Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 9: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): The Middle Kingdom & Second Intermediary Period (2055 B.C. – 1650 B.C.) 

Ancient Kemet (Egypt): Middle Kingdom (2050 - 1640 B.C.) and Second Intermediate Period (1650 - 1650 B.C.) cont.

Middle Kingdom Art
Block Statue from the Middle Kingdom
Ancient Egyptian sources regard these as the first kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty, though the term dynasty is misleading, as most kings of the thirteenth dynasty were not related. The names of these short-lived kings are attested on a few monuments and Graffiti, and their succession order is only known from the Turin Canon, although even this is not fully trusted.

After the initial dynastic chaos, a series of longer reigning, better attested kings ruled for about fifty to eighty years. The strongest king of this period, Neferhotep I, ruled for eleven years and maintained effective control of Upper Egypt, Nubia, and the Delta, with the possible exceptions of Xois and Avaris. Neferhotep I was even recognized as the suzerain of the ruler of Byblos, indicating that the Thirteenth Dynasty was able to retain much of the power of the Twelfth Dynasty, at least up to his reign. At some point during the 13th dynasty, Xois and Avaris began governing themselves, the rulers of Xois being the Fourteenth Dynasty, and the Asiatic rulers of Avaris being the Hyksos of the Fifteenth Dynasty. According to Manetho, this latter revolt occurred during the reign of Neferhotep's successor, Sobekhotep IV, though there is no archaeological evidence. Sobekhotep IV was succeeded by the short reign of Sobekhotep V, who was followed by Wahibre Ibiau, then Merneferre Ai. Wahibre Ibiau ruled ten years, and Merneferre Ai ruled for twenty three years, the longest of any Thirteenth Dynasty king, but neither of these two kings left as many attestations as either Neferhotep or Sobekhotep IV. Despite this, they both seem to have held at least parts of lower Egypt. After Merneferre Ai, however, no king left his name on any object found outside the south. This begins the final portion of the thirteenth dynasty, when southern kings continue to reign over Upper Egypt, but when the unity of Egypt fully disintegrated, the Middle Kingdom gave way to the Second Intermediate Period.


One of the innovations in sculpture that occurred during the Middle Kingdom was the block statue, which would continue to be popular through to the Ptolemaic age almost 2,000 years later. Block statues consist of a man squatting with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms folded on top his knees. Often, these men are wearing a "wide cloak" that reduces the body of the figure to a simple block-like shape. Most of the detail is reserved for the head of the individual being depicted. In some instances the modeling of the limbs has been retained by the sculptor. There are two basic types of block statues: ones with the feet completely covered by the cloak and ones with the feet uncovered.


Richard B. Parkinson and Ludwig D. Morenz write that ancient Egyptian literature—narrowly defined as belles-lettres ("beautiful writing")—were not recorded in written form until the early Twelfth dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. Old Kingdom texts served mainly to maintain the divine cults, preserve souls in the afterlife, and document accounts for practical uses in daily life. It was not until the Middle Kingdom that texts were written for the purpose of entertainment and intellectual curiosity. Parkinson and Morenz also speculate that written works of the Middle Kingdom were transcriptions of the oral literature of the Old Kingdom. It is known that some oral poetry was preserved in later writing; for example, litter-bearers' songs were preserved as written verses in tomb inscriptions of the Old Kingdom.

It is also thought that the growth of the middle class and a growth in the number of scribes needed for the expanded bureaucracy under Senusret II helped spur the development of Middle Kingdom literature. Later ancient Egyptians considered the literature from this time as "classic". Stories such as the Tale of the shipwrecked sailor and the Story of Sinuhe were composed during this period, and were popular enough to be widely copied afterwards. Many philosophical works were also created at this time, including the Dispute between a man and his Ba where an unhappy man converses with his soul, the The Satire of the Trades in which the role of the scribe is praised above all other jobs, and the magic tales supposedly told to the Old Kingdom pharaoh Khufu in the Westcar Papyrus.

Middle Kingdom, Ancient Egypt, wikipedia

Middle Kingdom Art
Block Statue from the Middle Kingdom
Middle Kingdom Art
The Westcar Papyrus is housed in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin. The papyrus, written in hieratic script and middle Egyptian, contains five stories told by the sons of the 4th dynasty Pharaoh Khufu, also know as Cheops. 

click here  for the Westcar Papyrus in hieroglyphs and english translation. 




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