I+D National (2021-2024)

Ministry of Science and Innovation – I+D Project PID2020-114188GB-100

The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: social change, cultural innovation, political

struggle, and state reformation in First Intermediate Period and Middle Kindgom Thebes


The funded project I+D PID2020-114188GB-100 constitutes a continuation and expansion of the previous 3-year project “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: archaeology, epigraphy and conservation of late Eleventh Dynasty and early Middle Kingdom tombs in Thebes (Luxor, Egypt)”, developed in 2017-2020. As regards the previous three years of work, the MKTP focused exclusively on funerary aspects and monuments, initiating the study of the late Eleventh Dynasty and early Twelfth Dynasty cemeteries of Asasif and Deir el-Bahari. In this new phase to be developed in 2021-2024 and beyond, however, the MKTP expands its interest and research focus to other cemeteries of the period and the domains of temple and settlement.


With this new research initiative, the Middle Kingdom Theban Project will apply an unprecedented large-scale, multidisciplinary approach to the study of the city of Thebes in the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom (2130–1920 BCE). The establishment of the intended research will take place along four axes: (1) the study of the Theban cemeteries and their development in these periods; (2) the examination of settlements and urban landscape in Thebes; (3) the analysis of the temples and their cultic activities; (4) the mapping and study of the entire province of Waset. Above all, the fundamental purpose of the project is to clarify the role of the ruling elites and communities of Thebes in the construction of the Middle Kingdom and, in doing so, help to define the environmental, social, and cultural transformations experienced by the city during 200 years, since the fall of the Old Kingdom until the reign of Senwosret I. This will be the first application of such a large-scale broad approach to the study of the pre-New Kingdom city and community of Thebes.


These four largely historical, archaeological, and philological axes will serve as a contextual grid for the central activity of the project: the historical plotting and tracking of the lives of the Theban inhabitants in a highly transformative period of social change, economic redistribution, migratory flows, and political struggle between provincial rulers. The later reconfiguration of this model –in the early twelfth dynasty– will evidence the adaptative attempts of the central state and the royal authority to a new milieu of semi-autonomous nomarchs, regional unrest, and even regicide. This research will be accomplished partly through fieldwork initiative in Egypt, namely archaeological excavations (continuation of HAR2017-2020), geophysical surveys, and implementation of remote sensing/GIS in areas of cemetery, settlement, temples, and the hinterland. It will also be achieved by various lines of research involving collection of data into a non-SQL database, analysis of previous data (from archives such as those in MMA and CFEETK, excavations, and existing bibliography), and combination of this evidence with newly retrieved unpublished information. The process, enriched by the evaluation of a wide range of primary sources (text, iconography, material culture, monument), will stimulate the deep understanding of each of the four axes and the reconstruction of a diachronic history of the city.


Publicly accessible, the project database and the publication of the outcome will not only constitute powerful tools in the analysis of the Theban evidence, but it will also allow other scholars immediate access to data and results from the project, which will facilitate tremendously research. The results delivered by this avenue of research, which has never been comprehensively done before and demands a large team, beyond-cutting-edge technology, and traditional library/archive/fieldwork methods, will transform the way in which scholars approach to a second millennium BCE city.

In a nutshell, the site of Thebes and both its western and eastern banks offer an exceptional opportunity to convey traditional archaeological research and beyond-cutting-edge technology on the reconstruction of the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom, as well as an unparalleled framework of historical, philological, and archaeological research on the multiple aspects this community and setting can offer to the field. The scale of our project is unprecedented: historical (Theban nomarchs, political conflict, toponymy, provincial and military administration, social conditions, wealth flow), philological (religious texts, administrative titles, literary propagandistic compositions, language change), archaeological (settlement, cemeteries, temples), and avant-garde technology (remote sensing, satellite imagery, geophysical analysis, GIS, geomorphological reconstruction, 3D laser). Upon our documentation and study of the area, we considered that the reconstruction of the social, political, and cultural conditions of the period at Thebes could be achieved only by collecting, examining, and interpreting all data available, integrating the evidence into a global, larger scale project as described in this section.

Members of the I+D National (2021-2024)

  • Sergio Alarcón Robledo (Harvard University)
    Kelly Ann Accetta (Headstone Manor Museum)
    Marta Arranz Cárcamo (University of Alcalá)
    Bettina Bader (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
    Manuel F. Carrillo Rodríguez (University of Alcalá)
    Flavio Celis D’Amico (University of Alcalá)
    Enrique Dorado Fernández (Instituto Anatómico Forense, CAM)
    Ernesto E. Echeverría Valiente (University of Alcalá)
    Raghda El-Behaedi (University of Chicago)
    Luc Gabolde (CNRS, Centre Franco-Égyptian d’Étude des Temples de Karnak)
    Carlos Gracia Zamacona (University of Alcalá)
    Angus Graham (Uppsala Universitet)
    Wolfram Grajetzki (University College London)
    Jochem Kahl (Freie Universität Berlin)
    Nisha Kumar (Harvard University)
    David Laguna Palma (University of Granada)
    Miriam Luciañez Triviño (Universidad del País Vasco)

  • Emilié Martinet (University Paul Valéry Montpellier)
    Gianluca Miniacci (Università di Pisa)
    Nadine Moeller (Yale University)
    Antonio J. Morales (University of Alcalá)
    Juan Carlos Moreno García (CNRS, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne)
    Violeta Moreno Megías (Instituto de Patrimonio)
    Ludwig Morenz (Bonn Universität)
    Beatriz Noria Serrano (University of Alcalá)
    Leire Olabarria (University of Birmingham)
    Jónatan Ortíz García (University of Alcalá)
    Mohamed Osman (Polish Academy of Sciences)
    Sika Pedersen (University of Alcalá)
    Ilona Regulski (British Museum)
    Raúl Sánchez Casado (University of Granada)
    Iria Souto Castro (University of Alcalá)
    Cornelius von Pilgrim (Schweizer Institut für Ägyptische Bauforschung)
    Elsa Yvanez (University of Warsaw)