The Middle Kingdom

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  1. The Middle Kingdom

    1. About 2150 BCE, Egyptians revolted against their pharaohs and there was a period of localized rule. This period, called the First Intermediate period, lasted for a little over a hundred years.

    2. A pharaoh reunited Egypt under one government again about 2040 BCE. This reunification was called the Middle Kingdom.

    3. This period was less secure and more turbulent than the Old Kingdom.

    1. Fragmentary head of Senusret III

      1. Notice how his face is more expressive than seated statue of Khafre or Menkaure from the Old Kingdom.

      2. Notice his eyebrows, the outline of his mouth, and his expression

      3. He fought four brutal military campaigns against the Nubians, a group of people south of Egypt. Senusret III never fully gained control of Nubia but he did push the southern border farther south than anyone before him.

      4. Why do you think the portrait sculptures of the Middle Kingdom showed more individuality and emotion than Old Kingdom portrait sculptures?

    1. Lady Senuwy

      1. Egyptian officials of the Middle Kingdom continued the practice of equipping their tombs with statues to house the ka of the tomb owner and to provide a focal point for the offering cult. Highly ranked officials also dedicated statues of themselves at sanctuaries of gods and deified ancestors. Following the experimental and idiosyncratic interlude of the First Intermediate Period, sculptors once again produced large-scale stone statues, returning to the basic forms and poses established in the Old Kingdom.

    1. Nobles begin to build rock-cut tombs in cliffs (pharaohs of New Kingdom followed the example of the nobles and built rock-cut tombs for the afterlife.): LIVING ROCK. Beni Hasan

      1. Note fluted columns. Probably influenced Greeks. Possibly Egyptian sculptors were translating the marks made by adze (cutting tool) when dressing tree logs into non-perishable versions in stone.

      2. Each chamber like an individual sculpture with false entrances, main halls, entrance portico, shrine chamber, burial chamber.

      3. Walls were decorated with reliefs and paintings. After-life was a dangerous place. Protected against grave-robbers. Also, if things were stolen the reliefs and paintings could provide for well-being.


    1. Middle Kingdom broke down

      1. Hyksos (people from Syria and Mesopotamia) invaded Egypt

      2. Introduced the horse to Egypt

      3. Overthrown by Ahmose I, first king of the 18th Dynasty

      4. Begins the New Kingdom

    1. Egypt at its peak

      1. Vigorous rulers

        1. Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BCE) – first famous female pharaoh

        2. Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) – great conqueror who expanded Egyptian influence

        3. Akhenaton (1353-1335 BCE) – religious iconoclast and artistic innovator

        4. Tutankhamen (1333-1323 BCE) – tomb discovered in 1922

        5. Ramses II (1290-1224 BCE) – ruled for 67 years, father of over 50 sons (he had 8 official wives) and built gigantic statues of himself

    1. New Capital at Thebes

    2. Pylon Temples (Temple of Amen-Re, Karnak, Egypt): Built over centuries by many New Kingdom pharaohs. Temple to honor gods; not a temple to honor pharaohs.

      1. Diagram and Parts

        1. Avenue of deities (a walkway lined with statues of gods, often in animal form)

        2. Obelisks – tall, tapering four-sided pillars ending in a pointed tip called a pyramidion

        3. Colossal statues of the pharaoh

        4. PYLON – sloping towers or gateways flanking the entrance to the temple (like the front wall of the temple) 146 feet high, 50 feet thick!) Most commoners could never go beyond this point.

        5. Courtyard – farthest point nobles could venture into the temple on special holidays

        6. HYPOSTYLE HALL – a hall with a roof supported by a row of columns

          1. Supported by POST-AND-LINTEL CONSTRUCTION

          2. CLERESTORY – row of windows in the upper part of a wall in a hypostyle hall.

          3. Columns decorated with sunken reliefs. Keeps regular outline of the column. Emphasized as message-bearing surfaces, not architectural element.

        7. Sanctuary – only the pharaoh and the priests could enter. Here the priests washed the god’s statue every morning and clothed it with a new garment. Twice every day they provided it with tempting meals.


      1. Introduction

        1. Daughter of Thutmose I and wife and half-sister of Thutmose II

        2. When Thutmose II died, his twelve-year old son, Thutmose III was too young to rule

        3. Around 1479 BCE, Hatshepsut became a regent for her stepson/nephew but soon exerted her right to succeed her father and rule Egypt

        4. First great female monarch whose name was recorded

        5. Her strong character and political acumen (mental skill and sharpness) contributed to her success

      1. Artistic Achievements

        1. Statues at the Met

  1. over 200 statues carved

  2. Show her as a male figure, a sphinx, and feminine mother figure --- Why this different personas?

  3. Hatshepsut with offering jars, from upper court of her mortuary temple at Deir-el-Bahri

  4. Mix of male and female attributes

  5. Her statues were destroyed during the reign of Thutmose III

  6. Skillfully reassembled and restored at the MET

        1. Terraced Funerary Temple at DEIR-EL-BAHRI

  1. Work of SENMUT, Hatshepsut’s chancellor, advisor, chief architect, guardian of her daughter Princess Nefrua and possible lover!

  2. Rises from the valley in 3 colonnaded terraces connected by ramps (these columns were also destroyed during the reign of Thutmose III)

  3. Inner sanctuary is located inside the cliff

  4. Painted reliefs on the walls constitute the first great pictorial tribute to a woman’s achievement in the history of art.

  5. Discuss ways that the funerary temple fits into the natural setting.

        1. New Kingdom has new sculptural form: Block Statues – radical simplification. Extreme blockiness.

    1. AKHENATON (1353-1335 BCE) and the AMARNA style

      1. Introduction

        1. Fascinating religious reformer and iconoclast

        2. A new style of art

      1. The Religious Reformer

        1. Akhenaton made the new and shocking claim that the sun-disk god, Aton, was the only true god

        2. Changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaton (follower of Aton)

        3. Moved the capital from Thebes to Tell-el-Amarna. Built a glorious new city their dedicated to Aton.

        4. Challenged the power of the priests. Akhenaton ordered the religious cults that worshipped the cat-god, the crocodile god, the baboon-god, and all other gods to shut down their temples and worship only Aton.

        5. How did Egypt react to such drastic changes?

      2. Artistic Reforms

        1. Old Style

          1. Meant to last for eternity

          2. Function was to embody the ka of a royal person

          3. Rigid, formal posture – arms at sides, fists clenched, left leg forward, little or no emotion, looking out into eternity

          4. Perfect physique – no deformities, fitting for a person of importance

        1. Examples of the Amarna Style

          1. Statue of Akhenaton

          2. Queen Tiye (Akhenaton’s mother) carved out of dark wood to match her complexion

          3. Smenkare (was a co-regent with Akhenaton) and Meritaten

          4. Bust of Nefertiti (Akhenaton’s queen)

Beautiful wife with whom he had six daughters

        1. Characteristics of the Amarna Style

          1. Curvilinear body types, not erect and rigid

          2. Elongated heads

          3. Long necks and thin arms

          4. Wide hips and legs

          5. A paunch

          6. More naturalistic approach – full lips, heavy-lidded eyes, and more expression

          7. New androgynous image of the pharaoh as the manifestation of Aton, the sexless sun disk.

          8. Perhaps an attempt to create a new canon in opposition to canons of old art. Not necessarily more of a likeness.

      1. What happened to Akhenaton and his reforms?

          1. The priests reluctantly complied with the reforms during Akhenaton’s reign. After his death, Egypt reverted back to its previous beliefs.

          2. The next pharaoh, Tutankhamen reinstated Amen as the chief deity as well as the priestly hierarchy and worship of other gods.

          3. Revival of the traditional artistic styles

          4. Tell-el-Amarna abandoned; capital returned to Thebes

          5. Akhenaton’s tomb has been identified, but only recently have archaeologists identified his mummy. It seems that later rulers attempted to eradicate traces of this time period.

    1. Tutankhamen (r. 1333-123 BCE)

      1. Life and times

        1. The son of Akhenaton and young woman (possibly Akhenaton’s other wife Kiya).

        2. Kiya died in the 12th year of Akhenaton’s reign, the same year that King Tut was born. It is possible she was his mother and died in childbirth. King Tut permitted his nurse to construct an opulent tomb for herself next to his. Maybe, she became a mother figure.

        3. Guided by relatives to move the capital back to Thebes

        4. Changed his name from Tut Ankh Aton to Tut Ankh Amen – Why?

        1. Reinstated the worship of Amen as the top god

        2. Died when he was 18 or 19 (reason why is still uncertain). Had a painful deformity of the foot and broke is leg later (could have fallen while walking or from his chariot) – Could have died of an infection

        1. Is now Egypt’s most famous pharaoh but why?

      1. The Valley of the Kings

        1. Opposite Luxor, 400 miles south of modern Cairo

        2. Five miles west of the Nile

        3. NOTE: Luxor is a modern city that encompasses the ancient city of Thebes. The temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor (ancient) are also within the limits of modern Luxor. On the opposite (western) shore of the Nile are the West Bank Necropolis which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

      1. Howard Carter

        1. Lord Carnavon – Carter’s wealthy patron

        2. Five futile years of searching

        3. The glint of gold” (November 26, 1922)

          1. At first I could see nothing…but presently as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold.”

      1. The Treasures of King Tut’s Tomb

          1. The treasures of Tutankhamon are located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Let’s look at some of the most famous objects.

          2. Over 5,000 objects

          3. A lotus flower surmounted by a King Tut’s head (being born into the afterlife)

          4. The young pharaoh’s chair

          5. The golden throne

          6. Canopic coffinettes: held internal organs

          7. Selket – the goddess protector. “These four goddesses shall be your flesh, exterminating those who come against you.”

          8. Three nested coffins

          9. Innermost coffin – solid gold and weighs 243 lbs.

          10. Death mask of Tutankhamon

            1. REPOUSSE technique – hammering the material (usually metal) from the inside to create a design on the outside

            2. Notice traces of the Amarna style

          1. Mummified fetuses – unclear why they are there – Attempts to have children?

          2. Many walking staffs, more than any other pharaoh’s tomb – Why?

          1. Wooden chest

            1. Portrays Tut as a warrior in his chariot shooting down the enemy like wild game

            2. Probably was too young to be a warrior pharaoh but this appropriate for someone of his status

            3. Three tiers of his soldiers are in chariots behind him, much smaller (hierarchical scale, shows many soldiers)

            4. Note the chaotic composition of the enemy on the right. Pharaoh is fighting chaos. He is order. Conservative continuity is held in high regard in ancient Egypt.

    1. Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt, 19 Dynasty, ca. 1290 – 1224 BCE, Sandstone.

      1. Colossi 65’ high

      2. Proclaim his greatness after many successful campaigns.

      3. Rock cut temple with 32’ tall figures of king in guise of Osiris

      4. Had 50 sons, lots of wives

      5. Whole temple moved in 1968 to prevent it from being flooded when Aswan dam reservoir was created.

    2. Egyptian painting

      1. Usually painted pictures of scenes from life on the walls of tombs to entertain the ka

      2. Painted scenes in BOOKS OF THE DEAD, scrolls with spells and incantations to guide the ka through the after life

      3. Examples:

        1. Last Judgment of Hu-Nefer

    1. Hu-Nefer was a royal scribe and steward of the pharaoh Seti I

    2. The scene is part of a papyrus scroll found in his tomb that was part of his BOOK OF THE DEAD

    3. At left, Anubis, jackal-headed god associated with embalming leads the ka of Hu-Nefer toward the Weighing of the Heart ceremony.

    4. Hu-Nefer’s heart is being weighed against a feather representing Maat, goddess of truth.

    5. If his heart is lighter than the feather, Hu-Nefer will proceed into the afterlife

    6. If the weighing is unfavorable, Ammit, a half hippo/half lion monster will devour Hu-Nefer’s heart

    7. Egyptian pantheon of gods observes proceedings

    8. Thoth- god of scribes records the proceedings.

    9. Horus – son of Osiris, brings Hu-Nefer to meet Osiris, god of the underworld. Osiris is flanked by his sisters Isis and Nephthys.

    10. Hu-Nefer hopes to receive the award of eternal life

    11. Notice that the scene lacks the stylistic features of the Amarna period. The rigidity of the figures, the lack of emotion represents the return to the conservative Egyptian style of art.

        1. Fowling scene from Nebamun’s tomb

          1. PURPOSE: to entertain Nebamun’s ka

          2. Nebamun was a scribe and took inventory of grain during the 18th Dynasty

          3. This scene shows Nebamun taking some recreation time. He is about to throw a stick at a flock of birds while he stands on his papyrus boat

          4. The painting is a fragment from a wall which also included a scene of Nebamun spear-fishing. The tip of his spear can be seen entering the water in the lower left hand corner.

          5. His wife, Hatshepsut (not the pharaoh), is behind him dressed in elegant clothing and his daughter sits between his legs

          6. A cat jumps up and bites one of the birds and a duck sits on the corner of his boat

          7. Painting may be more than just a fowling scene. There are symbols that include sexual love for his wife and there are references to the afterlife and rebirth.


    1. Egyptian power declined

      1. Alexander the Great of Macedon invaded Egypt and was proclaimed a god. His general Ptolemy took Egypt after Alexander’s death and established the Ptolemaic line. Cleopatra and her brother were the last pharaohs of the Ptolemaic line.

      2. Romans conquered Egypt under Octavian (Caesar Augustus) when they defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s forces at the Battle of Actium

      3. Egypt style and architecture still remained prominent in the Roman Empire (many obelisks were taken to decorate the Roman Empire

      4. Pylon Temple of Horus, 237 -47 BCE. Sunken reliefs show Horus and Hathor witnessing Ptolymy XIII bashing undersize enemies.

    1. Consistency of Egyptian Art

      1. Mentuemhet from Karnak, Egypt

        1. Rich and powerful man who was mayor of Thebes during the 26th Dynasty

        2. Notice his stiff, upright stance, compact pose, little space between limbs, one foot striding forward, frontality of the pose.


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