Middle Kingdom

Photo courtesy of Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum
The lid and two end panels from a coffin of the official Nakht
Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11-Dynasty 12, 2100-1780 B.C.
Wood, painted, probably from Asyut

Never before in the history of ancient Egyptian civilization did the members of the elite openly challenge the position of pharaoh as happened during the Middle Kingdom.

Court intrigues and assassinations were commonplace. This challenge to the authority and prestige of pharaoh is evident in the art of the period. The faces in this gallery of pharaoh and members of the elite-men, women and children-are marked by wrinkles and furrows. Such faces stand in stark contrast to the bland idealizing faces of the Old Kingdom.

These images were first introduced by the members of the elite for their own statues to demonstrate that they were in disagreement with pharaoh. As time passed, pharaoh adopted the same means of expression for his own images in a visual attempt to reveal that he and members of the elite were in accord on important issue of state.

On the other hand, the Middle Kingdom is regarded as the classical period of the ancient Egyptian language. The hieroglyphs are so masterfully drawn and the grammar and syntax of the language so eloquently composed that teachers of Egyptology the world over use the texts of the Middle Kingdom as the model with which to teach their budding Egyptological students this fascinating system of writing.

The ancient Egyptians themselves echoed these sentiments because they regarded the literary compositions of the Middle Kingdom as their own classics. These classics were themselves copied and studied by subsequent generations of ancient Egyptian scribal students as well.

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