Egypt in the First Intermediate Period

After the long reign of king Pepy II Egypt separated into several political units.

The political division of the country is also clearly visisble in the material culture. In the First Intermediate Period different local styles developed in production of pottery, coffins, and relief carving in stone. The country was reunited under Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty. In many respects the first half of the period is still part of the late Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC), while the later part is already very close to the early Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC).

The different regional styles that developed in the First Intermediate Period are clearest in pottery, art and funerary items (objects produced only for the tomb).

The First Intermediate Period, often described as a “dark period” in ancient Egyptian history, spanned approximately one hundred years after the end of the Old Kingdom from ca. 2181-2055 BC. It included the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and part of the eleventh dynasties. Very little monumental evidence survives from this period, especially towards the beginning of the era. The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time in history where rule of Egypt was roughly divided between two competing power bases. One of those bases resided at Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, a city just south of the Faiyum region. The other resided at Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is believed that during this time, the temples were pillaged and violated, their existing artwork was vandalized, and the statues of kings were broken or destroyed as a result of this alleged political chaos. These two kingdoms would eventually come into conflict, with the Theban kings conquering the north, resulting in reunification of Egypt under a single ruler during the second part of the eleventh dynasty.

The seventh and eighth dynasties are often overlooked because very little is known about the rulers of these two periods. Manetho, a historian and priest from the Ptolemaic era, describes 70 kings who ruled for 70 days.