Nubia After the reunification of”the Two Lands, Egypt was launched into its second great period, The Middle Kingdom extends from the end of the Eleventh Dynasty and covers the prosperous Twelfth Dynasty (c. 2133-1786 B.C.).
The reign of Amenemhet I heralded a prosperous era, a time of great building activity, and a literary and artistic revival that lasted for some two hundred years.
Egyptian influence was extended along the Red Sea to Punt, around the Mediterranean to Libya, Palestine, Syria, Crete, the Aegean Islands, and even the mainland of Greece.
In the south, plans went ahead for the colonization of Nubia.
This was considered necessary because, during the centuries after the fall of the Old Kingdom, Nubia had under-gone an infusion of central African tribes.
Attitudes had changed.
Amenemhet I, the first pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty, was apparently born in Egypt’s most southern province, bordering Nubia.
He taught his son Senusert I the art of leadership.
The youth accompanied Egyptian forces over the scorching sands for hundreds of kilometers into Nubia.
His father obviously wanted to ensure that his son would be physically and spiritually equipped for leadership’ when the time came.
Indeed, it came sooner than he thought, because Amenemhet was assassniated in a murderous assalilt by his ownbodyguards.’S§i§sert I tdolf over the throne and, ia pursiiit of his father’s ambition, conducted what may have been the first military, rather than exploratory, mission led by a pharaoh onto foreign soil.
The overnor of Elephantine
during Senusert’s reign was Sirenput He also stifle ‘great controller of NTibia’ and e accompanied the pharaoh on one of his missions; a stela at Buhen erected by one of his commanders depicts the king standing before the god Montu of`Thebes declaring: “To you have I brought all foreign countries which are in Nubia beneath thy feet, good god.”
In his tomb on Qubbet al-Hawa Sirenput claimed that he had a special relationship with his sovereign, who helped him construct his tomb (p.82)_ I One of the problems hindering the conquest of Nubia was that the old channel excavated by Weni nearly three centuries before had become clogged.
It was only navigable when there was high water, and this was too unpredictable for the transportation of supplies for organized warfare.
by whose reign the time was ripe for the final conquest of Nubia, subsequently ordered it cleared and widened so that ships could pass through.
In the eighth year of his reign, Senusert was able to record on a graniterock (on Seheil Island) that he had satisfactorily excavated a channel 150 cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and fifteen cubits deep.
Finally, he erected a stela at Semna at the Second Cataract declaring it to be Egypt’s southem boundary.
At the Second Cataract,
the Nile thundered through a gap in the granite barrier.
There Egypt built a chain of fortresses, now inundated, to protect their trade and mining interests.
But the soldiers who manned the forts faced raids from desert tribes and attacks from the powerful kingdom of Kerma, above the Third Cataract.
The people of Kerma, the Medjai, were vigorous and courageous.
Admired by the Egyptians
for their strength and courage, and later for their military capabilities (when they became the backbone of the Egyptian army), they were long-time enemies of the tribes of Egyptian Nubia and strongly resisted the occupation.
The Nubians, however, were content to have a strong Egyptian presence to protect their interests. They aided the Egyptians and were so delighted by the victory over their aggressive neighbors that they tumed Senusert into a national hero.
They built a temple in his honor at Kerma, which eventually supported a flourishing Egyptian community.
Senusert III’s next great decision was a political one that substantially affected Aswan.
The Two Lands of Egypt were divided into three.
The southernmost region comprised the first ten provinces from Aswan to Abydos and was known as ‘the head ofUpper Egypt.’ The second region, which embraced the eleventh to the twenty-second provinces, between Abydos and Memphis, was labeled ‘Upper Egypt’ and also included the whole of the Fayoum, southwest of the capital al-Lisht. The third region was made up of the remaining twenty provinces of the Delta, Lower Egypt.
The reason for the division may have been to curb the power of the provincial governors. Indeed, toward the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, there is a virtual disappearance of the local nobility of
Aswan and Elephantine.
Up until then they had played a vital part in the political progress of the country. Afterward, a succession of officials followed who were no longer titled ‘govemor’ (although they may have remained honorary governors of Elephantine alone) but ‘high priest,’ specifically the priests of the goddess Satis.
Despite the diminished status of _its noblemen, Aswan remained an important base for trading expeditions, a departure point for settlers heading for the Second Cataract, and a port for the transshipment of gloods to the north.
By the reign of Amenemhet III (1842-1797 u.c.), at the peak of the Middle Kingdom, the wealth of Nubia and the African nations south of Nubia poured into Egypt.
This led to increased attacks by desert tribes.
The Aswan cataract region,
ever a vulnerable spot, now hindered the free flow of merchandise.
Only after Amenemhet managed to safeguard the convoys by constructing a huge protective wall between Philae and Aswan (p.38) was the danger averted.
The prosperous Middle Kingdom came to an end with the Hyksos invasion of Egypt.
These ‘rulers of foreign countries’ did not sweep into Egypt in a single wave of destruction.
They had infiltrated into the Delta, at first in small and then in increasing numbers.
They eventually settled in camps large enough to cause concern to the Egyptians.
In the Thirteenth Dynasty,
when central authority began to break down, they fortified their strongholds and, with horse and chariot hitherto unknown in Egypt, swept south ward.
The damage they did to Memphis and the other cities of Egypt can only be guessed at.
Pharaohs oflater times inscribed that they “restored what was ruined” and “raised what had gone in pieces,” but there is an almost total absence of contemporary documents during the Hyksos occupation, which leaves us with scanty evidence of what actually took place.
They did not extend their influence as far south as Aswan and Elephantine, but the fall in the demand for granite must have affected the quarry industry.
Shipments from the south ceased.
The markets of Aswan
saw little in the way oftrade and commerce.
And as for the fortresses in Nubia, many were burned and most abandoned.
It would appear that during the period of decline from the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Dynasties (1’786~l567 1s_c.), Lower Nubia took advantage ofEgypt’s weakness and regained its freedom. By the time the Hyksos were finally expelled by a powerful Theban family in the Eighteenth Dynasty, the New Kingdom pharaohs had to reestablish a presence there.