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.) 

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:

  • Identify the contributions the Middle Kingdom made in government, architecture, math, medicine, science and architecture.

  • Identify the main Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom and their specific accomplishments.

  • Analyze primary source documents from the Middle Kingdom to glean insight into ancient Egyptian ruling philosophy.
Relief of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, founder of the Middle Kingdom. Mentuhotep II was from Upper Kemet (Egypt), the South. He defeated the Pharaohs from the North to reunify ancient Kemet, which is why many Egyptologists refer to the Middle Kingdom as the Re-unification Kingdom.


The Middle Kingdom is the period that arose after Egypt’s First Intermediary Period, which concluded with an internal war between the kings of Lower Kemet from Herakleopolis who ruled from el Lisht in the North, and the kings from Upper Kemet who ruled from Theban in the South. It was the Theban king Mentuhotep II who defeated the Herakleopolis kings and reunified Lower and Upper Egypt. Thus he is credited with the start of the Middle Kingdom, which is often referred to as the “Reunification Kingdom.” The Middle Kingdom is comprised of the 11th and 12th Dynasties spanning from the ascension of Mentuhotep II in 2055 B.C.E. to the end of the reign of Sobekneferu in 1802 B.C.E. 

After the reign of Sobekneferu, Kemet fell into disarray. She apparently had no heirs so their was no heir to the throne. The 13th & 14th Dynasties were fairly weak and were invaded and conquered by the Hyksos from 1650 B.C.E. to 1550 B.C.E. The Hyksos, which means "ruler(s) of the foreign countries" were a group of Western Asians who seized control of Lower Egypt during a moment of weakness. They introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot, which gave them a momentary edge over the Egyptians. This was the first time in recorded history that ancient Egypt was conquered by a foreign invader. Until this time, ancient Kemet had experienced an unprecedented nearly 2,000 years of independent, African rule. The brief rule of the Hyksos ended with the rise of Ahmose I, the Theban king from Upper Kemet  who completed the conquest and expulsion of the Hyksos started by his father and grandfather during the end of the 17th Dynasty.

During the Middle Kingdom, the architectural direction shifted from pyramid building to the construction of exquisite temples, such as Mentuhotep’s Mortuary Temple, which was destroyed. However, it was recreated by Hatsheptsut directly beside his ruins, perhaps in honor of the great Pharaoh. The construction of the astonishing Karnak Temple Complex also began in the Middle Kingdom. 

Senusret III, the “Warrior Pharaoh” of the Middle Kingdom, expanded the Southern borders of Egypt through a series of wars with Nubia. He also strengthened ancient Kemet’s administrative capabilities, and placed more power in the hands of his government appointees, reducing the influence of regional authorities. His son, Amenemhat III, led the Middle Kingdom to it highest level of economic prosperity through mining expeditions in the Sinai region. From 1806 to 1802 B.C.E., the daughter of Amenemhat III, Sobekneferu, became the first attested female ruler of Kemet and the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty.

The world’s first literature was also developed during the Middle Kingdom. This literature is believed to be the written stories from oral histories dating back to the Old Kingdom. In addition, mathematical and medical texts were preserved on Papyri (see the Ebers Papyrus & Moscow and Rhine Mathematical Papyri), demonstrating a refined knowledge of both disciplines. The Middle Kingdom built on the foundation of spirituality, philosophy, architecture, science, math and technology begun in the Old Kingdom. It was ancient Kemet's 2nd Golden Age. 

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