April 10, 2012

The Rise of the Ancient Egyptian 17th Dynasty

The rise of the 17th Dynasty
While the Hyksos kings assumed control in the north of the country, a new line of rulers, the 17th Dynasty, was evolving in Thebes. The Theban kings ruled an area from Elephantine to Abydos, and in spite of the scant resources at their disposal they largely succeeded in preserving the culture of the Middle Kingdom.

Amenophis III on its chariot
The earlier rulers of the dynasty made no apparent attempt to challenge the authority of the Hyksos, and an uneasy truce existed between the two lineages for some time. Evidence of this comes from a fragmentary letter (now in the British Museum) in which the Hyksos king Apepi I complains to his Theban counterpart Seqenenre Tao that he was unable to sleep in Avaris because of the roaring of hippopotami 500 miles (800 km) away at Thebes, and suggests that Seqenenre do something about it.

Sadly, the end of the tale is not preserved. Later members of the Theban dynasty were more militant, and rose against the Hyksos in a series of battles which were eventually to force the interlopers from Egypt. Seqenenre himself was probably killed in one of the battles since his mummy, discovered in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari in 1881, shows evidence of terrible wounds about the head. His death was not in vain, for it was one of his sons, Ahmose, who was finally to drive out the Hyksos and found the 18th Dynasty.

Many of the first kings of the 17th Dynasty were known as Intef, and their large and heavy coffins with vulture-wing feathered decoration (called rishi coffins) have been found at Thebes in the area of the Dra Abu el-Naga on the west bank. The tombs themselves were poor, cut into the Theban hillside and usually marked by steep-sided brick-built pyramids.

The tomb of another 17th Dynasty king, Sobekemsaf II, had apparently remained intact until the reign of the 20th Dynasty king Ramses IX, when a certain Amun-pnufer and a gang of seven accomplices robbed the burial of the king and his queen, Nubkha-es, in about 1124 BC. A greenstone heart scarab set in gold inscribed on the base for a Sobekemsaf may refer to this king. Now in the British Museum, it was acquired in the 19th century with the coffin of his successor, Nubkheperre Intef; they were possibly found together, in which case the scarab may have been in a re-used context.

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