ca. 595-525 B.C.E.
7 7/8 x 4 3/4 in. (20 x 12 cm).
The images on this stela show Tjetji receiving a wealth of offerings intended to sustain him in the afterlife. Characteristic of art at the dawn of the Middle Kingdom are the long stiff limbs, thick lips, and heavy cosmetic lines around the eyes. The extensive text on this stela describes events that took place during the reign of King Wahankh Intef II, under whom Tjetji served, just before the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. Intef II began the process of reunification by extending his rule over the eight southernmost nomes, or provinces, of Egypt. The text further relates the transition to the succeeding king, Nakhtnebtepnefer Intef III, under whom Tjetji proudly kept his former offices.
After the collapse of the Old Kingdom (Dynasties 3–6, ca. 2649–2150 B.C.), Egypt entered a period of weak Pharaonic power and decentralization called the First Intermediate Period. Towards the end of this period, two rival dynasties, known in Egyptology as the Tenth and Eleventh, fought for power over the entire country. The Theban 11th Dynasty only ruled southern Egypt from the first cataract (The 1st Cataract cuts through Aswan), to the Tenth Nome of Upper Egypt (Edfo). Its former location was selected for the construction of Aswan Low Dam, the first dam built across the Nile.to the Tenth Nome of Upper Egypt.
Maati is shown seated in front of the offering table with a jar for the sacred oil in his left hand. The text on this relief art contains references to other figures of the time-such as Maati's overseer, the treasurer Bebi, who later became a vizier, and an ancestor of the ruling family called Intef "the Great"-demonstrating the close ties that bound rulers and followers together in the Theban society of the time.
To the north, Lower Egypt was ruled by the rival 10th Dynasty from Herakleopolis (approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) west of the modern city of Beni Suef) The struggle was to be concluded by Mentuhotep II, who ascended the Theban throne in 2055 B.C. Mentuhotep II took advantage of a revolt in the Thinite Nome to launch an attack on Herakleopolis, and met little resistance. After toppling the last rulers of the 10th Dynasty, Mentuhotep began consolidating his power over all Egypt. For this reason, Mentuhotep II is regarded as the founder of the Middle Kingdom.
Mentuhotep II commanded military campaigns south as far as the Second Cataract in Nubia. He also restored Egyptian hegemony over the Sinai region, which had been lost to Egypt since the end of the Old Kingdom. To consolidate his authority, he restored the cult of the ruler, depicting himself as a god in his own lifetime, wearing the headdresses of Amun and Min. He died after a reign of 51 years, and passed the throne to his son, Mentuhotep III.
Mentuhotep III reigned for only twelve years, during which he continued consolidating Theban rule over the whole of Egypt, building a series of forts in the eastern Delta region to secure Egypt against threats from Asia. He also sent the first expedition to Punt during the Middle Kingdom, by means of ships constructed at the end of Wadi Hammamat, on the Red Sea.
Mentuhotep III was succeeded by Mentuhotep IV, whose name significantly is omitted from all ancient Egyptian king lists. The Turin Papyrus claims that after Mentuhotep III came "seven kingless years". Despite this absence, his reign is attested from a few inscriptions in Wadi Hammamat that record expeditions to the Red Sea coast and to quarry stone for the royal monuments. The leader of this expedition was his vizier Amenemhat, who is widely assumed to be the future pharaoh Amenemhet I, the first king of the 12th Dynasty.
Mentuhotep IV's absence from the king lists has prompted the theory that Amenemhet I usurped his throne. While there are no contemporary accounts of this struggle, certain circumstantial evidence may point to the existence of a civil war at the end of the 11th dynasty. Inscriptions left by one Nehry, the Haty-a of Hermopolis, suggest that he was attacked at a place called Shedyet-sha by the forces of the reigning king, but his forces prevailed. Khnumhotep I, an official under Amenemhet I, claims to have participated in a flotilla of 20 ships to pacify Upper Egypt. What is certain is that, however he came to power, Amenemhet I was not of royal birth
This lavishly attired, elegant woman belonged to a procession of family members attending the nomarch (regional governor) Djehutyhotep II. An identifying inscription has not survived, but she was likely a sister or daughter. The fine artistry of the relief attests to the wealth commanded by regional leaders during the first half of the Twelfth Dynasty. After that period, the office of nomarch died out and with it the richly painted tombs of the Middle Egypt region.
Early in his reign, Amenemhet I was compelled to campaign in the Delta region, which had not received as much attention as upper Egypt during the 11th Dynasty. In addition, he strengthened defenses between Egypt and Asia, building the Walls of the Ruler in the East Delta region. Perhaps in response to this perpetual unrest, Amenemhat I built a new capital for Egypt in the north, known as Amenemhet Itj Tawy, or Amenemhet, Seizer of the Two Lands.
This statue is a three-dimensional example of the style known from reliefs of the early reign of Mentuhotep II. Based on their similarity to a hieroglyph for “assemble,” the crossed arms may have a funerary meaning, perhaps expressing the confidence that Meri’s body would be made whole again and thus ready for eternal life. The statue likely originates from a tomb in western Thebes.
Historical records from the reigns of Amenemhat II and Senwosret II are scarce, and many artworks likely from these reigns lack inscriptions. It is clear, however, that significant artistic changes took place during this time. Faces have shed the abstract idealization of earlier works. The facial musculature is softly articulated, rounded eyes press against fleshy lids, and the mouth has lost its rigid edge. The face is not yet personalized, but it has come alive.
During the mid-Twelfth Dynasty, the face of the pharaoh underwent a startling transformation from that of a youthful, idealized monarch to a mature individual, with soft folds of sagging flesh, prominent bone structure, and protruding eyes, all of which are reflected in this imposing, monumental work. These changes must have resulted from new ideas about kingship, perhaps here manifested as a desire to depict a king who has gained the wisdom to lead Egypt.
A masterpiece of ancient Egyptian sculpture, this head depicts Amenemhat III so arrestingly that the viewer is left with the indelible impression that it represents the king’s actual appearance. Nothing is known, however, of this ruler’s true physiognomy. The sculptor has so masterfully suggested skin and soft flesh in the velvety texture of the stone that any sense of hardness dissolves. It contrasts with the firm, polished surface of the white crown, a symbol of Upper Egypt.
Fragments of the body found with this head indicate that the complete statue was seated, likely one of the modestly sized royal sculptures donated to Egyptian temples by Middle Kingdom kings. Amenemhat III here wears a nemes headdress, a folded and pleated piece of cloth generally reserved for the pharaoh. The head is made of a type of limestone rarely used in ancient Egyptian artworks.
A notable member of Ibiau's royal court was the namesake vizier Ibiaw. It has been suggested that this vizier could have been the same person of Ibiau earlier in his life.
Sobekhotep IV was succeeded by the short reign of Sobekhotep V, who was followed by Wahibre Ibiau, then Merneferre Ai. Wahibre Ibiau ruled ten years, and Merneferre Ai ruled for twenty three years, the longest of any Thirteenth Dynasty king, but neither of these two kings left as many attestations as either Neferhotep or Sobekhotep IV. Despite this, they both seem to have held at least parts of lower Egypt. After Merneferre Ai, however, no king left his name on any object found outside the south. This begins the final portion of the thirteenth dynasty, when southern kings continue to reign over Upper Egypt, but when the unity of Egypt fully disintegrated, the Middle Kingdom gave way to the Second Intermediate Period.
Merneferre Ai (also spelled Ay) was the longest reigning pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty, he ruled a fragmented Egypt for over 23 years in the early to mid 17th century BC. A pyramidion bearing his name shows that he possibly completed a pyramid, probably located in the necropolis of Memphis.
Merneferre Ai is the last pharaoh of the 13th dynasty to be attested outside Upper Egypt and in spite of his long reign the number of artefacts attributable to him is comparatively small. This may point to problems in Egypt at the time and indeed, by the end of his reign, "the administration [of the Egyptian state] seems to have completely collapsed". It is possible that the capital of Egypt since the early Middle Kingdom, Itjtawy was abandoned during or shortly after Ay's reign. For this reason, some scholars consider Merneferre Ay to be the last pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.
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