The Seizers of the Two Lands
The Seizers of the Two Lands
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter details the achievements of the Twelfth to Thirteenth dynasties. With the accession of Amenemhat I, regarded as founder of the Twelfth Dynasty, the Middle Kingdom, inaugurated by the reunification of Egypt under Montjuhotep II, was fully underway. The remaining years of the Twelfth Dynasty seem generally to have been ones of stability and development. The transition between the Twelfth Dynasty and the Thirteenth, moreover, seems to have been peaceful enough, but the contrast between the two dynasties is striking: in place of well-documented reigns of substantial lengths, there are a huge number of kings with brief tenures of the throne, and of such obscurity that the exact order of many of them is uncertain.
The vizier and governor of Upper Egypt under Montjuhotep IV was named Amenemhat—‘Amun-is-foremost.’ In the second year of the king’s reign, he led a large expedition to Wadi Hammamat, lying between Koptos and the Red Sea, to obtain stone for the king’s sarcophagus. Inscriptions in the wadi record some of the remarkable events that occurred during this operation:
There came a gazelle great with young, going with her face before her, while her eyes looked backwards. She did not turn back, and arrived at this august moment, at this block, still in its place, that was intended to be the lid of the sarcophagus. She dropped her young upon it while the army of the king looked on. They sacrificed her upon the block, and made a fire.
With the encouragement of this omen, the block was safely quarried for its journey to Thebes. The Eastern Desert is an arid place, with water only to be found at certain long-used wells; accordingly, another apparently miraculous event was judged worthy of commemoration:
While working on the sarcophagus block, the wonder was repeated. Rain was made, and the form of this god appeared, his fame was shown to the men, the highland being made into a lake. … A well was found in the midst of the valley, ten cubits [5.2 meters] by ten cubits on each side, filled with fresh water to its edge, undefiled, kept pure and cleansed from (p.52) gazelles, concealed from barbarians. Soldiers of old and kings who had lived in the past had gone out and returned past it, but no eye had seen it, but … (now) it was revealed.
The vizierate was the highest office to which a non-royal Egyptian could normally aspire. However, five years after his expedition to Hammamat, Amenemhat had achieved more: he was now pharaoh.
Nothing is known of the means by which Amenemhat acquired the throne from Montjuhotep IV. He may have staged a coup d’état or, like certain other figures in Egyptian history, been nominated to succeed a childless monarch. The former option might be favored if a series of texts describing famine and other troubles have been correctly assigned to this point in time. Deriving from the necropolis of Deir el-Bersha and the nearby alabaster quarries of Hatnub, they were inscribed under the gubernatorial authority of the nomarchs of the important Hare nome.
In any case, the father of Amenemhat I is known to have been one Senwosret, who appears in a number of later contexts with the title of ‘God’s Father,’ generally used to distinguish the non-royal parent of a king and, on occasion, the father of a queen; Amenemhat’s mother was named Neferet.
With the accession of Amenemhat I, regarded as founder of the Twelfth Dynasty, the Middle Kingdom, inaugurated by the reunification of Egypt under Montjuhotep II, was fully underway. In spite of the fact that the latter king was remembered for the feat into the New Kingdom, official propaganda rapidly cast Amenemhat in the role of the true unifier. A number of ‘prophesies’ became current, in particular one put into the mouth of a certain Neferti, at the court of Seneferu, back in the Fourth Dynasty; after relating how the land had been turned ‘topsy-turvy’ (see p. 42, above), the prophet declares:
- Then a king will come from the south,
- Ameny (Amenemhat) his name,
- Son of a woman of Nubia, a child of Upper Egypt,
- He will take the White Crown,
- He will wear the Red Crown. …
- Rejoice, O people of this time,
- For this son of man will make his name for ever:
- The evil-minded, the treasonous,
- They will fall silent for fear of him.
- (p.53) Asiatics will fall to his sword,
- Libyans will fall to his flame. …
- One will build the Walls-of-the-Ruler,
- To bar the Asiatics from entering Egypt.
- They will beg for water …,
- Then order will return to its place.
A key act of the new king was to transfer the royal seat from Thebes, the royal city of the Inyotefs and Montjuhoteps, to a new site in the north. While Amenemhat was a southerner, with possibly Nubian blood in his veins, rule of the Delta was difficult from so far upstream, as was the defense of the northeastern and northwestern frontiers: the ‘Walls-of-the-Ruler’ referred to by Neferti were a series of forts intended to protect the area north of Suez. Accordingly, the city of Itjtawy, ‘Seizer of the Two Lands,’ was established in the area of modern Lisht, to remain the main residence of the pharaoh for the next four hundred years.
There had certainly been some reordering of the nomarchies in the wake of Montjuhotep II’s reunification, with the former Herakleopolitan-loyalist families replaced by those more favorable to the new regime. However, the nomes remained the principal building blocks of the state, although now regulated so as to avoid any repeat of the aggrandizement and fighting of the First Intermediate Period. Among the best known of the provincial rulers are those of the Oryx nome, buried in a series of beautiful tomb-chapels at Beni Hasan. One of the scions of the line, Khnumhotep I, accompanied Amenemhat I on a cruise down the Nile with a flotilla of twenty ships intended to stamp royal authority on any who might contemplate opposition to the regime.
In the king’s twentieth regnal year, he appointed his son, Senwosret I, as his coregent, the earliest clearly documented occasion of such an appointment by an Egyptian king. In view of his high office prior to accession, Amenemhat was doubtless growing old and required the aid of his son in carrying out some of the more active aspects of kingship. Among these was the leadership of military expeditions, in particular into Nubia, whose full return to Egyptian control was now contemplated. Other warlike activities extended into the Sinai and the Western Desert, and it was while King Senwosret was returning from a campaign against the Libyans, ten years after his induction as coregent, that Amenemhat I’s life was abruptly ended. The king himself is made to relate what happened in a posthumous address to his son:
(p.54) I took an hour of rest, after the evening meal when night had come. I lay on my bed, for I was weary. As I began to fall asleep, weapons intended for my protection were turned against me, while I (dozed) like a snake in the desert. I awoke at the commotion, and found that it was an attack by the bodyguard. Had I been able to seize weapons, I would have made the cowards flee; but no one is strong at night; no one can fight alone; no success is possible without a helper.
So blood was shed while I was without you; before the courtiers had heard that I handed over to you; before I had sat down to talk with you. For I had not been prepared for it, I had not thought of it, had not foreseen the failing of servants.
So died the king at the hands of assassins. Out on the margins of the desert, a messenger came to Senwosret who, fearing further treachery, sped back to Itjtawy, without informing his staff, to secure his throne. Other princes in the expedition may have been implicated in the plot, for an overheard discussion involving one of them was the pretext for the flight of one Sinuhe—the basis of one of the great works of Egyptian literature, the Story of Sinuhe.
Nevertheless, Senwosret I succeeded in retaining his own power and interred his father in his pyramid at Lisht, a monument perhaps begun fairly late in the reign. This seems to have replaced an earlier monument at Thebes that was to have followed the form of that of Montjuhotep II; in contrast with the preceding Theban royal tombs, Amenemhat’s Lisht pyramid echoed Old Kingdom practice. It was surrounded by the sepulchers of his family and followers, the former including his wife Neferytatenen, mother of Senwosret I, and daughter, Neferusherit. King Amenemhat’s burial chamber has never been entered in modern times, the room having been flooded by groundwater, and the pyramid is but a shapeless pile of rubble: a sad memorial to a great king.
The remaining years of the Twelfth Dynasty seem generally to have been ones of stability and development. The long reign of Senwosret I saw Nubia firmly occupied as far up as Buhen, beyond the Second Cataract, with a presence extended further south. Extensive building took place, including the core of the temple of Karnak and various works at Heliopolis. Senwosret I’s coregent and successor, Amenemhat II, had led a Nubian expedition while yet a prince, and more are recorded on the (p.55) sadly fragmentary great annalistic inscription erected at Memphis during his likewise lengthy occupation of the throne.
The next king, Senwosret II, is less well attested, but seems to have been responsible for large-scale development in the Fayyum, an ‘oasis’ region, some seventy kilometers south of modern Cairo, fed by the Bahr Yusef, a channel that diverges from the main river at Asyut. The region had received the attention of Senwosret I, as is shown by an obelisk of the king at Abgig, but Senwosret II showed his further commitment by building his pyramid there, at the site of Lahun. This is the first of its kind to be constructed from brick, rather than stone, a technique that was continued by Senwosret’s successors.
The second Senwosret was followed by his son, the third king of the name, who was to become a most distinguished occupant of the Egyptian (p.56)
Material dating to Senwosret III’s reign is found at a number of locations, particularly in the southern part of Egypt. The king’s statues are notable for their extremely naturalistic treatment of the features: rather than the idealism of earlier works, they give every indication of being true portraits. The heavy eyelids and lined countenance are particularly distinctive, making the face of Senwosret III one of the most easily recognizable in Egyptian art (fig. 19). The later examples seem to show an increasing ‘world-weariness,’ particularly where the image is carved in granite, the grain of the stone deepening the impression. Such a departure from previous artistic conventions is clearly of ideological significance, and, when combined with the epithets used for the king in contemporary texts, we seem to see a considered attempt to present the king as possessing a ‘concerned, serious, and thoughtful’ outlook upon his great office.
The reign of Senwosret III is the last in which one finds widespread examples of the monuments of the nomarchs of the various provinces. It was long believed that this reflected a conscious ‘breaking’ of the power of the nomarchs, but it now seems more likely that it was the indirect result of a centralization of the administration, leading to a gradual withering away of the great local ‘courts’ as older nomarchs died and their heirs moved to work for the king at the national capital. Thus, while at most sites the great nomarchial tombs cease under Senwosret III, at Qau el-Kebir, for example, some 180 kilometers north of Thebes, they continue into the reign of his successor.
There is relatively little evidence for Egyptian military activity in the direction of Palestine during the Middle Kingdom. That there was concern about elements from that direction is indicated by the inclusion of the names of various rulers and cities in a set of so-called ‘Execration Texts.’ These were lists of malevolent persons written on pottery vessels and figures which were then smashed to symbolically disable them. That practical action was sometimes taken against the Asiatic ‘foes’ is shown by the expedition mounted by Senwosret III that reached some considerable distance beyond the later site of Jerusalem. Sobekkhu, to whose stela we owe our knowledge of the operation, records his pride at his capture of an enemy soldier.
The same man was also involved in Senwosret III’s expeditions into Nubia, which were far more extensive and marked the full subjugation of the territory by the Egyptian crown. The first campaign of which we are (p.57) aware came about in Year 8; in preparation for this, the king had earlier undertaken the (re)construction of a canal just south of Aswan, perhaps originally cut back in the days of Nemtyemsaf I. The rapids of the First Cataract were always a major hindrance to southward-bound shipping, and the existence of a navigable channel made the passage of men and equipment far easier. Thus, Senwosret was able to lead his fleet through the new waterway bound for Kush, with the intention of establishing a proper southern boundary for Egypt and regulating its intercourse with the peoples who lived south of it.
This was set at Semna, where a whole complex of forts was built or rebuilt to house Egyptian governors and garrisons. These massive constructions, now lost below the waters of Lake Nasser, incorporated huge bastions and other defenses, and contained a great complex of military and civil structures. These included very large grain stores, most probably intended to provide supplies for campaigning soldiery temporarily camped in the area, rather than for the permanent personnel.
The stela erected at the boundary makes clear the king’s intentions regarding the relationship between his Egyptian Nubia and the territory lying to the south:
Southern boundary, made in Year 8, under the person of King Senwosret III …, to prevent any Nubian crossing it by water or by land, with a ship or any Nubian herds, except for any Nubian who shall come to trade at Mirgissa, or with a commission. Every good thing will be done for them, without allowing a Nubian ship to pass Semna, going downstream—ever!
Further campaigning is recorded for Years 10, 16, and 19, the king’s penultimate visit to Nubia resulting in the erection of a second boundary stela at Semna, together with a duplicate at another fort, Uronarti, part of which expresses the contempt which the Egyptians felt for their southern neighbors:
- I have established my boundary farther south than my fathers,
- I have added to what was given to me.
- I am a king who speaks and (then) does,
- What my heart plans is done by my arm. …
- A coward is he who is driven back from his border,
- Since the Nubian listens, to fall at a word:
- To answer him is to make him retreat;
- Attack him: he will turn his back;
- (p.58) Retreat: he will start attacking.
- They are not people worthy of respect,
- They are wretches, craven-hearted!
- My person has seen it: it is not a lie!
The stela concludes with a passage that well illustrates the pride that Senwosret III felt for his achievements in the south, and his heartfelt wish that none would undo his efforts:
As for any son of mine who shall maintain this border that my person has made: he is my son, born of my person. A true son is he who is the champion of his father, who guards the border of his begetter. But, as for him who abandons it, who fails to fight for it: he is not my son, he is not born of me!
Now, see, my person has had an image made of my person at this border which my person has made, in order that you might maintain it, in order that you might fight for it.
Although setting the frontier at Semna, at the Second Cataract, the Egyptians regularly penetrated into the territory beyond, Senwosret III’s southernmost attestation being a record of the height of the inundation at Dal, many kilometers beyond Semna, in Year 10. The intervening area cannot have been of much interest to the king, apart from a strategic point of view; it was a most inhospitable land, made clear by its modern name, the Batn el-Hagar, the ‘Belly of Rocks.’
For his tomb, Senwosret III did not follow his father in being buried in the Fayyum—but neither was he apparently buried in the pyramid he erected at Dahshur, the necropolis of Seneferu of the Old Kingdom where Amenemhat II had previously been interred. Senwosret’s Dahshur pyramid complex is interesting in being in many ways a copy of the enclosure of Djoser’s now-ancient Step Pyramid, and thus wholly unlike those of his predecessors. To cement the link with the past, a pair of sarcophagi were extracted from below the Third Dynasty monument and interred at the north end of Senwosret III’s temenos. Other shafts and galleries contained the bodies of the king’s family, including his wife, Neferhenut, and mother, Weret. A considerable amount of jewelry survived in the tomb of the latter and those of a number of the king’s daughters.
In spite of the elaborate nature of his Dahshur complex, and the burial there of his family, it appears that the king was actually buried in another (p.59) burial complex that he constructed far to the south at Abydos, comprising a large temple at the edge of desert, a chapel at the base of the cliffs, and an extraordinarily complex underground tomb. This incorporated all kinds of devices to mislead potential robbers, although, inevitably, plunderers ultimately succeeded in locating the sarcophagus and robbed it of its contents.
The posthumous cult of Senwosret III was particularly strong in Nubia. At the fortress towns he had founded around the Second Cataract, temples were dedicated to him during the New Kingdom, and in later times his fame merged with that of other warrior kings to produce the world-conquering hero ‘Sesostris’ of the Classical writers (this being a Greek transcription of ‘Senwosret’). According to Herodotus, he sailed into the Indian Ocean and then marched through the Levant into Europe, defeating the Scythians and Thracians before halting. Regrettably, there is no evidence that any Egyptian king ever got this far, although Herodotus records that he himself saw examples of the ‘columns’ (stelae?) that he was told marked the progress of Sesostris. Nevertheless, excavation continues to produce the unexpected, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some fragment may yet emerge that will shed some light on real events that lay behind the legend.
The eldest surviving son of Senwosret III was Amenemhat III (fig. 20); he appears to have served as coregent for nearly three decades before the elder king’s death. From this phase appears to date a series of dual sculptures showing the naturalistic features that are to be seen on images of both kings. These pieces are of unusual types, in particular a statue showing the monarchs dressed in Early Dynastic priestly dress and offering fish (fig. 21). A whole set of dual sphinxes reduce human elements to a minimum and for many years were wrongly attributed to the Palestinian Hyksos rulers who were to dominate the north of Egypt 150 years later (see pp. 67-68). Later rulers appropriated all of this novel group of dual pieces, slicing the sphinxes into two separate figures and reinscribing them.
Unlike his father, Amenemhat III has left us few memorials of military activities. Nevertheless, the wide distribution of his monuments makes it clear that he was, in the terms of Senwosret III’s Nubian stelae, a “true son … who is the champion of his father.” Reforms in the national administration were continued, the country now being divided into three administrative regions controlled by departments based at the national capital. These oversaw the activities of subordinate local (p.60)
officials, who no longer possessed the extensive devolved power with which they had previously been endowed.
An area of the country close to Amenemhat III’s heart was the Fayyum. The region had received the attention of Senwosret I and II, but it was only under the third Amenemhat that more extensive works were apparently carried out there—although not the actual digging of the Birket Qarun, the Fayyum’s lake, as is claimed by Herodotus! In particular, a barrage was constructed to regulate the flow of the water into the lake, thus reclaiming a large fertile area, which was then protected by an earthen embankment. To mark his contribution, Amenemhat III erected two colossal statues at Biyahmu, standing upon high bases, overlooking the lake. He also carried out building work at a number of the local sanctuaries, including the temple at Medinet Madi.
(p.61) Amenemhat III also extensively worked the turquoise mines of the Sinai, greatly enlarging the temple of Serabit el-Khadim, which existed solely as a result of the pharaohs’ regular exploitation of the area’s resources. Other regions which saw Egyptian expeditions bent on the extraction of raw materials were the Wadi Hammamat and the diorite quarries of the Nubian desert.
The king’s principal wife was named Aat; she was buried in a chamber in the pyramid that Amenemhat III began at Dahshur, a most unusual arrangement, all other pyramids being built with only the king’s interment in mind. However, while still under construction, the pyramid suffered a major structural failure: as had happened nearly a thousand years before, only a short distance away at Seneferu’s Bent Pyramid, massive cracks opened in roofing blocks, leading, after attempted repairs, to the abandonment of the pyramid as the king’s burial place. Later, it would be used for the interment of a number of female members of the royal family.
For a fresh tomb, the king turned to the Fayyum, building a new brick pyramid at Hawara, not far from the barrage that was the key to the province’s prosperity. There, he was at length interred, his burial chamber having been briefly used to contain the burial of his daughter, Neferuptah, before her reburial in a small pyramid a few kilometers to the south. There is some evidence to suggest that Neferuptah may have been regarded as the king’s potential successor, in the absence of any surviving son, but was denied the chance of becoming the first female pharaoh (discounting the mythical Nitokris) by her own premature demise. Amenemhat III’s Hawara pyramid had the most elaborate substructures of any sepulcher to date, with, at its core, a burial chamber carved from a single block of quartzite, the hardest stone worked by ancient man.
During his final few years, Amenemhat III seems to have shared his throne with his nominated successor, Amenemhat IV, who may have been of non-royal birth. The latter’s independent reign was, however, short, the king being succeeded by Amenemhat III’s daughter, Sobekneferu, thus fulfilling the frustrated destiny of her elder sister. With her passing, after a brief reign, the Twelfth Dynasty came to a sudden end, being followed by a line whose relationships are distinctly confused.
Sobekhotep III, Neferhotep I, and Sobekhotep IV
The transition between the Twelfth Dynasty and the Thirteenth seems to have been peaceful enough, but the contrast between the two dynasties is striking: in place of well-documented reigns of substantial lengths, we (p.62) have a huge number of kings with brief tenures of the throne, and of such obscurity that the exact order of many of them is uncertain.
The dynasty opened with a king named Sobekhotep (I). He set the pattern for many of his successors by ruling for no more than three years. He also began a pattern by including what seems to have been the name of his father, one Amenemhat, in his nomen cartouche; on this basis, it is not unlikely that he was a son of Amenemhat IV. Similarly, the second ruler of the dynasty, Sonbef, may also have been Amenemhat IV’s son.
The unfinished remains of a number of the tombs of the kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty lie at South Saqqara, Dahshur, and Mazghuna—and also at Abydos, close to the tomb of Senwosret III. Their superstructures were of brick, overlying substructures whose complexity increased with almost every generation in an attempt to outwit the tomb robber. While the pyramid remained the ideal, certain kings had to resort to simple shaft burials, either through poverty or lack of time. One such sepulcher has been identified alongside the Dahshur pyramid of Amenemhat III as belonging to King Hor. Ironically, he benefited from his grave’s insignificance since it was only partially robbed in antiquity, thus revealing to us the kind of equipment that accompanied a Middle Kingdom monarch to the afterlife.
The Thirteenth Dynasty being replete with short-lived kings, it was long felt that the real power was usually in the hands of a series of closely-related viziers, the actual pharaohs being little more than figureheads. More recent work has cast doubt on this interpretation, and it is unclear how far, if at all, matters diverged from normal Egyptian governmental practice.
Although much is obscure about the dynasty, one thing that is clear is that it did not comprise a single family line, there being a number of monarchs who were undoubtedly born commoners. Interestingly, these include some of those who are the most prominent of the period. First, there is Sobekhotep III, the offspring of one Montjuhotep and the lady Iuhetibu. His predecessors had all been short-lived, with certain clues pointing to disorder, or even military insurrection. In particular, one of them had taken the nomen ‘Imyromesha’ (‘the General’) and followed a ruler, Khendjer, who had both suffered the erasure of his names from certain monuments and may have been denied burial in his own pyramid.
In contrast to many of these preceding kings, Sobekhotep III is fairly well attested, particularly by his work at Medamud. He is known to have sired two daughters, but there is no record of any sons. While he (p.63) had at least two brothers, who were granted the title of ‘King’s Son,’ he was actually followed on the throne by an apparently unrelated man, one Neferhotep, son of Haankhef (A) and Kem. There is no sign of royal blood in the family, the new king’s paternal grandfather, Nehi, also being a commoner.
A number of places preserve traces of Neferhotep I’s activities, from Byblos in the Lebanon to Buhen in Nubia. These foreign attestations suggest that Egyptian influence was still in place in some of its old spheres. From Egypt itself come monuments at Karnak and in the area of the First Cataract. Particularly interesting are Neferhotep’s memorials from Abydos. The Thirteenth Dynasty had considerable interest in the holy city, and on a sandstone stela the king records how he came to Abydos to reestablish the proper form of the image and rituals of the god Osiris. Before doing so, he arranged that extensive researches be made in the archives of the temple of Atum at Heliopolis to discover the original specifications, which had presumably been disregarded in recent years.
Also at Abydos, Neferhotep I appropriated one, if not all four, of a set of stelae that had been erected by a predecessor, whose name has been read both as that of King Wegaf, and as that of King Seth(y), both of whom had ruled only a few years earlier. These stelae had been intended to mark out the sacred area at Abydos leading up to the Early Dynastic necropolis at Umm el-Qaab, by then regarded as containing the tomb of the mortuary god, Osiris. Another king, whose name has been erased but may be that of Khendjer, had also adorned the tomb of Djer, believed to be that of the deity himself, with a fine recumbent image of the god (cf. pp. 14-15, above).
Neferhotep’s usurpation of these stelae was presumably part of a wider attempt to regularize the activities surrounding the cult of Osiris and his associate deities, and doubtless marked a restatement of the earlier king’s decree that anyone trespassing on the marked-out area (alive, or dead, by having a tomb built there) would be burnt. This sacred area seems to have been the wadi leading up to Umm el-Qaab from the area of the Osiris temple, the scene of the great procession that was the highlight of the god’s ‘mystery play,’ doubtless an event with which the king’s visit was intended to coincide.
Neferhotep I’s reign seems to have lasted some eleven years, and by the time he died he had probably outlived his son, Haankhef B. Accordingly, he was succeeded by his younger brother, Sihathor, whose reign was to be brief; on his demise, a third son of Haankhef A took the throne—Sobekhotep IV.
(p.64) A long inscription from Karnak tells us much about the regime’s administration of the south, in addition confirming that the national capital remained at Itjtawy. That Egypt still maintained an interest in Nubia, heeding Senwosret III’s monumental exhortations, is shown by the fact that Sobekhotep IV fought there. Nevertheless, as we shall see, not long afterward Nubia would become an independent power, and prepared to ally against her former overlords.
A whole series of Sobekhotep’s officials are known by name. The vizier was Iymeru Neferkare, apparently not related to the family that had held the office down to the reign of the third Sobekhotep. Of importance was the great steward, Nebankh, who had important family links with the royal family, his niece, Nubkhaes, ultimately marrying one of Sobekhotep IV’s immediate successors.
Sobekhotep IV is attested by monuments at sites throughout Egypt, in both the Delta and Upper Egypt. Nevertheless, it was possibly in his reign that the first signs of the disintegration of the Egyptian state appeared, the Greek writer Artapanos reporting that in the reign of “Chenephres” (= Khaneferre?—the prenomen of Sobekhotep IV) Egypt was divided into a number of kingdoms. While without direct corroboration, the context of the breakup of the kingdom a few decades later would suggest initial moves around this time. Having occupied the throne for something approaching a decade, Sobekhotep was succeeded by his son, Sobekhotep, who thus became the fifth ruler of the name.
Sobekhotep IV seems likely to have been the ‘King Sobekhotep’ who owned a mastaba (or possibly a pyramid, now numbered S10) with a substructure of typical Thirteenth Dynasty design that was constructed close to the tomb of Senwosret III at Abydos. It seems not unlikely that a very similar adjacent monument (S9) may have belonged to Neferhotep I. Sobekhotep’s tomb was later partly dismantled and its sarcophagus reused in a later nearby tomb belonging to a ruler of the local so-called ‘Abydos Dynasty’ of the later Second Intermediate Period, with wood from the king’s coffin used to make the canopic chest of Senebkay, another Abydos Dynasty king, who is shown by his skeleton, found with his tomb in 2014, to have died in battle.
The last years of the Thirteenth Dynasty seem to represent a gradual decline, and for many modern scholars they mark the period of transition from the Middle Kingdom to the Second Intermediate period: debate continues, however, as to where the boundary should actually be placed. Although featuring some of the dynasty’s longest reigns, a withdrawal (p.65) from Levantine and Nubian commitments was accompanied by the establishment of a whole new state in Upper Nubia, and the consolidation of the control of the northeast Delta under a line of Palestinian rulers, based on the site of Tell el-Daba. Ultimately, however, the latter were in turn displaced by a new group of Asiatics who would pursue a far more aggressive policy that would soon engulf much of Egypt. This group is known to history as the Hyksos. (p.66)