The Middle Kingdom (around 2000-1650 BCE) is among the least known periods of ancient Egyptian history.
The Old Kingdom is known by its pyramids, the New Kingdom by colossal temples and the golden mask of Tutankhamun.
The remains from the Middle Kingdom are less impressive because they are different.Our knowledge of this period is shaped by its writers and sculptors.
Literary texts from the Middle Kingdom offer deep meaning, while the sculpture depicts people’s faces and expresses concern and intent.
This period started with the reunification of Egypt under the Theban king Mentuhotep (also known as Nebhepetre) in about 2040 BCE, after more than a hundred years of disunity.
One of the main characteristics of this period was the increased importance of gods and temples.
Temples were made of stone, and many buildings, such as fortresses, were made of bricks.
The most important deity during this period was Osiris – the god of the Afterlife and the underworld.
A recurring theme in literary works, such as the Loyalist Teaching and the Instructions of a Man for his Son, which were created during the Middle Kingdom, was the ideology of ruling a harmonious society.
The cult of the pharaoh is reinforced by stone temples, written word, rewards, and threats. Everyone had to demonstrate loyalty to the pharaoh and to do so actively.
The pharaoh was at the top of ancient Egyptian society. The rest of the population was divided into two sharply separated classes:
However, these classes were not restricted, and common people could advance at the Egyptian court, in the army, or the administration.
Social stratification existed in the afterlife too. Not everyone could be mummified and buy a coffin.
Also, most people did not have sufficient knowledge and could not perform appropriate rites.
The time of his reign was a time of great economic prosperity in Egypt – which persisted during the reign of his son, Amenemhat III.