Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

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Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

c. 1650 BC – c. 1550 BC
The political situation in the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1650 — c. 1550 BC) Thebes was briefly conquered by the Hyksos c. 1580 BC
Languages Ancient Egyptian
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion
Government Monarchy
 •  c. 1648 BC Salitis (first)
 •  c. 1555 – c. 1550 BC Kamose (last)
 •  Established c. 1650 BC 
 •  Disestablished  c. 1550 BC
Today part of  Egypt

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt fell into disarray for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom.

It is best known as the period when the Hyksos made their appearance in Egypt and whose reign comprised the Fifteenth dynasty.

End of the Middle Kingdom

The brilliant Egyptian twelfth dynasty came to an end at the end of the 19th century BC with the death of Queen Sobekneferu (1806–1802 BC).[1] Apparently, she had no heirs, causing the twelfth dynasty to come to a sudden end, and, with it, the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom; it was succeeded by the much weaker thirteenth dynasty of Egypt. Retaining the seat of the twelfth dynasty, the thirteenth dynasty ruled from Itjtawy ("Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands") near Memphis and el-Lisht, just south of the apex of the Nile Delta.

The thirteenth dynasty is notable for the accession of the first formally recognised Semitic king, Khendjer. The thirteenth dynasty proved unable to hold on to the entire territory of Egypt, however, and a provincial ruling family of Canaanite descent in Avaris, located in the marshes of the eastern delta, broke away from the central authority to form the fourteenth dynasty.[1]

Fifteenth dynasty

The Fifteenth Dynasty dates approximately from 1650 to 1550 BC.[2] Known rulers of the Fifteenth Dynasty are as follows:[2]

The Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt was the first Hyksos dynasty, ruled from Avaris, without control of the entire land. The Hyksos preferred to stay in northern Egypt since they infiltrated from the north-east. The names and order of kings is uncertain. The Turin King list indicates that there were six Hyksos kings, with an obscure Khamudi listed as the final king of the Fifteenth Dynasty[3] (line X.21 of the cited web link clearly provides this summary for the dynasty: "6 kings functioning 100+X years"). The surviving traces on the X figure appears to give the figure 8 which suggests that the summation should be read as 6 kings ruling 108 years.

Some scholars argue there were two Apophis kings named Apepi I and Apepi II, but this is primarily due to the fact there are two known prenomens for this king: Awoserre and Aqenenre. However, the Danish Egyptologist Kim Ryholt maintains in his study of the Second Intermediate Period that these prenomens all refer to one man: Apepi I who ruled Egypt for 40+X years.[4] This is also supported by the fact that this king employed a third prenomen during his reign: Nebkhepeshre.[5] Apophis likely employed several different prenomens throughout various periods of his reign. This scenario is not unprecedented, as later kings, including the famous Ramesses II and Seti II, are known to have used two different prenomens in their own reigns.

Sixteenth dynasty

The Sixteenth Dynasty ruled the Theban region in Upper Egypt[6] for 70 years.[7]

Of the two chief versions of Manetho's Aegyptiaca, Dynasty XVI is described by the more reliable[8] Africanus (supported by Syncellus)[9] as "shepherd [hyksos] kings", but by Eusebius as Theban.[8]

Ryholt (1997), followed by Bourriau (2003), in reconstructing the Turin canon, interpreted a list of Thebes-based kings to constitute Manetho's Dynasty XVI, although this is one of Ryholt's "most debatable and far-reaching" conclusions.[8] For this reason other scholars do not follow Ryholt and see only insufficient evidence for the interpretation of the Sixteenth Dynasty as Theban.[10]

The continuing war against Dynasty XV dominated the short-lived 16th dynasty. The armies of the 15th dynasty, winning town after town from their southern enemies, continually encroached on the 16th dynasty territory, eventually threatening and then conquering Thebes itself. In his study of the second intermediate period, the egyptologist Kim Ryholt has suggested that Dedumose I sued for a truce in the latter years of the dynasty,[7] but one of his predecessors, Nebiryraw I, may have been more successful and seems to have enjoyed a period of peace in his reign.[7]

Famine, which had plagued Upper Egypt during the late 13th dynasty and the 14th dynasty, also blighted the 16th dynasty, most evidently during and after the reign of Neferhotep III.[7]

Thebes (Luxor Temple pictured) was the capital of many of the Dynasty XVI pharaohs.

From Ryholt's reconstruction of the Turin canon, 15 kings of the dynasty can now be named, five of whom appear in contemporary sources.[6] While most likely rulers based in Thebes itself, some may have been local rulers from other important Upper Egyptian towns, including Abydos, El Kab and Edfu.[6] By the reign of Nebiriau I, the realm controlled by the 16th dynasty extended at least as far north as Hu and south to Edfu.[7][11] Not listed in the Turin canon (after Ryholt) is Wepwawetemsaf, who left a stele at Abydos and was likely a local kinglet of the Abydos Dynasty.[6]

Ryholt gives the list of kings of the 16th dynasty as shown in the table below.[12] Others, such as Helck, Vandersleyen, Bennett combine some of these rulers with the Seventeenth dynasty of Egypt. The estimated dates come from Bennett's publication.[13]

Abydos dynasty

Main article: Abydos Dynasty

The Abydos Dynasty may have been a short-lived local dynasty ruling over part of Upper Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt and was contemporary with the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties, approximately from 1650 to 1600 BC.[14] The existence of an Abydos Dynasty was first proposed by Detlef Franke[15] and later elaborated on by Egyptologist Kim Ryholt in 1997. The existence of the dynasty may have been vindicated in January 2014, when the tomb of the previously unknown pharaoh Seneb Kay was discovered in Abydos.[14] The dynasty tentatively includes four rulers: Wepwawetemsaf, Pantjeny, Snaaib,[16] and Seneb Kay.

The royal necropolis of the Abydos Dynasty was found in the southern part of Abydos, in an area called Anubis Mountain in ancient times. The rulers of the Abydos Dynasty placed their burial ground adjacent to the tombs of the Middle Kingdom rulers.[14]

Seventeenth dynasty

Around the time Memphis and Itj-tawy fell to the Hyksos, the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from Itj-tawy, becoming the Seventeenth Dynasty. This dynasty would eventually lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos back into Asia. The Theban-based Seventeenth Dynasty restored numerous temples throughout Upper Egypt while maintaining peaceful trading relations with the Hyksos kingdom in the north. Indeed, Senakhtenre Ahmose, the first king in the line of Ahmoside kings, even imported white limestone from the Hyksos-controlled region of Tura to make a granary door at the Temple of Karnak. However, his successors — the final two kings of this dynasty — Seqenenre Tao and Kamose are traditionally credited with defeating the Hyksos in the course of the wars of liberation. With the creation of the Eighteenth Dynasty around 1550 BC the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history begins with Ahmose I, its first pharaoh, completing the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and placing the country, once again, under centralised administrative control.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kim S. B. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, c.1800-1550 B.C., Museum Tusculanum Press, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 20. 1997, p.185
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 481. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  3. Turin Kinglist Accessed July 26, 1006
  4. Kim Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C." by Museum Tuscalanum Press. 1997. p.125
  5. Kings of the Second Intermediate Period University College London; scroll down to the 15th dynasty
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Bourriau 2003: 191
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Ryholt 1997: 305
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bourriau 2003: 179
  9. Cory 1876
  10. see for example, Quirke, in Maree: The Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth - Seventeenth Dynasties, Current Research, Future Prospects, Leuven 2011, Paris — Walpole, MA. ISBN 978-9042922280, p. 56, n. 6
  11. Darrell D. Baker: The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I - Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC, Stacey International, ISBN 978-1-905299-37-9, 2008, pp. 256-257
  12. Kings of the Second Intermediate Period 16th dynasty (after Ryholt 1997)
  13. Chris Bennet, A Genealogical Chronology of the Seventeenth Dynasty, Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 39 (2002), pp. 123-155
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Giant Sarcophagus Leads Penn Museum Team in Egypt To the Tomb of a Previously Unknown Pharaoh". Penn Museum. January 2014. Retrieved 16 Jan 2014. 
  15. Detlef Franke: Zur Chronologie des Mittleren Reiches. Teil II: Die sogenannte Zweite Zwischenzeit Altägyptens, In Orientalia 57 (1988), p. 259
  16. Ryholt, K.S.B. (1997). The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period, C. 1800-1550 B.C. Museum Tusculanum Press. p. 164. ISBN 8772894210. 


  • Von Beckerath, Jürgen. "Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten," Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23. Glückstadt, 1965.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Oxford, 1964, 1961.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II." Chapter 2, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I." Chapter 8, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A., "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," Chronique d'Egypte, 63 (1968), pp. 313–324.
  • Oren, Eliezer D. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives Philadelphia, 1997.
  • Ryholt, Kim. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C., Museum Tuscalanum Press, 1997. ISBN 87-7289-421-0
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven,ładcy Egiptu#Drugi okres przejściowy