Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period

There is no general agreement in Egyptology either about the length or about how to define the Second Intermediate Period.

Von Beckerath 1964 and Ryholt 1997 include the 13th to the 17th Dynasty. Other Egyptologists mark the end of the Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC) as the 'historical moment' when the country became politically divided, some time in the second half of the 13th Dynasty. In Digital Egypt for Universities, the Second Intermediate Period includes (for more technical reasons) the 13th to the 17th Dynasty. The material culture of the first half of the period thus defined belongs to the Middle Kingdom; it is therefore not specially treated here. Note that many finds of the Middle Kingdom presented in Digital Egypt belong to the 13th Dynasty.

The kings of the Second Intermediate Period form three blocks:

* late 13th Dynasty, when the area along the eastern fringes of the Eastern Delta broke away from central control; the little known rulers of this separate kingdom form the 14th Dynasty
* the 15th Dynasty, or Hyksos (so called in later Greek sources: the Egyptian original is HqAw xAswt 'rulers of foreign lands'); they invaded Egypt at some unknown point. The Hyksos had their capital at Avaris in the Eastern Delta. The material culture of the Hyksos is a variant of that of the Palestinian Middle Bronze Age.

Contemporary with the Hyksos there are Egyptian kings at Thebes, ruling the southern part of Upper Egypt. The Theban kings eventually defeated the Hyksos.

The king under whom Hyksos rule in the north was ended is Ahmose I; as the king who reunited Egypt he is the founder of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC), and considered first king of the 18th Dynasty, though it is not known in which year or years reunification took effect.

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 and sixteenth dynasties.

The brilliant Egyptian twelfth dynasty came to an end around 1800 BC with the death of Queen Sobekneferu (1807 BC – 1803 BC). Apparently, she had no heirs, causing the twelfth dynasty to come to a sudden end as did the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom, which 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 onto the entire territory of Egypt, however, and the provincial ruling family in Xois, located in the marshes of the western delta, broke away from the central authority to form the fourteenth dynasty. The splintering of the land accelerated after the reign of the thirteenth dynasty king Sobekhotep IV. It was during the reign of Sobekhotep IV that the Hyksos may have made their first appearance, and around 1720 BC took control of the town of Avaris (the modern Tell ed-Dab'a/Khata'na), a few miles from Qantir. The outlines of the traditional account of the "invasion" of the land by the Hyksos is preserved in the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Manetho recorded that it was during the reign of "Tutimaios" (who has been identified with Dudimose I of the fourteenth dynasty) that the Hyksos overran Egypt, led by Salitis, the founder of the fifteenth dynasty. This dynasty was succeeded by a group of Hyksos princes and chieftains, who ruled in the eastern delta region with their local Egyptian vassals and are known primarily by scarabs inscribed with their names and the period of their reign is called the sixteenth dynasty by modern Egyptologists.