The Egyptian Middle Kingdom, also known as the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, is typically regarded as a period of time spanning from 2040 BC to 1782 BC. It was a period marked by both great technological and cultural advancement driven by strong economic growth and the flourishing of government, literature, art and architecture.
The period is also remembered for its military conquests and long lasting legacies on religious beliefs and practices. The reasons why this era is often referred to as the golden age of Ancient Egypt include its advanced technology, strong economy, diversity in political rule and impressive contributions to culture such as literature and architecture.
Social Structures and Government
Social Classes of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom
During the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, Pharaohs acted as both religious and political leaders of Ancient Egypt. They held tremendous power and authority, with their decisions affecting every aspect of life in Egypt.
Pharaohs were believed to be descendants of the god Horus, which gave them divine status in the eyes of their subjects. As such, they were responsible for overseeing the society’s various social, economic and religious processes.
In terms of political power, Pharaohs had absolute control over military campaigns, legal proceedings and taxation laws – all matters that affected the lives of Egyptians on a daily basis. Their word was law and no other court or group could challenge it. Additionally, Pharaohs also had an important role in religion – they were viewed as mediators between humans and gods and often visited temples to perform rituals on behalf of the people.
Below them were the powerful elites, such as priests, military generals, bureaucrats and court officials.
The majority of people in Ancient Egypt during this period belonged to the common class – farmers, artisans, craftsmen, labourers and fishermen. These people worked hard to provide for their families and contributed to the country’s overall economic growth.
Despite being part of a hierarchical system with clear distinctions between classes, everyone was given equal opportunities to obtain wealth and receive education if they demonstrated high levels of talent or ambition.
Cultural and Religious Practices of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom
Ancient Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom period practiced a complex religious and cultural system that was deeply intertwined with their daily lives. One of the most prominent aspects of this system was the worship of gods, which revolved around elaborate temples, rituals and offerings.
Pharaohs were also believed to be divine descendants of the god Horus, so they played an important role in connecting humans to gods. Additionally, Ancient Egyptians during this time built vast monuments to honor their deities such as pyramids and obelisks – some of which still stand today.
Cultural beliefs also included the afterlife – Ancient Egyptians placed great emphasis on preparing for death by mummifying their dead and providing them with food, drink and valuable objects to accompany them into the afterlife. Other customs included music festivals, dancing, storytelling and theater performances – all of which helped shape Egyptian culture during this period.
Economic Activity of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom
Trade was an important part of the economy during the Middle Kingdom period in Ancient Egypt. Merchants would travel to other lands by sea and caravan to acquire goods such as spices, perfumes, gold and jewels. Local markets in towns and villages also provided a place for people to buy and sell goods.
Trade allowed resource exchange between different regions, which helped diversify the economy of Ancient Egypt and boosted its wealth. Additionally, merchants were also known to offer services such as banking and moneylending – often trading in commodities like grain or salt.
Another major economic activity during this period was agriculture – Ancient Egyptians relied heavily on food from the Nile valley to sustain their population. This included growing wheat, barley and vegetables, as well as fishing from the Nile.
Lastly, industry was also important – craftsmen crafted items such as jewelry, pottery, tools and furniture for sale or use in temples.
Art and Architecture of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom
Art and architecture flourished during the Middle Kingdom period in Ancient Egypt. Major works of art included murals and painted reliefs on temple walls, statuary depicting gods and rulers, jewelry crafted from gold and precious stones, and everyday items such as furniture, pottery and tools.
One iconic building of this period was the pyramid of Senusret III at Dahshur. This pyramid is considered one of the best preserved of all Egyptian pyramids. It is widely believed to have been built in stages by two different architects: Khaefre Re-jedef and Sneferu Khufu.
Other important temples include Karnak, Luxor Temple and Karnak-Luxor Temple Complexes, which were built during the 12th dynasty to honor the gods Amun-Re, Mut-Wosret and Montu-Ra, respectively.
Additionally, the Mortuary Temple Complex of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri was another famous structure from this time period. Lastly, smaller tombs such as Thebes Tombs provided a resting place for mortal kings who hoped that their mummified bodies would live forever after death.
Legacy of the Middle Kingdom
Egypt’s culture continued to flourish well after the end of the Middle Kingdom period due to a number of factors. Firstly, many aspects of the culture including religious beliefs, art and architecture, writing systems and foreign trade networks were established during this time and endured for centuries afterwards.
The Middle Kingdom period also introduced a new form of government which revolved around the concept of divine kingship. This system encouraged bureaucracy, formalised law and taxation which provided stability for many years to come. Furthermore, literary works from this period such as The Instructions of Amenemhet I, The Dialogue of a Man with his Ba and The Instruction of Any remain influential pieces in Egyptian literature today. These works demonstrate how Egyptian culture evolved beyond the Old Kingdom period but still retained much of its moral compass.
Lastly, the legacy left by Ancient Egyptians during this era is still visible in science, technology and medicine today. Mathematics, astronomy and engineering were all developed during the Middle Kingdom period resulting in monuments that have stood the test of time such as pyramids and obelisks. Medicinal practices also blossomed with treatments such as cupping or moxibustion being used widely even until today. All these advances helped to shape modern civilisation as we know it today.
For Further Reading
Large Stockpile of Embalming Equipment discovered in Abusir
Mummification: Why did the Ancient Egyptians embalm their dead?
Saba Mahmood – a strong voice in the anthropology of religion and post-colonialism
Unravelling the Mysteries of Ancient Egyptian Symbols of Death – Anthropology Review
The Wrath of Montu – The Mythology of the Egyptian War God
Exploring the Egyptian Middle Kingdom – A Historical Overview
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