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Second Intermediate Period

The 13th Dynasty was ended by the members of the 17th Dynasty. The members of this Dynasty wanted to keep the culture and tradition of the Middle Kingdom alive and pushed the Hyksos out.

New Kingdom

The 18th Dynasty heralds the beginning of the New Kingdom. In this New Kingdom, coffins changed shape from the Middle Kingdom rectangle to the familiar mummy-shape with a head and rounded shoulders. At first these were decorated with carved or painted feathers, but later were painted with a representation of the deceased. They were also put together like Russian Dolls, in that a large outer coffin would contain a smaller one, which contained one that was almost moulded to the body. Each one was more elaborately decorated than the one larger than it. It is from this time that most mummies have survived.

All soft tissues like the brain and internal organs were removed. The cavities were washed and then packed with natron, and the body buried in a pile of natron. The intestines, lungs, liver and the stomach were preserved separately and stored in jars protected by the four sons of Horus: Duamutef (stomach), Qebhsenuef (intestines), Hapy (lungs), and Imsety (liver). Such was the perceived power of these jars that even when the 21st Dynasty started to return the organs to the body after preservation instead of using the jars, the jars continued to be included in the tombs.

Various Pharaohs extended the control of Egypt further than ever before, retaking control of Nubia and extending power northwards into the Upper Euphrates, the lands of the Hittites, and Mitanni.

This was a time of great wealth and power for Egypt. By the time of Amenophis III (1417 BC–1379 BC), Egypt had become so wealthy that he did nothing to further extend its powers and instead rested upon his throne gilded with Nubian gold.

He was succeeded by his son Amenophis IV who changed his name to Akhenaton. He moved the capital to a new city he built and called Akhetaten. Here with his new wife Nefertiti, he concentrated on building his new religion and ignored the world outside of Egypt. This allowed various underground factions to build that were not happy with his new world. The new religion was something that had never happened before in Egypt. Previously, new gods came along and were absorbed into the culture, but no god was allowed to push out any old ones. Akhenaton, however, formed a monotheistic religion around Aten. Worship of all other gods was banned, and this caused the majority of the internal unrest. A new culture of art was introduced that was more naturalistic and a complete turnabout from the stylised frieze that had ruled Egyptian art for the last 1700 years. Towards the end of his 17 year reign he took a co-regent his brother, Smenkhkare. The co-reign lasted only two years. When Akhenaton died some of the old gods were revived. In truth they had never gone away, but gone underground. Smenkhkare died after a few months of solo reign. In his place was crowned a young boy. He was not ready for the pressure of ruling this great country and the advisors that surrounded him made the decisions for him. His given name was Tutankhaton, but with the resurgence of Amun he was re-named Tutankhamun. One of the most influential advisors was General Horemheb. Tutankhamun died while he was still a teenager and was succeeded by Ay who probably married Tutankhamun's widow to reinforce his right to the throne. It is possible that Horemheb made Ay a monarch to act as a transitional king until he was ready to take over. In any case, when Ay died, Horemheb became ruler and a new period of positive rule began. He set about securing internal stability and re-establishing the prestige that the country had before the reign of Akhenaton.

The 19th dynasty was founded by Rameses I. He only reigned for a short time, and was followed by Seti I (or Sethos I). Sethos I carried on the good work of Horemheb in restoring power, control and respect of Egypt. He also was responsible for creating the fantastic temple at Abydos. Seti I and his son Rameses II are the only two Pharaohs known to have been circumcised. Rameses II carried on his father's work and created many more splendid temples. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a poem about him called Ozymandias.

The reign of Rameses II is often given as the most likely date for the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. There are no records in Egyptian history of any of the events described in the Bible, nor any archaeological evidence.

Rameses II was succeeded by his son Merneptah and then by Seti II. Rameses III was a Pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty who, after a couple of battles, was followed by a number of short-lived reigns by Pharaohs all called Rameses.

Third Intermediate Period

After the death of Rameses XI, the High Priests of Amun at Thebes in the person of Herihor wrested control of Egypt away from the Pharaohs. The country was once again split into two parts with Herihor controlling Upper, and Smendes controlling Lower Egpyt. Smendes founded the 21st Dynasty, also known as The Tanites. Their reign seems to be without any other distinction and they were replaced without any apparent struggle by the Libyan kings of the 22nd Dynasty.

Egypt has long had ties with Libya, and the first king of the new Dynasty, Shoshenq I, served as a general under the last ruler of the 21st Dynasty. It is known that he appointed his own son to be the High Priest of Amun, a post that was previously a hereditary appointment. The scant and patchy nature of the written records from this period suggest that it was unsettled. There appear to have been many subversive groups which eventually led to the creation of the 23rd dynasty which ran concurrent with the 22nd. After the withdrawal of Egypt from the Sudan, a Nubian prince took control of lower Nubia. He was succeeded by Piye, and it this Piankhi who decided to push north in an effort to crush his opponent who ruled in the Nile Delta region. He managed to attain power as far as Memphis. His opponent Tefnakhte ultimately submitted to him, but he was allowed to remain in power in Lower Egypt and founded the short-lived 24th Dynasty.

Late Period

Memphis and the Delta region became the target of many attacks from the Assyrians, until Psammetichus managed to reunite Middle and Lower Egypt under his rule forming the 26th Dynasty and the start of the Late Period. Eventually he extended his control over the whole of Egypt in 656 BC. He eventually felt strong enough to sever all ties with Assyria, and Assyrian control lapsed. The Saite period, as the 26th Dynasty is also known, was a century of revived splendour for Egypt. During the reign of Apries, an army was sent to help the Libyans to eliminate the Greek colony of Cyrene. The disastrous defeat of this army brought about a civil war which resulted in Apries being replaced by Amasis II. According to contemporary Greek records, Amasis was mostly concerned with Egyptian domestic affairs and the promotion of good relations with its neighbours. He died in 526 BC, and the next year Egypt fell under Persian power and the Perisan king Cambyses II became the first king of the 27th Dynasty.

The 30th Dynasty was established in 380 BC and lasted until 343 BC. This was the last native house to rule Egypt. The brief restoration of Persian rule is sometimes known as the 31st Dynasty.




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