Ancient Egypt enters its most prosperous and powerful era.

SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD: 1782-1550 BCE

Foreign Invasions

Canaanite nomads migrate southward into the Nile Delta with horse-drawn chariots and superior weapons. They conquer northern Egyptian cities, who are already weakened by famines and plagues. 

The Hyksos

A group of Canaanites establish a capital city called Avaris and establish their own royal dynasty in northern Egypt. The Egyptians call the invaders the Hyksos, a term meaning Rulers of Foreign Lands.

Restrained Rulers

Despite continued territorial losses, Pharaohs retain a degree of power in Thebes, a city-state in southern Egypt. However, they are forced to pay tribute to the Hyksos.

Chariots

Egyptians gradually adopt Hyksos technology such as improved metal weapons and compound bows. Most importantly, they develop lighter and faster chariots. 

The Great Royal Wives

Egyptians are monogamous. However, the Pharaoh can enter into diplomatic marriages with the daughters of allies. The primary wife of the king becomes known as The Great Royal Wife.

Royal Incest

Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao of Thebes marries his sister Ahhotep. This begins the practice of incestuous marriages, perhaps believing that it will keep the sacred royal line pure.

The Medjay

The Medjay, initially a Nubian desert tribe in the far south of the Nile, gradually become an elite group of desert scouts in the Egyptian military.

Theban Offensive

Seqenenre Tao and his son Kamose lead independent military campaigns against the Hyksos in an attempt to liberate Egypt from foreign rule. However, the battles do not go according to plan.

EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY: 1550-1292 BCE

 Ahmose & Ahhotep

The younger son of Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao assumes the throne. Only 10 years old, his mother Ahhotep co-rules with her son until he comes of age.

Pharaoh Ahmose

Around the age of twenty, Ahmose becomes king. Continuing the tradition of his father, Ahmose marries several sisters. Ahmose-Nefertiti becomes the Great Royal Wife.

Assault of Avaris

Ahmose renews military campaigns begun by his father and brother. He assaults the heavily fortified city of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos, and attempts to remove the foreign rulers from Egypt.

Further Campaigns

Following the war with the Hyksos, Ahmose continues military campaigns in Canaan and Nubia. Egypt regains territory previously lost from foreign invasions, civil wars, and rebellions.

Ancient Egypt enters the period known as the New Kingdom or Egyptian Empire.

Amun: The Hidden God

Amun, the local God of Thebes, is credited with the victories against the Hyksos and becomes the chief deity of Egypt. Amun, whose name means The Hidden One, gradually merges with the sun god Ra and becomes known as Amun-Ra.

The First Prophet of Amun

The position of High Priest of Amun, supreme ruler of the temple, is established. The High Priest is appointed by the Pharaoh.  

The Hidden Monastery

The supremacy of Amun, the hidden one, brings change to royal burial practices. Ahmose is likely entombed in a secluded tomb and temple, rather than a prominent one. The location is named Deir el-Bahari; the northern monastery.

The Last Pyramid

There is limited space surrounding the rugged cliff-bound terrain surrounding Thebes. The pyramid of Amosis is erected at the old necropolis of Abydos. However, the lone pyramid in the region serves as a cenotaph rather than a tomb.

The Amosis Pyramid is the last pyramid built by Egyptian Rulers. 118 Egyptian pyramids have been identified.

Amenhotep

When his father, Ahmose, and his two older brothers die, Amenhotep becomes the new Pharoah. His mother, Ahmose-Nefertari, co-rules with the young king for a brief period. His name means Amun is Satisfied.

The Water Clock

Amenhotep’s court astronomer, Amenemheb, invents a device to measure time. Water drips out of a marked stone vessel at a constant rate. The water clock is used by priests to determine the correct time for rites and sacrifices, especially at night.

Divided Tomb and Temple

Amenhotep makes another drastic change to royal funerary practices. In an attempt to protect his tomb from robbers, he separates his mortuary temple from his tomb.

The Ebers Papyrus

Medical knowledge is collected and copied into a 110-page scroll. The writing contains 700 incantations and remedies. It deals with such topics as depression, dementia, contraception, dentistry, and many other conditions.

Thutmose

Thutmose, the son of a non-royal mother and military commander, becomes Pharaoh. He extends the kingdom’s borders by personally leading campaigns into Mesopotamia in the far north and into Nubia in the far south

The Inverted River

Thutmose celebrates his northern victories in Mesopotamia with an elephant hunt. He returns home with strange tales of the Euphrates, a river that flows southward. The reverse of their Nile river, he names the river Inverted Water.

Temple of Karnak

Thutmose commissions massive extensions to Karnak, a temple for Amun in Thebes. Known as Ipet-isut, the most selected of places, it becomes the central location of worship and the main temple of Amun.

The Great City of Thebes

The population of the capital increases to an estimated 75,000. Thebes may be the largest city in the world. 

For approximately 2400 years, Karnak is the largest temple complex in the world.

The Peak

The El Qorn peak dominates the Theban Hills and has is shaped like a pyramid. It is named Ta Dehent, simply meaning The Peak.

Valley of the Kings

An isolated valley near The Peak becomes the new royal necropolis. It is officially named The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes.

Deir el-Medina

A secretive village, called The Place of Truth, is established in western Thebes. It becomes the home of artisans, labourers, and administrators of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Tomb of Thutmose

Thutmose is the first Pharaoh entombed in the Valley of the Kings. It also becomes the necropolis for the royal family and privileged nobles.

So far, 63 tombs have been discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

Thutmose II

Thutmose’s two eldest sons die. His third son is born of a concubine wife, but he marries his royal half-sister, Hatshepsut, to secure the position of Pharaoh. He is given the title of Thutmose II.

Thutmose III

Thutmose II has one son with his concubine wife before he becomes covered in a cyst-based disease and dies at the age of thirty. His two-year-old son becomes Pharaoh and is simply named Thutmose III.

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut, the great royal wife of Thutmose II, becomes the highest-ranked priestess of Amun. Her name means Foremost of Noble Ladies. She also co-rules with her stepson, Thutmose III, but soon takes advantage of the situation.

The Title of Pharaoh

The term Pharaoh, which means Great House, was initially the name of the royal palace. However, it becomes the official form of address for the royal ruler. Hatshepsut and Thutmose III are the first to be officially given the title Pharaoh.

The Composite Bow

Egyptians begin using a curved bow that is shorter and provides higher firing power. This allows for better mobility for chariot riders. However, the sophisticated bows are delicate to construct and prone to cracking.

Battle of Megiddo

Vassal States in Canaan rebel against their Egyptian rulers. The 44-year-old Thutmose III manufactures 1000 chariots and leads an expedition to quell the 10,000-man rebellion. The battle culminates with a siege of the fortress city of Megiddo.

Imperial Era

Thutmose III leads a total of seventeen military campaigns. An exceptional strategist and charismatic commander, he does not lose a single battle. Egypt gains significant territory.

The Cult of Amun

Hatshepsut and Thutmose III attribute their success to Amun and pay significant tribute to his temples. Amun’s priesthood gradually grows in power and influence.

Thutmose III is considered one of the greatest military leaders in ancient history. He is sometimes referred to as the Napoleon of Egypt.

Amenhotep II: The Conceited

The son of Thutmose III becomes Pharaoh. Perhaps in an attempt to live up to his father, Amenhotep II continually boasts of his abilities. However, he partakes in few military campaigns.

Thutmose IV: The Usurper

 The younger son of Amenhotep II usurps rulership from his elder brother. A prolific builder, Pharaoh Thutmose IV commissions a 105 feet tall obelisk; the tallest stone pillar in Egyptian history.

Amenhotep III: The Magnificent

The son of Thutmose IV becomes Pharaoh. Amenhotep III commissions magnificent building and art projects. Egypt enters a golden age of artistry, prosperity, trade, and cultural influence.

The Luxor Temple

Amenhotep III also commissions the construction of a great temple. The temple of Luxor is dedicated to kingship and may be the ceremonial location for crowning subsequent pharaohs.

AMARNA PERIOD: 1353-1336 BCE

Amenhotep IV

When his father and eldest brother die, Amenhotep becomes Pharaoh. He builds a temple dedicated to the solar deity Aten near the Temple of Amun in Karnak.

Amarna: The New Capitol

Akhenaten begins construction of massive temples and a new capital city: Amarna. In Egyptian the city is known as Akhetaten, meaning the Horizon of the Aten.

Akhenaten

Amenhotep becomes increasingly dedicated to Aten. He changes his name to Akhenaten in his 5th year as Pharaoh, which means Living Spirit of Aten. He writes a poem called The Great Hymn to the Aten.

Atenism: Early Monotheism

Akhenaten renounces other gods and declares Aten as the only deity of Egypt. He attempts to close the temples of other deities. Solar rays become the primary religious symbol and represent the unseen spirit of Aten.

Some scholars speculate that Akhenaten’s monotheism may have influenced Judaism.

The Great Powers’ Club

Babylon, Assyria, Hittite Empire, Egyptian Empire, and the Mitanni increasingly participate in diplomacy and trade. One of the earliest forms of international relations.

The Amarna Letters

There are two-hundred years of peace in the ancient near east. A collection of letters are written and exchanged between the Club of Great Powers. They are originally written in Akkadian, the prominent language of the time.

Neglected Allies

More concerned with internal religious changes, Akhenaten begins to neglect his allies. In the Amarna letters, Babylon and Hittites complain that they are ignored by the Pharaoh.

Diplomatic Incident

The King of Mitanni sends several letters of complaint to Amenhotep for shipping gold-plated statues rather than pure-gold statues.

Amarna Art

Perhaps because of newly established artists in Amarna, art shifts dramatically with longer flowing lines with exaggerated features. The royal family is depicted in highly stylized form.

Nefertiti

Akhenaten’s Great Royal Wife is Nefertiti. Their close depiction in art may indicate an intimate relationship. Renowned for her beauty, Nefertiti’s name means The Beauty has Come.

Royal Women

Nefertiti is given strong authority and may have co-ruled with Akhenaten. Nefertiti has six daughters and each is given the title of Queen. Women are given a larger role in royal and religious functions.

Tutankamen

Akhenaten has a son named Tutankhamen with one of his royal wives and sisters. He is either the son of Nefertiti or one of the eight daughters of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.    

The parentage of Nefertiti is uncertain. She may have been the daughter of Ay, who was a military commander, royal advisor, and possible uncle of Akhenaten.

Unusual Royal Necropolis

Akhenaten plans a royal necropolis on the east side of the Nile near Amarna. This makes the tombs on the side of sunrise, rather than sunset, which breaks a 1000-year tradition. 

Sunlit Tomb

Akhenaten’s personal tomb is designed to allow sunlight to reach the burial chamber. His sarcophagus features engravings of Nefertiti and sun-disks of Aten.

Possible Illness

Akhenaten may have suffered from a genetic abnormality and/or epilepsy. The latter of which may have triggered his spiritual visions and religious convictions.

Amarna Succession

Nefertiti, or possibly one of Akhenaten’s daughters, may have reigned for a brief period following the death of Akhenaten and a short-lived Pharaoh named Smenkhkare.

Pharaoh Tutankhamen

Tutankhamen, a name meaning the Living Image of Aten, becomes Pharaoh. The nine-year-old pharaoh is advised by his son-in-law General Horemheb and Grand Vizier Ay.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun

Under the influence of his advisors, Tutankhamen pledges allegiance to Amun and changes his royal name to Tutankhamun, meaning Living Image of Amun.

Religious Reversal

Pharaoh Tutankhamen reverses many religious changes made by his father. He restores Amun as the prominent deity of Egypt and reestablishes Thebes as the capital.

Health Problems

Tutankhamen has a cleft palate and spinal issues. He also develops bone necrosis in his left foot, forcing him to walk with a limp or cane. Furthermore, he marries his half-sister, who gives birth to two stillborn daughters.

King Tut’s health problems may be the result of generations of family incest.

NINETEENTH DYNASTY: 1292-1189 BCE 

Ramesses I

 A high priest of Amun from a noble military family is established as Pharaoh. He begins to reverse Akhenaten’s religious changes. The elderly ruler becomes known as Ramesses, whose name means Born of Ra.

Hittites Rising

While Egypt deals with internal reforms, the Hittites grow to become a dominant power. They gain control of important trade routes along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

Seti I

Ramesses reigns for a brief two-years. His son becomes Pharaoh and is called Seti, a named meaning of Set. He continues the reforms of his father.

Military Campaign

Seti I takes 20,000 soldiers northward. He recaptures outposts in an attempt to restrict Hittite expansion and restore Egyptian influence along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

The second half of the Egyptian Empire is also known as the Ramesside Period. Eleven Pharaohs are named Ramesses during the era.

Restoration Projects

Seti commissions building projects throughout the kingdom in order to restore temples that had been abandoned or neglected during the Amarna period.

Amarna Heresy

Atenism is declared a heresy. Seti disassembles temples and destroys monuments built for Aten. There is also an attempt to wipe all references of Akhenaten and his family line from official records.

Moses: The Egyptian Priest

A later tale is told of a priest named Osarsiph that continues to reject Egyptian polytheism. He attempts to establish an alliance with the Hyksos, leads a leper colony in a rebellion, and changes his name to Moses.

Mortuary Temple of Seti

Seti commissions the construction of a memorial temple in the Theban Necropolis. It also contains a shrine to his father, Ramesses, who did not construct a temple for himself.

There is much debate concerning the historicity of Moses. Nevertheless, his story might have originated from this era of Egyptian history.

Chariot Battalion  

Chariots become an increasingly important element in warfare. They are used for quick deployment, flanking, mobile archery, scouting, and communication.

Chariot Forces

Near-Eastern kingdoms are forced to maintain extensive chariot forces to stay competitive against their rivals.

Chariot Production 

Chariot construction and usage require a continual supply of wood and horses. Kingdoms pay significant expenses to maintain their chariot forces.

Chariot Nobles

Chariotry becomes an increasingly honored position and a noble class of charioteers develops. Pharaohs are accompanied by formal chariot processions.

Ramesses II

The son of Seti I becomes Pharaoh and is named Ramesses II. He establishes a new north-eastern capital called Pi-Ramesses, meaning the House of Ramesses.  Ramesses II uses his new capital to launch military campaigns against the Hittites in Canaan.

The Battle of Kadesh

The Egyptian campaign culminates in an attack on the major Hittite city of Kadesh. The battle includes over five thousands chariots. The Hittites are forced to withdraw, but the Egyptians are unable to capture Kadesh.

Hittite-Egyptian Peace Treaty

Continued military campaigns against the Hittites prove to be a massive drain on the Egyptian treasury. Eventually, Ramesses and the new Hittite King Hattusili sign a peace treaty; the earliest known peace treaty in history.

Egyptian Apex

Ramses II also leads southern military expeditions and brings Egypt to the height of its power, influence, and territorial expanse. Ramesses II becomes known as Ramesses the Great, while his successors call him The Great Ancestor.

The Battle of Kadesh is the largest-recorded chariot battle in history, the earliest-recorded battle with details of tactics and formation, and the earliest-known peace treaty in history.

Pharaoh Merneptah

The elder Merneptah, son of Ramesses II, becomes Pharaoh. His rule is occupied by western battles with a Libyan confederacy known as The Nine Bows, who are aided by seafaring raiders in the Mediterranean.

Dual Pharaohs

Seti II, son of Merenptah, becomes Pharaoh. However, his rule is challenged when Amenmesse, his half-brother, seizes control of Thebes and Nubia in southern Egypt. The rivalry weakens political stability.

Pharaoh Siptah

The son of Seti II, Siptah, becomes Pharaoh. The ten-year-old struggles with illness and co-rules with his step-mother, Queen Twosret. They are counselled by long-time family advisor Chancellor Bay.

Bay’s Execution

Chancellor Bay may have attempted to seduce Twosret and/or embezzled from the treasury. He loses favour with Siptah and is executed in the Pharaoh’s fifth year of rule.    

The 110-year Nineteenth Dynasty sees the reign of eight Pharaohs. They are all entombed in the Valley of the Kings.

TWENTIETH DYNASTY: 1189-1077 BCE

Civil War

Pharaoh Siptah dies when he is sixteen and Queen Twosret rules alone for one year. The already political unstable government soon splinters and Egypt enters a period of civil war.

Pharaoh Setnakhte

Userkhaure-setepenre Setnakhte, possibly a relative of Ramesses II, attempts to seize the throne. Possibly to reinforce his right to rule, he marries the daughter of Pharaoh Merneptah.

Stabilizing Government

Setnakhte struggles with continued instability but defeats his enemies in his second year of rule. He also expels temple looters from western Asia, which might relate to the Chancellor Bay situation.

Tomb Breach

Tomb-carvers constructing Setnakhte tomb in the Valley of the Kings accidentally breach another tomb. The Pharaoh appropriates the tomb of Seti II and Twosret and replasters it with his own images. 

It is not known how Queen Twosret’s rule came to an end. She may have died and it initiated a civil war or Setnakhte may have usurped the throne from her in a civil war. His defacing of Twosret’s tomb may indicate the latter.  

Pharaoh Ramesses III

Setnakhte is middle-aged and only rules for several years. Setnakhte’s son becomes Pharaoh and, perhaps to further legitimize the rule, is named Ramesses III.

The Sea People

The seafaring raiders from the eastern Mediterranean return. They devastate Hittite cities and soon begin to migrate southward into the fertile regions of northern Egypt.

Battle of Djahy

Outmatched at sea, the Pharaoh prepares strategic land-based tactics against the sea people. The charioteers are sent to make quick strikes and drive back the invaders.

Battle of the Delta

Sea People attempt to land in the Nile Delta. Ramesses dispatches a great line of archers to ambush the invaders with flaming arrows before they securely reach the shore.

Religious Restructuring

Ramesses initiates a massive reorganization and restoration of religious centers. Ramesses donates extensive land to temples, especially to the Temple of Amun in Thebes.

Financial Turmoil

There is a period of drought and famine. The starving population begins to protest. The Egyptian treasury, already depleted from extensive warfare, is stretched further.

Labor Strike

The elite tomb-builders in Deir el-Medina are unable to be paid and go on strike; the earliest known labor strike in history.

Harem Conspiracy

Queen Tiye, wife of Ramesses III, conspires against her husband in order to put her son on the throne.

Ramesses III is considered the last great pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Over a short period of 75 years, eight Pharaohs will claim the throne.

Ramesses IV

The son of Ramesses III becomes Pharaoh. Named Ramesses IV, he commissions massive building projects throughout the kingdom. However, the middle-aged Ramesses dies in his sixth year of rule.

Ramesses V

Ramesses V, son of Ramesses III, becomes Pharaoh and continues the construction projects of his father. Ramesses’ reign is also short-lived, while suffering from smallpox, the Pharaoh is inflicted by a major head wound.

Game of Thrones

Pharaonic authority is weakened as the royal family fight for rulership of Egypt. Rival kingdoms and factions take advantage of the internal conflict. Libyan raiders assault outlying territory.

Priests of Amun

The Temple of Amun, rather than the kingdom treasure, begins to fund workers. Gradually, the Amun priesthood gains full control over the Egyptian treasury.

Ramesses VI

The younger son of Ramesses III becomes Pharaoh following the death of his nephew.

Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Ramesses VI annexes the tomb of his nephew. Debris from the tomb construction buries the entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Grave Robbers

Ramesses VI reigns for 8 years. Shortly after his burial, tomb robbers severely damage his body as they hack his body and rip away his jewelry. However, Tutankhamun’s tomb remains hidden and mostly protected from tomb raiders.

Ramesses VII

Ramesses VI son becomes Pharaoh. His reign sees massive inflation as commodities increase in price, with grain prices tripling. The Temple of Amun continues to grow in land, wealth, and influence.

Tutankhamun’s tomb will remain mostly hidden until 1922.

Ramesses VIII

Yet another son of Ramesses III becomes Pharaoh. The short-lived Pharaoh, Ramesses VIII, likely reigns for less than a year.

Ramesses IX

The royal family continues to fight over the throne. Another grandson is installed on the Egyptian throne. Ramesses IX is likely the son of Prince Montuherkhepeshef, son of Ramesses III.

Robbery Trials

Several royal and noble tombs are raided in western Thebes. Stonemasons Amenpnufer and Haoiwer, along with six accomplices, stand accused of the robberies. If convicted, the men will be sentenced to death by impalement.

Ramesses X

Rameses X becomes Pharaoh. Libyan raiders and the ration shortages interrupt construction projects. Workers refuse direct orders from the Vizier himself.

Ramesses XI

Ramesses XI becomes Pharaoh. He reigns for nearly 30 years, but sees his rule increasingly hassled by the rising influence of the High Priests of Amun in the south and Libyan raids from the west.

War Against the High Priest

Pinehesy, Viceroy of Kush, assaults Thebes and expels Amenhotep as High Priest. Anarchy ensues as priestly gangs ransack royal funerary temples. Amenhotep is soon restored to his priestly position.

The Militant Priest

Piankh, a military commander, is established as the new High Priest of Amun. He asserts further control of southern territory. Perhaps to prevent another retaliation, a military force is dispatched to confront Pinehesy in Kush.

Capital of Tanis

Perhaps to distance himself from the Amun Priesthood and Libyan raiders, Ramesses XI moves 100 km northward and establishes Tanis in the north-eastern Nile delta as the new capital city.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tanis is the location of the Ark of the Covenant.

THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD: 1069-945 BCE

Drought, famine, and mass immigration by the sea people further destabilize Egypt.  The 21st Dynasty takes power over a much smaller territory and Egypt enters the Third Intermediate Period.