Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

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Second Intermediate Period of Egypt

c. 1650 BC – c. 1550 BC
The political situation in the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1650 — c. 1550 BC) Thebes was briefly conquered by the Hyksos c. 1580 BC
The political situation in the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1650 — c. 1550 BC) Thebes was briefly conquered by the Hyksos c. 1580 BC
Common languagesAncient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian religion
• c. 1648 BC
Salitis (first)
• c. 1555 – c. 1550 BC
Kamose (last)
• Established
c. 1650 BC 
• Disestablished
 c. 1550 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
New Kingdom of Egypt
Today part ofTemplate:Country data Egypt

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when ancient Egypt fell into disarray for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom. The concept of a "Second Intermediate Period" was coined in 1942 by German Egyptologist Hanns Stock.[1]

It is best known as the period when the Hyksos people of West Asia made their appearance in Egypt and whose reign comprised the 15th Dynasty founded by Salitis.


End of the Middle Kingdom

The 12th Dynasty of Egypt came to an end at the end of the 19th century BC with the death of Queen Sobekneferu (1806–1802 BC).[2] Apparently she had no heirs, causing the 12th Dynasty to come to a sudden end, and, with it, the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom; it was succeeded by the much weaker 13th Dynasty. Retaining the seat of the 12th Dynasty, the 13th Dynasty ruled from Itjtawy ("Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands") for most of its existence, switching to Thebes in the far south possibly since the reign of Merneferre Ay.

The 13th Dynasty is notable for the accession of the first formally recognised Semitic-speaking king, Khendjer ("Boar"). The 13th Dynasty proved unable to hold on to the entire territory of Egypt however, and a provincial ruling family of Western Asian descent in Avaris, located in the marshes of the eastern Nile Delta, broke away from the central authority to form the 14th Dynasty.[2]

Hyksos rule

15th dynasty

The 15th Dynasty dates approximately from 1650 to 1550 BC.[3] Known rulers of the Fifteenth Dynasty are as follows:[3]

The 15th Dynasty of Egypt was the first Hyksos dynasty. It ruled from Avaris but did not control the entire land. The Hyksos preferred to stay in northern Egypt since they infiltrated from the northeast. The names and order of their kings is uncertain. The Turin King list indicates that there were six Hyksos kings, with an obscure Khamudi listed as the final king of the 15th Dynasty.[4]

Some scholars argue there were two Apophis kings named Apepi I and Apepi II, but this is primarily due to the fact there are two known prenomens for this king: Awoserre and Aqenenre. However, the Danish Egyptologist Kim Ryholt maintains in his study of the Second Intermediate Period that these prenomens all refer to one man, Apepi, who ruled Egypt for 40 or more years.[5] This is also supported by the fact that this king employed a third prenomen during his reign: Nebkhepeshre.[6] Apepi likely employed several different prenomens throughout various periods of his reign. This scenario is not unprecedented, as later kings, including the famous Ramesses II and Seti II, are known to have used two different prenomens in their own reigns.

16th dynasty

The 16th Dynasty ruled the Theban region in Upper Egypt[7] for 70 years.[8]

Of the two chief versions of Manetho's Aegyptiaca, Dynasty XVI is described by the more reliable[9] Africanus (supported by Syncellus)[10] as "shepherd [hyksos] kings", but by Eusebius as Theban.[9]

Ryholt (1997), followed by Bourriau (2003), in reconstructing the Turin canon, interpreted a list of Thebes-based kings to constitute Manetho's Dynasty XVI, although this is one of Ryholt's "most debatable and far-reaching" conclusions.[9] For this reason other scholars do not follow Ryholt and see only insufficient evidence for the interpretation of the 16th Dynasty as Theban.[11]

The continuing war against Dynasty XV dominated the short-lived 16th dynasty. The armies of the 15th dynasty, winning town after town from their southern enemies, continually encroached on the 16th dynasty territory, eventually threatening and then conquering Thebes itself. In his study of the second intermediate period, the egyptologist Kim Ryholt has suggested that Dedumose I sued for a truce in the latter years of the dynasty,[8] but one of his predecessors, Nebiryraw I, may have been more successful and seems to have enjoyed a period of peace in his reign.[8]

Famine, which had plagued Upper Egypt during the late 13th dynasty and the 14th dynasty, also blighted the 16th dynasty, most evidently during and after the reign of Neferhotep III.[8]

Thebes (Luxor Temple pictured) was the capital of many of the Dynasty XVI pharaohs.

From Ryholt's reconstruction of the Turin canon, 15 kings of the dynasty can now be named, five of whom appear in contemporary sources.[7] While they were most likely rulers based in Thebes itself, some may have been local rulers from other important Upper Egyptian towns, including Abydos, El Kab and Edfu.[7] By the reign of Nebiriau I, the realm controlled by the 16th dynasty extended at least as far north as Hu and south to Edfu.[8][12] Not listed in the Turin canon (after Ryholt) is Wepwawetemsaf, who left a stele at Abydos and was likely a local kinglet of the Abydos Dynasty.[7]

Abydos dynasty

The Abydos Dynasty may have been a short-lived local dynasty ruling over part of Upper Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt and was contemporary with the 15th and 16th Dynasties, approximately from 1650 to 1600 BC.[13] The existence of an Abydos Dynasty was first proposed by Detlef Franke[14] and later elaborated on by Egyptologist Kim Ryholt in 1997. The existence of the dynasty may have been vindicated in January 2014, when the tomb of the previously unknown pharaoh Seneb Kay was discovered in Abydos.[13] The dynasty tentatively includes four rulers: Wepwawetemsaf, Pantjeny, Snaaib,[15] and Seneb Kay.

The royal necropolis of the Abydos Dynasty was found in the southern part of Abydos, in an area called Anubis Mountain in ancient times. The rulers of the Abydos Dynasty placed their burial ground adjacent to the tombs of the Middle Kingdom rulers.[13]

17th dynasty

Around the time Memphis and Itj-tawy fell to the Hyksos, the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from Itj-tawy, becoming the 17th Dynasty. This dynasty would eventually lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos back into Asia. The Theban-based 17th Dynasty restored numerous temples throughout Upper Egypt while maintaining peaceful trading relations with the Hyksos kingdom in the north. Indeed, Senakhtenre Ahmose, the first king in the line of Ahmoside kings, even imported white limestone from the Hyksos-controlled region of Tura to make a granary door at the Temple of Karnak. However, his successors — the final two kings of this dynasty — Seqenenre Tao and Kamose are traditionally credited with defeating the Hyksos in the course of the wars of liberation. With the creation of the 18th Dynasty around 1550 BC the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history begins with Ahmose I, its first pharaoh, completing the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and placing the country, once again, under centralised administrative control.


  1. Schneider, Thomas (27 August 2008). "Periodizing Egyptian History: Manetho, Convention, and Beyond". In Klaus-Peter Adam (ed.). Historiographie in der Antike. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 181–197. ISBN 978-3-11-020672-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kim S. B. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, c. 1800–1550 B.C., Museum Tusculanum Press, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 20. 1997, p.185
  3. 3.0 3.1 Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 481. ISBN 0-19-815034-2.
  4. Turin Kinglist Archived 2006-09-27 at the Wayback Machine Accessed July 26, 1006 (line X.21 of the cited web link clearly provides this summary for the dynasty: "6 kings functioning 100+X years"). The surviving traces on the X figure appears to give the figure 8 which suggests that the summation should be read as 6 kings ruling 108 years.
  5. Kim Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c. 1800–1550 B.C." by Museum Tuscalanum Press. 1997. p.125
  6. Kings of the Second Intermediate Period University College London; scroll down to the 15th dynasty
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Bourriau 2003: 191
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Ryholt 1997: 305
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Bourriau 2003: 179
  10. Cory 1876
  11. see for example, Quirke, in Maree: The Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth – Seventeenth Dynasties, Current Research, Future Prospects, Leuven 2011, Paris — Walpole, MA. ISBN 978-9042922280, p. 56, n. 6
  12. Darrell D. Baker: The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I – Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC, Stacey International, ISBN 978-1-905299-37-9, 2008, pp. 256–257
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Giant Sarcophagus Leads Penn Museum Team in Egypt To the Tomb of a Previously Unknown Pharaoh". Penn Museum. January 2014. Retrieved 16 Jan 2014.
  14. Detlef Franke: Zur Chronologie des Mittleren Reiches. Teil II: Die sogenannte Zweite Zwischenzeit Altägyptens, In Orientalia 57 (1988), p. 259
  15. Ryholt, K.S.B. (1997). The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period, c. 1800–1550 B.C. Museum Tusculanum Press. p. 164. ISBN 8772894210.


  • Von Beckerath, Jürgen. "Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten," Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23. Glückstadt, 1965.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Oxford, 1964, 1961.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II." Chapter 2, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I." Chapter 8, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A., "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," Chronique d'Égypte, 63 (1968), pp. 313–324.
  • Oren, Eliezer D. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives Philadelphia, 1997.
  • Ryholt, Kim. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c. 1800–1550 B.C., Museum Tuscalanum Press, 1997. ISBN 87-7289-421-0
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven, 1966.
Preceded by
Middle Kingdom
Time Periods of Egypt
1650–1550 BC
Succeeded by
New Kingdom

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