temple at Abu Simbel was coarser in quality and largely executed in sunk re-
lief, as were the remarkable decorations of the Medinet Habu temple of Ramesses
ses III. The Kushite kings employed raised relief, but this was less fine, while the
vast walls of Ptolemaic temples display little more than empty conventionality.
Only in a few Theban tombs at the close of Dynasty XXV and in some smaller
works of a later time does the skill of the Egyptian sculptor in relief again make
itself felt.

The Hittite King Muwatallis formed a coalition against the young Ramesses
II which was stronger than anything the Egyptians had ever faced. It included
not only Northern Syria, but also allies drawn from amongst the peoples of the
Aegean. Ramesses began in the traditional manner by securing the Syrian coast,
where he carved a monument at the Nahr-el-Kelb (Dog River) near Beirut in
his fourth year. In the next year he advanced into the valley of the Orontes and
had almost reached Kadesh when he came upon some Bedouin spies, sent out by
the Hittite king for that purpose, who informed him that the enemy had retired
to the north in the direction of Aleppo. Without waiting for the last two divi-
sions of his army, which were far behind, Ramesses pushed on in pursuit, leav-
ing the second division to follow him at some distance. The Hittite king had
drawn his army into concealment behind Kadesh and, when Ramesses ap-
proached the town, he crossed the river Orontes, keeping the town between him-
self and the unsuspecting first division of the Egyptian forces. Ramesses set up
camp to the northeast of Kadesh and here he learned from some captives of the
dangerous proximity of the overwhelming force of the enemy. Before he could
act, the Hittite chariotry attacked and routed the second division of his army, the
fleeing troops throwing his own camp into confusion. Had it not been for the
quick action and personal bravery of the Pharaoh, who, with a small band of
household troops, cut his way through one flank of the enemy chariots, the dis-
aster would have been complete. While the Hittites were plundering the camp, a
reinforcement of auxiliaries joined the Egyptians and with these Ramesses was
able to recapture the camp. At this point the third division of the army was
brought up by the vizier, who at the beginning of the battle had been sent off
post-haste to fetch them. These new forces turned the battle in favor of the
Egyptians and the Hittites were forced to retire behind the gates of Kadesh.

However, Ramesses was unable to take Kadesh and withdrew, leaving the Hit-
tites still in possession of the northern country. The Hittite advance was checked
but hostilities continued, nonetheless. Two years later a revolt was fomented in
Palestine. Ramesses stormed Askalon, and continued on into the north to take
other important cities such as Satouna, Dapour, and Tunip. The fighting in Syria
must have continued for a number of years. Tunip, for example, had to be taken
more than once. It was not until his twenty-first year that Ramesses finally con-
cluded a peace by signing a remarkable treaty with the Hittite king Hattusilis.
The latter had succeeded not only to the throne of Muwatallis but to numerous
internal difficulties increased by the threat of Assyria's growing power. The

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THE NEW K I N G D O M

treaty is preserved on the walls of two Egyptian temples as well as in a cuneiform
copy on clay tablets found in the records of the 'Foreign Office' of the Hittite
capital at Boghaz-koi. The two kings undertook reciprocal obligations to come
to each other's defense if attacked by a third power, and also arranged for the
extradition of political refugees.

By this agreement, Egyptian influence seems to have extended along the coast
to the North Syrian town of Ugarit (Ras Shamra), but the Hittites still retained
their power in the interior, in the valley of the Orontes. Ramesses II reigned on
for forty-six years after signing the treaty. He married a daughter of Hattusilis
and peace was maintained with the Hittites. A late story tells us how, at the re-
quest of the Hittite king, Ramesses despatched a statue of Khonsu for the pur-
pose of healing a princess who was possessed of a demon. This reminds us of
conditions of an earlier day when the image of Ishtar of Assur was sent by the
king of Mitanni to cure the aged Amenhotep 111. But the power of the Hittites
was nearing its close. At the death of Hattusilis a crisis arose in Khatti which
was probably due to the first shock of the movement of the Sea Peoples. This
great mass migration radiated from the Balkans and the Black Sea region
throughout the eastern Mediterranean world, and soon overwhelmed the Hittite
kingdom. The king of Assyria promptly took advantage of these troubles of his
enemy to overrun Babylonia. The aging Ramesses apparently neglected these
ominous signs from abroad, and his vigorous successor, Merenptah, found him-
self faced with a serious situation when he came to the throne.

The Sea Peoples had filtered into Libya, as they had everywhere along the
southern shores of the Mediterranean. Finding this a peculiarly barren land, it
was only natural that they should spill over into fertile Egypt. Merenptah met
them in a great battle in the western Delta where he inflicted an overwhelming
defeat upon the invaders. For about thirty years there was no further trouble
from this direction. A triumphal stela, in which for the first time mention is
made of Israel, seems to support other evidence that Merenptah also conducted
a campaign in Palestine. Merenptah's death resulted in a dynastic struggle which
was carried on through the reigns of a succession of five weak pharaohs who
largely undid the good work of the three strong kings who had preceded them.
Order was restored by Sety-nekht, who seized the throne to reign for a brief
two years as the first king of Dynasty XX.

D Y N A S T Y X X

SETY-NEKHT was succeeded by the last great king of the New Kingdom, Ramesses
ses 111. He reorganized the administration and the army, and was thus prepared
to meet the shocks of two dangerous invasions of the country. Palestine was the
last barrier to the main forces of the Sea Peoples which had swept down over the
fallen Hittite kingdom and engulfed all Syria. The Delta had received an infiltra-
tion of desert Bedouins and refugees from Canaan, while the indigenous inhabi-
tants of Libya, as well as the more recent northern settlers, had drifted in from

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