New Kingdom

Photo courtesy of Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum
Statue of the lioness goddess Sekhmet
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, 1570-1320 B.C.
Granite, from Thebes

During the course of the New Kingdom, the members of the ancient Egyptian elite were divided into several opposing factions, each apparently promoting its own cause by proclaiming its advocacy for one deity over another.

The dynamics of these struggles are imperfectly understood for two principle reasons. The first is, as one has seen, the reluctance of members of the Egyptian elite to record the details of their lives in the meticulous way we moderns document those of our own lives. The second reason stems from the fact that oftentimes the successful faction ordered the removal of the names and images of their rivals from the official records. It is for these reasons, then, that the individuals responsible for excising the name and image of Hatshepsut still remain a matter of speculation and the exact familial relationships between members of the royal family at the close of Dynasty 18 are so riddled with difficulties.

And yet one must constantly bear in mind that despite these elite struggles, there is no evidence of the kind of popular insurrections which characterized either the French or American revolutions. The balance of power simply passed back and forth between the hands of the elite without active participation of the masses in these political and religious vicissitudes.

Despite the dislocations that such intrigues may have caused, the works created during the course of the New Kingdom remain among the most consummate expressions of that elite's ideology. The tombs of the Nobles and those in the Valley of the Kings and Queens remain constant visual reminders of the grandeur enjoyed by those advantaged members of the ancient Egyptian elite during this period.

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