The Middle Kingdom
of Egypt

XI Dynasty, of Thebes
Mentuhotep I2160-2134?
Intef/Inyotef I2134-2117/2123
Intef/Inyotef II2117-2069,
Intef/Inyotef III2069-2060,
The Middle Kingdom
Mentuhotep IIS'ankhibtowe2060-2010,
Mentuhotep III2010-1998,
Mentuhotep IV1997-1991,

The first Egyptian dynasty from Thebes, with names that reflect a local Theban war god, Montu. Of course, these local rulers of a fragmented county end up counting as a dynasty only because, around 2040, Mentuhotep II succeeded in overthrowing the obscure Heracleopolitan kings and reuniting Egypt. This is usually taken as the proper beginning of the Middle Kingdom, so the XI Dynasty, starting in the First Intermediate Period, is the only dynasty in Egyptian history that is taken to straddle two such divisions. In the course of his long reign Mentuhotep II employed three different Horus names. Earlier historians took this to mean that they were dealing with three different kings, and the total of Mentuhoteps (with this King previously counted as the first) as a consequence was formerly reckoned up to five. The last Mentuhotep seems to have been overthrown by his own vizier, Amenemhet, who thus founded the XII Dynasty. Some ill feeling may have persisted, since Amenemhet himself was ultimately assassinated, a sort of act that was, as far as we know, rather rare in Egyptian history.

The treatment here is based on Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs [Thames & Hudson, 1994], Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs [Oxford, 1966], and now Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt [Thames & Husdon, 2004]. The Horus names of Mentuhotep I are given with Gardiner's speculative vocalization, based on Coptic. Dodson and Hilton begin the Dynasty with a Mentuhotep who is not listed in the other sources. The second set of dates are theirs.

Chronology and Julian Day Numbers
for the Egyptian XII Dynasty

The Middle Kingdom
The XII DynastyPyramidLehner 1997Dodson & Hilton 2004
Amenemhet I1991-1962
Senwosret I1971-1928
Amenemhet II1929-1895
Senwosret II1897-1879
Senwosret III1878-1843
Amenemhet III1842-1797

Amenemhet IV1798-1790
The XII Dynasty, the height of the Middle Kingdom, is one of the classic periods of Egyptian history. Not as spectacular as the previous Old Kingdom or the later New Kingdom, the kings did not build colossal pyramids as in the former period or carry out impressive military campaigns and conquests as in the latter. The XII Dynasty pyramids were comparable in size to those of the V and VI Dynasties, and for the first time incorporated blind passages, trap doors, and other security measures in the interiors. But the core of the pyramids was now mud brick, which eroded and crumbled catastrophically once the outer stone casing was breached. These structures thus failed to impress subsequent travelers. And while the kings did expand Egypt up the Nile, building forts deep into Nubia, which added the most durable conquests of all to Egyptian territory, there were none of the expeditions into Palestine or Syria and spectacular battles by which the XVIII and XIX Dynasties were distinguished. The XII Dynasty kings, none of whose mummies have survived, seem the most human of all the Egyptian kings -- the divine king as the "Good Shepherd." Indeed, it was during the Middle Kingdom that the cult of Osiris was extended from the king to all Egyptians, with a promise of immortality and a happy afterlife for all. Anyone could become Osiris. We also have the earliest surviving secular Egyptian literature from the Middle Kingdom, as the language of the period, Middle Egyptian, became the literary language for the rest of Egyptian history. The XII Dynasty is thus an object of considerable affection for Egyptophiles, even if it usually fails to catch the attention of more casual observers or popular presentations of Egyptian history.

R.A. Parker, in his The Calendars of Ancient Egypt [U. of Chicago, 1950], worked out a complete chronology of the XII Dynasty based on astronomical references during that Dynasty to the heliacal rising of Sirius and to phases of the moon, dated in regal years of known kings. These results are listed and discussed in a general way in Sir Alan Gardiner's Egypt of the Pharaohs [Oxford U. Press, 1961, p. 439]. The XII Dynasty already represents the first fairly secure dates in Egyptian history; and if Parker is right, then the dates can be secured absolutely and the XII Dynasty is known with a certainty missing from the rest of Egyptian history until cross-references to Classical chronology (cf. E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World, Cornell U. Press, 1968). If the dates are known absolutely, then we can give the Julian Day Numbers for them. The following table thus gives the Day Numbers for all the benchmark (year 0) dates of the reigns of the XII Dynasty and the BC dates for the chronologically significant years (year 1, etc.). The XII Dynasty is well know for its system of regencies, so many reigns overlap. The zero year, first year, and last year are given for each reign, with overlaps. The Dynasty ends with the reign of Queen Sebeknefrure (or Sokebneferure), one of three women who are known to have occupied the throne of Ancient Egypt (not counting Greek Queens like Cleopatra), though nothing otherwise is known about Sebeknefrure or her reign.

Absolute Chronology of the XII Dynasty
Amenemhet Iyear 0 = Dynasty XIIyear 0year 0JD 993 847
Amenemhet Iyear 1year 11991 BC
Amenemhet Iyear 20 = Senwosret Iyear 0year 20JD 1001 147
Amenemhet Iyear 21 = Senwosret Iyear 1year 211971 BC
Amenemhet Iyear 30 = Senwosret Iyear 10year 301962 BC
Senwosret Iyear 42 = Amenemhet IIyear 0year 62JD 1016 477
Senwosret Iyear 43 = Amenemhet IIyear 1year 631929 BC
Senwosret Iyear 44 = Amenemhet IIyear 2year 641928 BC
Amenemhet IIyear 32 = Senwosret IIyear 0year 94JD 1028 157
Amenemhet IIyear 33 = Senwosret IIyear 1year 951897 BC
Amenemhet IIyear 35 = Senwosret IIyear 3year 971895 BC
Senwosret IIyear 19 = Senwosret IIIyear 0year 113JD 1035 0921879 BC
Senwosret IIIyear 1year 1141878 BC
Senwosret IIIyear 7 = Heliacal Rising
of Sirius on the 16th day
of the 8th month
year 1201872 BC
Senwosret IIIyear 36 = Amenemhet IIIyear 0year 149JD 1048 2321843 BC
Amenemhet IIIyear 1year 1501842 BC
Amenemhet IIIyear 44 = Amenemhet IVyear 0year 193JD 1064 292
Amenemhet IIIyear 45 = Amenemhet IVyear 1year 1941798 BC
Amenemhet IIIyear 46 = Amenemhet IVyear 2year 1951797 BC
Amnenemhet IVyear 9 = Sebeknefrureyear 0year 202JD 1067 5771790 BC
Sebeknefrureyear 1year 2031789 BC
Sebeknefrureyear 4 = Last Year
of the XII Dynasty
year 2061786 BC

In some recent books we see minor variations on Parker's dates. Thus, in the first table above I compare Parker's dates with those of Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids [Thames and Hudson, 1997, p. 8] and Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt [Thames & Husdon, 2004, p.289]. Dodson and Hilton end up with a pretty consist divergence of from three increasing to five years. I have not noticed any direct critique of Parker's data or methods, so in the table with Julian Day Numbers I proceeded with giving the Day Numbers for Parker's results. The value of the Egyptian consonants is discussed in "The Pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian".

The Egyptians originally identified the months by a count, one through four, of their place in the three seasons. Here I show the glyph of the moon over the number. So the Egyptians would identify the first month as . Eventually, the months quite reasonably became identified with the gods or festivals peculiarly associated with each month. These ended up as the names of the months in Coptic, as written in a modified Greek alphabet. Variations in the names occur, particuarly in relation to the two most prominent dialects of Coptic (among some others),
The Egyptian Year
Coptic name --
Sa'idic, Upper
Egyptian, Dialect
The Season of the Flood, 3kht
P n Ypt
H.t H.r
K3 H.r K3
The Season of Winter, Prt
T3 93bt
P n Mkhr
P n
P n Rnwtt
The Season of Summer, Shmw
P n Khnsw
P n Ynt
Mswt R9
5 Intercalary Days, Birthdays of:
Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis, & Nephthys360
Bohairic (Arabic , al-Buhairî, adjective of "lake" or "garden"), or Lower Egyptian Coptic, and Sa'idic (Arabic , as.-S.a'îdî, adjective of "upland" or just "Upper Egypt" -- also "Sahidic"), or Upper Egyptian Coptic. I give Sa'idic versions of the names here because these have been considered closer to Ancient Egyptian. However, when the
Coptic Patriarchate moved from Alexandria to Cairo in 960 AD (under the Ikhshîdid Amirs), the Bohairic dialect began to dominate as the literary language of all of Egypt. Coptic survived as a spoken language until the 15th or perhaps even to the 17th century -- see discussion of the confusion that has resulted from attempts to reconstruct its pronunciation. The population of Egypt may still have been as much as half Coptic Christian until the Mamlûks (1252-1517) began active persecution, something that both reduced the number of Copts to its modern remnant and probably finished off Coptic as a spoken language.

Since the Egyptian year was exactly 365 days long, it is easy to use the table for the XII Dynasty. Thus, if we are given a date, like the 16th day of the 8th month of the 7th year of Senwosret III (noteworthy as an attested heliacal rising of Sirius), what we need to do is:

  1. Multiply the number of the year by 365, which gives us 2555.

  2. Find the zero day of the month, in the table at left. The zero day of the 8th month (Coptic Parmoute) is 210. Add this to 2555, which gives us 2765.

  3. Add the day of the month (16) to 2765, which gives us 2781.

  4. Find the zero day for the reign of Senwosret III in the table above. That is Julian Day Number (JD) 1035 092. Add this to 2781, which gives us the answer, JD 1037 873.

JD 1037 873 can be converted to a date on the Julian calendar by using the tables and methods in "Julian Day Numbers for dates on the Gregorian and Julian Calendars".

Other benchmarks for dating with the Egyptian calendar are given in the following tables.
Sothic BenchmarkJD 705 13219 July 2783 BC
The "Sothic" benchmark is the conjectural date for the beginning of the Egyptian calendar, when the "heliacal rising" of Sirius originally coincided with the beginning of the calendar year. The helical rising is when the star first appears in the morning sky, in July. The Egyptians associated this with the advent of the Flood of the Nile each year. Since the Egyptians never added intercalations to their 365 day year, the calendar ran fast, and the calendar "Flood" rarely coincided with the actual Flood. When it did, after about 1460 years, it was a moment of excitement and optimism.

This may have happened at the beginning of the reign of Seti I (dated from 1317 to 1291 BC), who used the phrase , "Repeater of Births," as had Amenemhet I. Indeed, given the Sothic benchmark of 2783 BC, the Cycle would complete in 1323, probably in the reign of Haremhab. The Year 0 Benchmark for Amenhotep I is determined by the other complete date of a heliacal rising attested for Egyptian history, though there continues to be dispute and uncertainty about interpreting the date.
Amenhotep I BenchmarkJD 1157 00213 September 1546 BC
Ptolemaic (Nabonassar) BenchmarkJD 1448 27225 February 748 BC
The "Nabonassar" Benchmark is for the Era used by the Greco-Roman astronomer Claudius Ptolemy, who was using Babylonian astronomical records that went back to the beginning of the reign of the Babylonian King Nabû Nâs.iru in 747 BC. This was not an Era ever used by the Egyptians, but it continued to be used by astronomers at least until Copernicus, since it was easy to calculate using the even 365 days of the Egyptian year. Julian Day Numbers have now replaced this, since it is even easier to calculate by just using days.

Julian Augustan (Alexandrian) BenchmarkJD 1710 70629 August 30 BC
Julian Coptic (Diocletian) BenchmarkJD 1824 66429 August 283 AD
This table gives two Benchmarks for the Coptic calendar. That calendar is identical to the Egyptian calendar except that a leap year is used -- every four years an extra intercalary day is added to the five already used. This device, although proposed by Ptolemy III and adopted by Julius Caesar at Rome, was not adopted in Egypt until imposed by the Emperor Augustus. This "Alexandrian Year" was mainly used in Alexandria until finally accepted by the Egyptians in general when they converted to Christianity. Meanwhile, other, self-governing cities in the area had adopted the reform, using the identical structure of the Egyptian calendar, matched with Greek month names. We see examples in Bickerman of Gaza, as shown, and Ascalon [op. cit., p. 48]. The months at Gaza are actually the names from the Macedonian calendar, which itself started the year with , in the Autumn.
The Julian Egyptian YearGaza
29 August






27 March
26 April
26 May
25 June
25 July
5 Intercalary Days
24 AugustEpagomenai

The table shows the Coptic months of the Alexandrian calendar in their Bohairic form, which is often closer to the names in Greek. The names in Arabic are, of course, much later, but they sometimes follow the Sa'idic rather than the Bohairic versions of the Coptic names. We also have features of Arabic phonology, for instance that there is no "p," for which "b" is used.

Augustus imposed the Julian intercalation in 23 BC. It could have been done no earlier than 26/25 BC, which were the first years in which August 30/29 on the Julian calender would have been the Egyptian New Years. However, I use a benchmark of 30 BC because that is the beginning of the reign of Augustus in the Canon of Kings. It is also convenient to use for the calendar from its imposition by Augustus until the acceptance by the Egyptians. This "Augustan" Era from that date was never used by anyone.

The Coptic Benchmark, which is the actual Era of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, then represents the calendar used by the Copts themselves ever since. Since Diocletian persecuted Christians, the Copts refer to their era as the "Era of Martyrs" -- something that now again seems appropriate with attacks on the Copts in Egypt by Islamic radicals. The dates in the table are the fixed dates for the beginning of the months on the Julian Calendar. Because the Julian Calendar now differs (in 2017) from the Gregorian by 13 days, we would add 13 to 29 August to get the beginning of the Coptic year three years out of four. That's 11 September. The fourth year will be 12 September, when the Coptic calendar has added a leap day but the Julian/Gregorian calendars have not yet done so (in the following February). Thus, the Coptic year began on 12 September in 2011, but was back to 11 September in 2012. Since September 11 (9/11) was the day of the Terror attacks on the United States in 2001, "Martyrs" again has a new meaning -- for the victims, not for the murderous suicide attackers who paradoxically styled themselves "martyrs."

Using the last tables with Julian Day Numbers is a little more complicated than for the Egyptian calendar above. An Augustan or Coptic year must first be divided by 4, to determine the leap year cycle. The quotient of the division is then multiplied by 1461, which is added to the remainder of the division multiplied by 365. The Coptic year 1715, which begins September 11, 1998, gives us a quotient of 428 and a remainder of 3. (428 x 1461) + (3 x 365) = 626 403. This number is then added to the Coptic Benchmark, the month number (as above), and the day of the month, for the Julian Day Number. For 1 Thout 1715, that comes out to JD 2451 068, which, indeed, is 11 September 1998, on the Gregorian calendar.

Egyptian History Continued

Index of Egyptian History

Julian Day Numbers for dates on the Gregorian and Julian Calendars

Philosophy of Science, Calendars

Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of History

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Copyright (c) 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2017 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Chronology and Julian Day Numbers for the XII Dynasty, Note

The "heliacal rising" of Sirius means the morning (and the Egyptian day began at dawn) on which the star Sirius can first be seen in the eastern sky right before sunrise. This was to the Egyptians the astronomical beginning of the year, though the actual heliacal rising moved through the Egyptian calendar, since the Egyptian calendar year was 365 days long with no leap day. See Gardiner (op. cit.), pp. 65-66. The 7th year of Senwosret III is only one of three dates in Egyptian history, and only one of two complete dates, for which we know the heliacal rising from Egyptian records. This is the anchor for the chronology, not just of the XII dynasty, but for much of Egyptian history--since there is no such anchor for the Old Kingdom.

Return to text

The Isin-Larsa and
Old Babylonian Periods

Isin, Larsa, and Babylon all begin as city states, but they come to dominate the period after the fall of the III Dynasty of Ur. Larsa soon encompases most of traditional Sumer, while Isin and Babylon are more at the Akkadian end of the area. However, just as the Sumerians fade from history, there is the infusion of a new Semitic speaking people, the Amorites. Babylon itself, hitherto unattested in Sumerian or Akkadian texts, could well be an Amorite foundation, although cultural assimilation is rapid, and it is the Amorite kings who permanently establish the cultural dominance of the Akkadian language, now taking on the form of a Babylonian dialect. Amorite itself ends up so poorly attested that its affinities in the Semitic family are uncertain. Under the celebrated Hammurabi, Babylon comes to dominate Sumer and Akkad, beginning the process by which the area simply becomes "Babylonia." For a while, Babylon expands into a domain comparable to that of Sargon or Ur III. This ended abruptly, has often the case in Mesopotamia, with an invasion, in this case that extraordinary raid of the early Hittites on Babylon. An obscure and poorly dated era follows, with the "Sealand" (Babylon II) Dynasty in the south and the Kassites (Babylon III) filling the vacuum in the middle. It is actually under the Kassites the Babylon ceases to be a city state and bestows its identity on all of what had been Sumer and Akkad.

Dynasty I
of Isin
Ur-Ninurta1923-1896Abi-sarê1905-1895Dynasty I of Babylon,
Sin-eribam, Sin-iqisham
Zambia, IterpishaS.illi-Adad1842-1835
Falls to Babylon, 1787Hammurabi1792-1750,
 Falls to Babylon, 1763
attacks Elam, 1762,
captures Ashur, 1760,
destroys Mari, 1757
Hittites capture Babylon, c.1595,
revised, 1499

The name of the city of Babylon illustrates the devices and issues of cuneiform writing. The most traditional rendering of the name would go thus:   [David Marcus, A Manual of Akkadian, University Press of America, 1978, p.115]. This is actually written as it would be in Sumerian. is "gate," which is in Sumerian and bâbu in Akkadian (this is still , bâb, in Arabic); and is "god," which is dinger in Sumerian and ilu in Akkadian. These are ideograms, like Chinese characters or many Egyptian hieroglyphics, and they write the entire word as translated. Then the name gets interesting. The next sign is , which is not an ideogram but simply writes the syllable ra. The sources I have do not explain why this is here. It does not phonetically write any part of the name. I suspect that it is the Sumerian suffix -ra, which marks the dative case [John Alan Halloran, Sumerian Lexicon, Logogram Publishing, Los Angeles, 2006, p.217, and Dietz Otto Edzard, Sumerian Grammar, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, p.34]. So the name would then be, "the gate for the god" (i.e. the patron god of Babylon, Marduk). The last sign is , a "land" or "place," which is ki in Sumerian and ers.etu in Akkadian (ard., , in Arabic, eretz, in Hebrew), but here is used as a "generic determinative," as in Egyptian, and is not pronounced. So Babylon in Sumerian is actually Ká-dingir-ra. The strangeness of this name reminds us that Sumerian was unrelated to Semitic or Indo-European languages.

George Roux renders this as Babylonian Bâb-ilim [Ancient Iraq, Pelican Books, Penguin, 1964, 1966, p.169]. Here the word for "god," ilu, takes a case ending in the genitive, -i, with "mimation," or the addition of an m. Akkadian and Babylonian do not have a dative case, so we get the genitive, "the gate of the god." The mimation is used in Akkadian and Old Babylonian to indicate the singular number [Marcus, p.18]. However, it drops out of use in later forms of Babylonian and Assyrian [Marcus, p.19]. As we begin to see "Babylon" written phonetically, instead of with the Sumerian ideograms, the word looks like Bab-ilu, with neither mimation nor case inflection [Marcus, p.115, and Edwin Norris, Assyrian Dictionary, Part I, 1868, Elibron Classics, 2005, p.70] -- bâbu seems to have lost its case vowel altogether even in older versions of the name. Thus we get . Here is ba, is bi, and is lu, with the determinative still used [Norris, p.70]. As in Sanskrit, the written syllables may bridge separate words. Also, long and short vowels are written the same way. [Although Marcus uses Neo-Assyrian cuneiform even with Old Babylonian texts, the signs we see in Norris often seem to be somewhat simplified or slightly altered.]

Old Assyrian Period
Ushpia, Sulilic.2020,
not attested
Puzur-Ashur Ic.1975-c.1939
Erishum I1939-1900, or
Sharu-kîn I,
Sargon I
Puzur-Ashur II
Erishum II
Shamshi-Adad I1813-1781, or
expands west and south
to the Eurphrates
Invasion by Hammurabi, 1760
[six kings]
The city state of Ashur appears in history in the early days of the Isin-Larsa period. It is named after its god Asshur, , and grows into the state and empire of Assyria, , which will have a long history until its abrupt and catastrophic end. In this early period, its first distinguishing characteristic is as the center of a system of trade, with Assyrian merchant communities attested deep into Anatolia. The state briefly expands to empire proportions under Shamshi-Adad I -- himself of Amorite origin, like the contemporaneous Dynasty I of Babylon -- but then is rapidly reduced again. Subordination to Babylon and then domination by the Hurrians and Mitanni keep Assyrian within its limits, and its history unimpressive, for some time.

The invasion and domination or conquest of Ashur by Hammurabi's Babylon leads to one of the more obscure periods in Assyrian history. Thus, the Old Assyrian Period leaves us with little hint of the conquerors that the Assyrians would later become. Already, however, the Akkadian language of Assyria emerges as a distinct dialect, as it will continue until the fall of Nineveh. Beyond the expanse of traditional Sumer and Akkad, Assyria is a frontier region whose rigors at the crossroads of conquest perhaps explain the toughening of the people to a military discipline that later would seem unbeatable. In subsequent treatment here, Babylonian and Assyria history are separated. They do go their own ways, but it should be kept in mind that they represent two sides of the same civilization, with well remembered roots in Sumer. We might say that Babylon represents the Greek side of the tradition, with a sophistication that was passed down to, indeed, the Greeks, and Assyria the Roman, creating the first transcontinental empire (since it extended up the Nile) in the Middle East. Assyria, however, was destined to display little of the durability of Rome. We may reflect that the very ferocity of Assyrian power was self-defeating.

The list and dates here are from Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq [op.cit., 1966, 1992, pp.506-507], and/or Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East, c.3000-330 BC [Routledge, 1995, 2000, volume I, pp.79,82], with some touches from the Historical Atlas of the Ancient World, 4,000,000-500 BC, by John Haywood [Barnes & Noble, 1998, 2000]. However, it now appears that Roux's dates are up to 96 years too early. In "Astronomy and the Fall of Babylon," in the July 2000 Sky & Telescope [pp.40-45], Vahe G. Gurzadyan discusses changes that can be made in Babylonian chronology on the basis of analysis of Babylonian astronomical records (the Enûma Anu Enlil) and more accurate modern calculations of ancient eclipses. The benchmark event for the chronology of this period is the fall of Babylon to the Hittite King Mursilis I. Previously, there were high, middle, and low estimates for this event, 1651, 1595, or 1531. Roux, like most, used the "middle" chronology. Gurzadyan says that the basis of all these estimates was wrong, the "high" and "middle" dates don't fit with other archaeological evidence, and that now the event can be dated precisely to 1499. A key astronomical event for the period was a total eclipse of the sun on 16 May 1459, which allows the resettlement of Babylon after the Hittite sack to be dated to 1496. Four revised dates are given, along with the Roux's "middle" chronology dates, for Babylon I.

I must acknowledge that my first introduction to the study of the languages here was thanks to Dr. Sara J. Denning-Bolle, who in 1990 gave me a copy of Marcus' Manual of Akkadian. Of the modern sources cited, Marcus is still the most valuable, since the Sumerian grammar and lexicon I have do not use cuneiform at all(!). I find this puzzling. One does not learn Sumerian to speak it; and one cannot read it without being able to transcribe cuneiform.

The Babylonian Calendar

Babylonian Kings continued

Assyrian Kings continued

Mesopotamian Index

Philosophy of History

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Copyright (c) 1999, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

The Second
XIII Dynasty,
of Thebes or Memphis
Sobekhotep I1803-1800
Amenemhet V1796-1793
Amenemhet VI1788-1785
Sobekhotep II1780-1777
Hor I1777-1775
Amenemhet VII1769-1766

Intef V (IV?)?
Sobekhotep III1749-1742
Neferhotep I1742-1731
Sobekhotep IV1732-1720
Sobekhotep V1720-1717
Sobekhotep VI1717-1712
Hori II1669-1664
Sobekhotep VII1664-1662
Mentuhotep V?
Neferhotep II?
XVI Dynasty,
of Thebes
Sobekhotep VIII1645-1629
Neferhotep III1629-1628
Nebiryraw I1627-1601
Eruption of Thera, 1627-1600
Nebiryraw II1601
Dedumose I1588-?
Dedumose II?
Montuhotep VI?
Senwosret IV?-1582
XVII Dynasty,
of Thebes
Sobekemsaf I1576-1573
Intef VI1573-1571
Intef VII1571-1566
Intef VIII1566
Sobekemsaf II1566-1559
Siamun(? Tao/Taa I)
Tao/Taa II Seqenenre1558-1554
The lists and dates here are mainly from K.S.B. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate period c.1800-1550 B.C. [Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications, Volume 20; The Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Near Eastern Studies, University of Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997].
XIV Dynasty,
of Xois or Avaris
Apophis I(?)?
Ryholt's chronological tables (pp.408-410) are somewhat simplified, with Prenomens given where Nomens are absent, and with some modifications by comparison with the lists in Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs [Thames & Hudson, 1994] and William J. Murnane, The Penguin Guide to Ancient Egypt [Penguin, 1983].

The chronology and even identity of the kings of the period is very confused. The Turin Canon (cf. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford, 1966, pp.440-442) lists dozens of kings that could be of the XIII, XIV, or XVII Dynasties. With so many ephemeral kings, one wonders what was really going on. While one problem with the First Intermediate Period was the lack of names, the embarrassment here is so many names, with so little in the way of monuments or records to give them any meaning or context. The pyramid of Khendjer (a Semitic name, "Pig" of all things) is the only substantial monument of the XIII Dynasty -- although enough to motivate some to include the XIII Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom -- while the last three kings of the XVII are the only figures about whom we can have some historical confidence -- we still have the mummies of Tao II and Kamose. Ryholt's recent study may do as much as is humanly possible, given the present state of the evidence, to sort this all out. The gaps and fragmentary names in the lists, especially for the XIV dynasty, reflect damage to the Turin Papyrus itself.

To the Egyptians themselves, the major event of the era was the rule of part of the country, and suzerainty of the rest, by foreign invaders, the "Hyksos," who probably introduced the horse and chariot into Egypt, at the time when Iranian invaders, like the Mitanni, were taking advantage of this new technology to dominate Babylonia and Syria. Some of the Hyksos names, however, appear to be Semitic (e.g. "Yakub" -- Jacob), so we can imagine them as having adopted horses from the invaders but still as having been bumped out of Asia at the end of the migratory dominoes. There had already been Semitic immigrants in the Eastern Delta in the XII Dynasty, and their presence would continue from then on. There is little doubt that such settlement underlies the story of the Israelites in Egypt, from Joseph to Moses, and there is no lack of Biblical interpretations for the Hyksos, though the evidence about anything beyond their mere existence is thin.

Manethô gives six "great" Hyksos kings of the XV Dynasty, but his names in Greek match up only imperfectly with the names known from inscriptions. Although the XIV Dynasty is regarded by Manetho as Egyptian, Ryholt reconstructs it as already Canaanite in origin. By the same token, the XVII Dynasty at Thebes, though called by Manethô a Hyksos dynasty also, was clearly Egyptian. It appears to have become vassals of the Hyksos, giving the foreigners control of the whole country for the first time, and then to have revolted. In the Cairo Museum we can see the axe wound to the forehead, as I myself have, from which Tao II evidently died, and Kamose may also have been killed in battle. We have a long account by Kamose on the outbreak of open war with the Hyksos, who were making humiliating demands on the king. Kamose's brother (or nephew), Ahmose, credited as the first king of the great XVIII Dynasty, then drove the Hyksos out of Egypt and even pursued them into Palestine. Just as the Hyksos themselves adopted the horse and chariot from their enemies, the Mitanni, the Egyptians adopted the horse and chariot from the Hyksos and, thus equipped, began to project Egyptian power for the first time deep into the Levant.
XV Dynasty, Hyksos,
of Avaris
Shamuqenu (Saitês)1649-?
'Aper-'Anati (Bnôn)?
Sakir-Har (Pachnan)?-1621
Eruption of Thera,
Khayan (Staan)1621-1581
Apepi I (Archlês)1581-1541
Khamudi/Apepi II

The area of the Hyksos capital of Avaris is where Ramesses II later began building Pi-Ramesseu (cf. Exodus 1:11), or Tanis, a fortress city and palace that henceforth became the capital of the Ramessids, and for whose construction the local population, heavily Semitic, was impressed. The locals, previously distant from most New Kingdom building activity and unused to the traditional Egyptian corvée, would certainly find this forced labor oppressive and slave-like, just as represented in Exodus. Now communitarians could just accuse them of not wanting to contribute their "fair share" to the community through "National Service."

We can compare Ryholt's results with a more recent treatment, that of Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton in The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt [Thames & Husdon, 2004]. In Dodson and Hilton's complete chronology [p.290] -- which includes the XIII Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom, something I had previously never heard of -- we see Sobekhotep I starting in 1781 (following directly upon Queen Sobekneferu), but then no dates whatsoever until the end of the Dynasty in 1650. Ryholt begins the Dynasty a bit early -- it would still be in the reign of Amenemhet III -- but ends with no dates. Dodson and Hilton end the dynasty with several other unknown reigns, unremarked by Ryholt. They then skip the XIV Dynasty altogether. For the XV Dynasty, they begin in 1650, and otherwise only date the reigns of Apepi I, 1585-1545, and Khamudi, 1545-1535. For the XVI Dynasty, they begin in 1650 with the unknown King and end in 1590 with Senwosret IV but otherwise provide no dates. The succession is comparable. Finally, Dodson and Hilton run the XVII Dynasty, with comparable succession, from 1585 to 1549, but otherwise only give dates beginning with the death of Tao (Taa) I in 1558. The numbering of the Intefs (Inyotefs) is reduced by one.

We find Simcha Jacobovici, the delightful and eccentric host of the former CBC show "The Naked Archaeologist," arguing that the Hyksos actually were themselves the Israelites, the Pharaoh of the Exodus was Ahmose I of the XVIII Dynasty, and that Mycenaean Greece was the result (or something) of some Israelites going there rather than to Palestine. He thinks that the catastrophic eruption of the volcanic island of Thera (Santorini) brought about all the effects described by the Bible as the Ten Plagues. Geologists now date this eruption of Thera to have been between 1627 and 1600 BC, about the middle of the XV and XVI Dynasties (a significant later eruption was in 726 AD, during the Roman Isaurian dynasty). Archaeologists are not too happy with this, believing that the material evidence indicates a date about a century later. Jacobovici, of course, wants a later date, since the reign of Ahmose I is usually placed in the range between 1575 and 1525.

Curiously, what may perhaps be the best evidence for the historicity of the Exodus is also one of the best pieces of evidence against Jacobovici's thesis:  the cities built of mudbrick by the Israelites are named in the Bible, i.e. Pithôm and Ra'amsês. These look like the names of the cities built by Ramesses II -- indeed, his name is in there, with the correct use of the consonant that in Arabic is 'ayn. It seems unlikely that a Bible generated in later mythology would use the names of places that would by then long have been insignificant and forgotten. And there were no Hyksos Kings named "Ramesses." An accurate record of the Hyksos period could be expected to have something like an accurate name of their capital.

I have seen assertions now that the name of Pi-Ramesseu was remembered for some time and so might turn up in later literature. However, I would wonder if its later use in Egypt, in documents, would account for a later use elsewhere among foreigners. It still seems most probable to me that names attested in the Bible are the result of direct acquaintance with them in Egypt, at the time when their use was general there.

But there are many other problems with Jacobovici's theory. The Hyksos ruled Egypt, but the Bible never has Joseph replacing Pharaoh, and the Isaelites otherwise become slaves (i.e. comrade volunteers helping the People build socialism) making bricks to build Pharaoh's cities. They would presumably only be doing this under Ahmose, who overthrew and ejected the Hyksos. However, Ahmose built no new cities at or in the vicinity of Avaris. His capital was Thebes. Jacobovici offers the inscriptions at Egyptian turquoise mines in the Sinai as evidence of Hebrew slaves; but the Bible says nothing about turquoise mines, and we know from Egyptian practice that metal mining or stone quarrying in the desert usually involved the occasional expedition, which suffered brutal attrition -- given the obvious conditions of heat and lack of water. There were not thousands of Israelites living for an extended time out at the turquoise mines. No, the Bible says the Israelites made bricks, and this is exactly what they would be doing for Ramesses II, but not for Ahmose I. Similarly, Jacobovici's notion that the Mycenaeans were Israelites suffers from the obvious embarrassment that the Bible says nothing about it -- Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years -- and from the fact that we can read Mycenaean writing (Linear B), which is in Greek, not in Hebrew.

The worse thing about the theory, however, may be theological and moral. Jacobovici wants to believe that the Plagues, although natural phenomena, were nevertheless miraculously arranged by God for the purposes of the Exodus. But if this is the work of God, we must then believe that God was willing to set off the equivalent of a very large nuclear weapon in the middle of the Aegaean Sea, killing many thousands of people and all but exterminating the Minoan civilization, simply to apply duress to the King of Egypt. Talk about "collateral damage," this is the mother of all collateral damage. It is thus hard for me to think of it as an improvement over the story of miraculous local phenomena. The Plagues would have been deadly enough to a great many innocent Egyptians. It does not make it better to throw in a whole civilization that is an innocent and ignorant bystander, where the effects were much more devastating than in Egypt. Also, if the Mycenaeans were not Hebrews, Jacobovici loses his chance to make the Minoans themselves Hebrews -- their language, written in Linear A, has not been definitely deciphered but is now thought to be or be related to Luvian in Asia Minor -- since the Minoans were themselves the ones demolished by the eruption God arranged to save the Israelites.

Thus, as with many of Jacobovici's ideas, this theory is clever and imaginative, but it is gravely at odds both with the Bible and with the history of the period of the Hyksos -- not to mention the moral purpose of God's miracles.

Egyptian History continued

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