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Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period c. 1800-1550 BC (Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications) Hardcover – 1 Feb 1998

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great update on the Turin Canon but uneven on SIP matters 8 Jan 2005
By Fabian Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book by Kim Ryholt is required reading for a History of the Second Intermediate Period (SIP) and has been called "fundamental" for an understanding of this notoriously opaque era with its list of more than 100 different kings. (Aidan Dodson, Bi Or LVII, January-April 2000, p.48) If Ryholt's study only dealt with the Turin Canon, I would definitely give it 5 stars. However, I can only give it 4 stars because some of his conclusions--particularly on the 14th Dynasty--have been shown to be erroneous.

Among many important revelations, Ryholt provides new evidence to prove that Sekhemre Khutawy, rather than Khutawre Ugaf, was the first king of the 13th Dynasty. (see pp.315-320) Ryholt convincingly argues that Nubkheperre and Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef were both the sons of a king named Sobekemsaf, most likely Sobekemsaf Shedtawy, based on inscriptions on a door jamb which was recovered from the remains of a 17th Dynasty temple in Gebel Antef. This family relationship is now universally accepted by all Egyptologists. Ryholt brilliantly demonstrates that the predecessor of Sobekhotep III was a certain Meribre Seth, and provides circumstantial evidence to argue that Manetho's 16th Dynasty was actually a Theban predecessor to the 17th Dynasty, and are reflected in the Turin Kinglist. The latter hypothesis has been followed by some scholars such as James Allen and Ms Bourriau--the latter in the 2000 book 'The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt,' and, more recently, by Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton's 2004 book: "The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt." This hypothesis is strongly affirmed by the relatively small scale of attestations, in the form of a single stela, dagger and/or a few royal seals, known for these Theban kings such as Sobekhotep VIII, Neferhotep III, Nebiriau I and Semenenre. In contrast, the 17th Dynasty kings carried out extensive temple restoration work throughout Upper Egypt while both Nebkheperre Intef and Seqenenre Tao commanded enough resources to construct a new temple and royal palace complex at Gebel Antef and Deir El-Ballas respectively. This suggests that the series of Theban kings listed within the Turin Canon lived in constrained economic times compared to the more prosperous 17th Dynasty and, therefore, were not members of this Dynasty. Ryholt also notes that there is no space for the known sequence of 17th Dynasty kings in this section of the Kinglist. The author argues that Kamose never approached the city of Avaris during his Year 3 campaign but rather seized territory belonging to Avaris near the Faiyum area of Middle Egypt. (pp.172-174) Ryholt also notes that Kamose instituted a brief coregency with Ahmose after his 3rd Year--during which he initiated a second campaign against the Nubians to retake Elephantine from the latter. This action is documented by 2 separate rock inscriptions at Arminna and Toshka in Nubia which strikingly depict the prenomen and nomen of Ahmose and Kamose side by side thereby denoting a coregency. (pp.273-274) In contrast, Kamose's Year 3 stela at Thebes--which documents his victory against Apophis--never once mentions Ahmose. Finally, the author rightly criticises the popular theory that the 13th Dynasty Viziers were more powerful than Pharaoh as baseless and untenable. Critically, Ryholt observes that less than 12 monuments "belong directly to the Viziers of the Entire Thirteenth Dynasty and among them a third are explicitly recorded as royal donations." (pp.282-283) This suggests that the 13th Dynasty kings controlled the Viziers rather than vice versa.

A unique discussion by Ryholt is his striking analysis of the famous Unwetterstele of Ahmose.(pp.143-148) This stela has conventionally been assumed to record--in vivid detail--the destruction caused by the massive Thera Eruption. However, this event has been dated to the late 17th Century BC on dendrochronology and Artic ice cores sample data--a time when the Hyksos were firmly in control of Egypt. The most significant portion of the stela as translated by Vandersleyen in RdE 19 reads "And it was reported to his Majesty (Ahmose): Districts have been entered (ie: taken), tombs have been demolished, temples have been ravaged, pyramids have been torn down, that which has been done is that which was not done. Then His Majesty commmanded that the temple-domains which had fallen into ruin in the entire land be renovated, the monuments of the gods be restored, their enclosure walls be raised (etc)." (pp.144-145) Ryholt, perceptively notes that the use of the verb 'k meaning 'to enter' is rather forced in the text and must be amended with the word "by water" in order to make sense of the line. Moreover, if districts had actually been penetrated by water--presumably a Tsunami caused by Thera--the royal scribes would have unequivocally stated "that 'districts...have been flooded'" by using a verb such as b'k which means 'to flood.' Instead the ambiguous verb 'k is used, which can also "be employed for conquering and taking hold of a district by the enemy, cf., eg. P. Rhind." (p.145) Ryholt argues instead that the Unwetterstele should be viewed as a metaphor for Egypt's "general state of desolation" after the final expulsion of the Hyksos by Ahmose and states that we have evidence of 12th and 13th Dynasty royal pyramid tombs, temples and statues being looted, destroyed and/or transported as war trophies to Avaris under the Hyksos king, Apophis. (pp.145-148) Hence, the events recorded by Ahmose may actually refer to the scorched earth policies adopted by the Hyksos in their gradual retreat from Egypt rather than a natural disaster.

However, the majority of Ryholt's conclusions regarding the 14th Dynasty have now been discredited (cf. a BASOR(315) 1999, pp.47-73 paper titled 'Seals and Kings' by D. Ben Tor & James/Susan Allen). Ben Tor and the Allens provide conclusive evidence to show that "not a single example of 14th Dynasty royal-name or private name scarabs from Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine [as] represented by Ryholt originated in an archaeological context that can be dated to the reign of the 13th Dynasty." (BASOR, p.59) The 3 writers also observe that the scarab of the Asiatic Treasurer Har, "was found in Tomb 20 of Stratum D/2 which dates to the final phase of the Hyksos Period(c.1560-1530 BC)" (BASOR, p.58) rather than to the 14th Dynasty, as Ryholt argues. There are certain other difficulties with Ryholt's proposal for the existence of Trade Agreements between the 13th and 14th Dynasties. No scrabs of Ryholt's 14th Dynasty have been found in any Canaanite archaeological settings that were contemporary with the 13th Dynasty or even at Byblos, which had an active trading relationship with the 13th Dynasty (BASOR, p.60). This situation casts grave doubts upon Ryholt's view that the 14th Dynasty was an early contemporary of the 13th Dynasty because it is improbable that this Asiatic state, which supposedly controlled the strategic Delta region, would not have participated in the profitable trade which developed between the 13th Dynasty with Canaan and Byblos respectively. Consequently, Ryholt's contention that the 14th Dynasty was always contemporary with the 13th Dynasty from the latter's time of inception cannot be sustained. Rather, the 13th Dynasty must have initially controlled all of Egypt including the Delta region and Tell el-Dab'a(Avaris). The 13th Dynasty's control over these two sites would have lapsed only relatively late in its lifetime--presumbly a few decades prior to the Hyksos invasion. The general abscence of 13th Dynasty monuments in the Delta can be explained by the damp environment and high water table in this region which acts against the preservation of royal monuments, and also by the unstable political structure of this Dynasty which featured numerous kings with brief 2 to 4 years reigns each. The 13th Dynasty was characterised by several coup d'etats: Meribre Seth himself was deposed by Sobekhotep III, who appears to been an Army officer. This situation would not have been conducive towards the initiation of major building projects in the Delta or throughout Egypt proper--which helps explain the relatively small number of attestations known for many 13th Dynasty kings.

Ryholt's assertion that Maaibre Sheshi was a 14th Dynasty contemporary of the early 13th Dynasty kings Khabau and Djedkheperew--which is based on the discovery of their seals in Building D at Uronarti--is undermined by Bietak's analysis of the ceramic materials found there, whose characteristics clearly date them to the latter half of the 13th Dynasty. (BASOR, p.57). This means that the Fortress of Uronarti was still being occupied by a 13th Dynasty garrison until late into this Dynasty's lifetime when the decision was finally taken to abandon it. Sheshi, therefore, would not necessarily have been an early contemporary of these two 13th Dynasty kings, as Ryholt claims. More recently, Ben Tor has produced evidence of at least 2 New Kingdom intrusions which were found amongst the Uronarti seals--see her paper in "Scarabs of the Second Millenium BC from Egypt, Nubia, Crete and the Levant: Chronological and Historical Implications," Vienna 2004. These New Kingdom intrusions demonstrate that the context of the Uronarti seals can no longer be seen as secure; accordingly, the Maaibre sealing can be viewed as a New Kingdom intrusion (ie: a New Kingdom sealing made by a SIP seal of Sheshi). Sheshi may, instead, have been a vassal king of the Hyksos who ruled in the Delta since 1)the archaeological contexts of his seals show him to be contemporary with the 15th Dynasty and 2)he never once employed the 'Heka-Khawaset' title on any of his 396 known seals. This title was exclusively used by the early Hyksos kings such as Khyan and Sakir Har. Incidentally, recently published ceramic studies by both Manfred Bietak and Beck & Zevulun in 1996 rule out a 14th Dynasty Delta place of origin for the Tell el-Yahudiya ware, as Ryholt thinks. (BASOR, p.60) They, instead, conclusively prove the Levantine origins of this item.

On other matters, the author's proposal that an Abydene Dynasty existed between the Hyksos Dynasty and the emerging 16th Theban Dynasty is debatable. While Abydos was an important religious centre in Upper Egypt, there is no evidence that it ever played a political role in Ancient Egypt and Manetho's Epitome never mentions such a Dynasty. Accordingly, the three kings that are placed here(Pantjeny, Senaaib & Wepwawemsaf) should be assigned to either the late 13th Dynasty or the late 16th Dynasty (lines 11.10-11.14 of the Turin Kinglist). Sekhemre Neferkhau Wepwawemsaf himself is an excellent candidate for inclusion as one of the 5 final Theban rulers of the 16th Dynasty. His prenomen closely mirrors that of Rahotep's--Sekhemre Wahkau--who is viewed as the founder of the 17th Dynasty. Ryholt's observation about the "exceptionally crude quality" of his Abydene stela (p.163) suggests that Wepwawemsaf ruled in a time of general poverty late in the SIP, and does not preclude a position in this Dynasty.

January 16, 2014 update: The skeleton of king Woseribre Senebkay, who appears to be one of the earliest kings of a forgotten Abydos Dynasty (1650-1600 B.C.) was found by a University of Pennsylvania expedition under Josef Wegner working with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. The expedition believes that there is evidence for about 16 royal tombs belonging to this unknown dynasty of which Senebkay's tomb was the first to be discovered. So, it now appears that Ryholt's theory about an Abydos dynasty ruling in the late SIP has been vindicated after all.

It must be stressed that the 5 kings which Ryholt places in the late 16th Theban Dynasty(in lines 11.10-11.14) such as Djedneferre & Djedhotepre Dedumose, Djedankhre Monthuemsaf, Meriankhre Mentuhotep and Senusert IV Seneferibre are more likely to be late 13th Dynasty kings instead. James Allen notes that the [...mose]--or [...mosre] as Ryholt's transcribes the text--in line 8.21 of the Turin Kinglist probably refers to a king's nomen since prenomens which ended in the '...mosre' element are not attested in Egypt's History until the Persian era. (BASOR, p.68) As a result, the line can confidently be restored as [...mose] and must have mentioned the nomen of one of the 2 Dedumose kings who are both attested by separate stelas in Upper Egypt (Djedhotepre at Edfu and Djedneferre in Gebelein). His successor, a certain [...maatre Ibi] in line 8.22, is in all likelihood Nebmaatre, a Late SIP era king whose axe blade was found "in a pan-grave at Mostagedda, some 20 k.m east of Abydos." (p.168) This identification is strongly supported by a thorough search of Professor Ryholt's comprehensive catalogue of all the known Second Intermediate Period kings (from Dynasties 13 to 17) which reveals that Nebmaatre was the ONLY ruler whose prenomen ends in the required "...maatre" form attested in the Kinglist. With Nebmaatre located here in the late 13th Dynasty, Senusert IV Seneferibre and Djedankre Monthuemsaf must also have been late 13th Dynasty kings since all three rulers can be shown to be close contemporaries on account of their axe blades, which are of a similiar type, but differ markedly from the axe blade of the 16th Dynasty Theban king Semenenre. Ryholt, however, does not consider the evidence from the axe blades--which is a more accurate method for establishing a king's general position in the SIP. The axe blade of Nebmaatre is an exact duplicate of that known for Djedankre including the shape of the blade, the direction of the writing, and the arrangement and choice of elements (nTr-nfr+prenomen+dj-anx). The blades, themselves, are similiar to that of Senusert IV but the latter's inscription only mentions the king's nomen. While the axe blades of all these 3 kings share the same type and style--with a very small variation in the tapering from the area that embeds into the handle to the fan edge--the axe-blade of Semenre is much longer and narrower in proportion before it reaches the fan edge. These stylistic differences rule out the proposition that Djedankhre, Nebmaatre and Senusert IV were ever kings of the 16th Dynasty since axe blades, like pottery, are sensitive chronometers of change whose characteristics evolved gradually over time. It is improbable that Semenre would be using an axe blade which differed significantly from those of his dynastic successors over a period of just 12-16 years, as Ryholt's 16th Dynasty Chronology requires. Moreover, compared to Ahmose I and Ahhotep's axe blades, Semenre's blade seems to mark an evolutionary stage between these 18th Dynasty blades and those of Djedankhre, Nebmaatre and Senusert IV respectively. Accordingly, there is some evidence that the three latter kings ruled before, rather than after, Semenre and should all be placed in the time-frame of the late 13th Dynasty instead. Meriankhre Mentuhotep would then also be a Dynasty 13 king since his prenomen, Meri-Ankh-re closely mirrors the prenomen of Djed-Ankh-re Monthuemsaf.

Djedneferre Dedumose's conspicuous statement on his Gebelein stela that he was "beloved by Thebes" (p.156) need not automatically mean that he was, in fact, a Theban king. Given the evidence from the Kinglist, he is more likely to be viewed as a late 13th Dynasty monarch who was desperately trying to maintain his Kingdom's increasingly fragile hold over Upper Egypt by paying special attention to Thebes. By his reign, Egypt had already entered into a period of political fragmentation with the creation of the 14th Dynasty in the Delta under Nehesy, whose monuments at Avaris have been dated by Bietak to Stratum F or B/3 around 1700 BC--corresponding to the late 13th Dynasty. (cf. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (2000) by Ian Shaw, pp.178-79 & 181) Since Djedneferre would have reigned sometime in the 1660's or 1650's BC under any reasonable SIP Chronology, he likely ruled a state whose authority over the rest of Egypt was rapidly collapsing. Nubia itself had been lost with the Dynasty's abandonment of the Nile Forts and Thebes may have been conceded in or shortly after his reign since Dedumose is the last 13th Dynasty king whose control over Upper Egypt is clearly documented. Later Dynasty 13 kings such as Nebmaatre(8.22), [...]Ubenre(8.23), Se[...]kare(8.24) and Seheqenre have left no monuments or traces of their reigns in any Upper Egyptian sites such as Deir El-Bahari, Karnak, Gebelein or Edfu where their predecessors are well attested. Ryholt's argument that the final king of the 13th Dynasty--a certain Se[...]enre in 8.27--was either Sekhaenre [...]s or Sewahenre Senebmiu is compelling but unprovable. These two rulers are only known at Deir El-Bahari along with a certain Sewadjare Mentuhotep, who is located in line 8.20 of the Kinglist. Sekhaenre may have been a predecessor of Sewadjare since the identities of the latter's 3 direct successors--a Dedumose, a Nebmaatre and an [...]Ubenre--are known. The burial here of an official of king Senebmiu who "had a canopic chest which contained the same text as the canopic chest of King Djedhuty" (p.72) of the 16th Dynasty shows that the two pharaohs were close contemporaries but does not prove beyond doubt that Sewahenre was a Dynasty 13 king. He could equally have been Djehuty's immediate predecessor and a Theban monarch who founded the 16th Dynasty (line 10.31 of the Kinglist), as Ryholt himself concedes.

Chris Bennett, in a JARCE 39(2002) paper, has argued that an overlap of decade or more occured between the end of the 13th Dynasty and the start of the 16th Theban Dynasty. If correct, this attractive hypothesis would relieve the severe compression inherent within Ryholt's Chronology which gives an improbable figure of 14 years [1662-1648 BC] for the last 18 kings of this state after Merkare Sobekhotep(8.8). By permitting these final kings to have ruled a total of 24 or 25 years [1663-1638 BC]--if Ryholt's estimate of 12 Years for Sobekhotep IV is reduced to 11 years instead like Neferhotep I's own reign--an average reign of roughly 1.5 years occurs per king. The 13th Dynasty would have ended later in 1638 BC while the First (ie: 16th) Theban Dynasty began 10-11 years earlier in 1648/1649 BC, as Ryholt proposes. Ahmose, the founder of the New Kingdom, would have assumed power in 1540/1539 BC based on a chronology which gives the poorly attested Tuthmose II a short 3 year reign, rather than Manetho's figure of 13 years. An overlap between the 13th and 16th Dynasties is consistent with the evidence of internal stability that existed in the early 16th Dynasty under Djehuty (3 yrs) and Sobekhotep VIII (16 yrs). In contrast, the final years of Sobekhotep VIII's reign was characterised by constant warfare with the Hyksos since his short-lived successor Neferhotep III, reveals in a stela that Thebes' fortunes had declined considerably due to strife with certain unnamed "foreigners"--presumbly the Hyksos.

In conclusion, Ryholt's analysis of the Turin Kinglist is first rate and his chapters on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th Dynasties hold up fairly well to most scholarly scrutiny. It is his treatment of the 14th Dynasty that is flawed. The author's case for a short-lived Abydene Dynasty now appears vindicated with the 2014 discovery of king Senebkay's tomb. His proposed candidates for the final five kings of the 16th Theban Dynasty is debatable. Finally, an overlap between Dynasty 13 and 16 would relieve the extreme compression inherent in Ryholt's Chronology for the end of the 13th dynasty in Egypt.

April 1, 2013 update: Since the publication of this book, Ryholt has stated that the Turin Canon gives either 108-109 or 140-149 years to the Hyksos 15th dynasty. Ryholt notes that "the traces after the 100-sign may be read either 8 or 40; both [readings] are equally possible. Hence the figure will have been either 108 or somewhere in the range 140-149 [years] (since there could have been a further figure after 40)" (December 2012 EEF E-mail) In a recently published Egypt and the Levant Volume 21 (2011) paper by Nadine Moeller & Gregory Marouard titled 'Discussion of Late Middle Kingdom and Early Second Intermediate Period History and Chronology in Relation to the Khayan Sealings from Tell Edfu' (pp.87-112), these two scholars discuss the discovery of an important early 12th dynasty Middle Kingdom administrative building in the eastern Tell Edfu area which was continuously used into the early Second Intermediate Period before it fell out of use in the 17th dynasty when its remains were sealed by a large silo court. Fieldwork by Egyptologists in 2010 and 2011 into the remains of the former 12th dynasty building which was also used in the 13th dynasty led to the discovery of a large adjoining hall which proved to contain 41 sealings showing the cartouche of the Hyksos ruler Khyan together with 9 sealings naming the 13th dynasty king Sobekhotep IV. As Moeller and Marouard write: "These finds come from a secure and sealed archaeological context and open up new questions about the cultural and chronological evolution of the late Middle Kingdom and early Second Intermediate Period." (E & L 21, p.87) These finds suggest that 1. Khyan was actually one of the earlier Hyksos kings and may not have been succeeded by Apophis--who was the second last king of the Hyksos kingdom--2. the 15th Hyksos dynasty was already in existence by the mid-13th dynasty period since Khyan controlled a part of northern Egypt at the same time as Sobekhotep IV ruled the rest of Egypt as a pharaoh of the 13th dynasty. Therefore, the 13th dynasty's control over all of Egypt had already fragmented before the accession of Sobekhotep IV who was one of the most powerful 13th dynasty Egyptian kings during the Second Intermediate Period. The find confirms the comments of the 2nd century BC historian, Artapanos, that under a king named Chaneferre or Chanephres (undoubtedly Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV here), Egypt was already divided into various kingdoms. (Thomas Schneider, Auslander in Agypten wahrend des Mittleren Reiches und der Hyksoszeit I, 1998, pp.158-59) Finally, since the Hyksos dynasty was already in existence by the mid-13th dynasty, rather than at its end as Ryholt argued in this book, it is more likely that the Hyksos 15th dynasty lasted between 140 to 149 years instead of 108 years.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The New Standard 18 Dec 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is *the* book for a thorough account of the political and social climate in Egypt during the second intermediate period. It is the first study to supplant von Beckerath's "Untersuchungen zur politsche Geschicte der Zweiten Zwischenzeit in Agypten" and takes into account virtually all of the evidence to come to light in the 33 years since von B's seminal work. My only complaint is that it does not treat any of the Nubian textual material which, although scant, does offer some worthwhile insight into the period. But, what can you do? The price is a bit on the steep side... which will probably preclude the non-specialist from picking it up. However, for the student of Egyptology, this is definitely a must-have for your reference shelf (assuming, of course, you don't have access to a good Egyptian-focused library)
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