The beginnings of the Middle Kingdom

When Nebhepetra Mentuhotep II (2055-2004 BCE) ascended to the Theban throne (ca. 2030-2020 BCE) after controlling the Egyptian territory –which he inherited in a fragmented conditions– the so-called Middle Kingdom Renaissance started (ca. 2020-1650 BCE). Indeed, Mentuhotep II finished the conflict with the last Heracleopolitan king and reunified the Two Lands. The king also conducted some incursions Nubia and initiated a plan of national reconstruction that touched upon every domain: applying a “self-deification” program (e.g. he appears as “The Son of Hathor” at Gebelein and with the headdress of the gods Amun and Min at Dendera and Aswan) in order to emphasize kingship; designing a whole new architectonic initiative at sites such as Gebelein, Dendera, Abydos, Armant, El-Kab, Karnak and Aswan, which achieved its highest point with the mortuary complex at Deir el-Bahari (where he altered the saff-tomb model used by previous kings at el-Tarif); even by conducting significant changes in the administration, such as the creation of new offices (e.g. “governor of Lower Egypt”) and securing his control over the officials in order to strengthen the centralization of the Egyptian government.


At the same time, it seems that under Mentuhotep II the number of nomarchs experienced a decrease. The king recognized those who were loyal to the king as the essential support for tge monarchy; for instance, the governors of Asyut saw his power limited as a punishment for having supported the Heracleopolitan cause, whereas those at Beni Hassan and Hermopolis maintained their prestige and influence, as well as the leaders from Nag el-Deir and Akhmim. Other indicators of this Egyptian renaissance were the expeditions led by high-officials, such as the one to Sinai, organized by Khety, or the one launched by Henenu to Lebanon.

Under Mentuhotep III (2004-1992 BCE) and Mentuhotep IV (1992-1985 BCE), the same political strategy was applied. These kings continued with the building of monumental architecture started by Mentuhotep II, as well as with expeditionary campaigns in their search for resources for Egypt, such as the quarry expedition by Mentuhotep IV to Wadi-Hammamat. Hence, the relationship of Egypt with its neighbors was reinforced and it implied a new stage in the recuperation process.

The beginnings of the Middle Kingdom also implied new forms of art (sculpture, architecture, painting, jewelry…), a new conception of kingship, changes in funerary and religious practices, innovation in Egyptian literature and in the relationship with neighboring territories. These transformations reached their peak in the Twelfth Dynasty and during some the first part of the Thirteenth Dynasty. In this context, the Middle Kingdom Theban Project is focused on the documentation and excavation of the tombs of the officials that lived and witnessed these modifications and innovations (i.e. Henenu, Dagi, Djari) during the Eleventh Dynasty, as well as the study and research of those issues in relationship to the Theban landscape, the socio-cultural interactions between temples and the urban layout and, all in all, the study and research of ancient Thebes to achieve a better understanding of the period.