The heritage of ancient Egyptian civilization is popularly associated with the pyramids of the Old Kingdom and the monumental temples, decorated tombs, and Tutankhamun's golden mask of the New Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom has left comparatively few impressive remains for modern eyes. Some may recall the name of Sinuhe, though unaware that—contrary to the popular romance and motion picture—he was a Middle Kingdom man.
If we could ask an early New Kingdom courtier for the most prominent people of the past five hundred years, he might reply, “Kings Nebhepetre Montuhotep, Sehotepibre Amenemhet (I), Kheperkare Senwosret (I), Khakaure Senwosret (III), Nymaare Amenemhet (III), and then the much traveled Sinuhe, and Khety, the scribe.” When asked why, he would probably explain that he knew most of them from their stories in the books and that Montuhotep was worshiped at his temple at Deir el-Bahri; Senwosret was a god in Nubia, and Amenemhet was one in the Faiyum. Indeed, early in the New Kingdom, the mortuary complex of Montuhotep I at Deir el-Bahri and the temple of Amun at Karnak, established by Senwosret I, were the most prominent landmarks on the Theban landscape. Amenemhet I, Sinuhe, and Khety were familiar as literary figures, protagonists of three famous texts: respectively, the Instructions of Amenemhet for his son Senwosret, the Story of Sinuhe, and the Satire on the Trades. Today, Senwosret III and his son Amenemhet III are known to almost every visitor to a major Egyptian collection only by their impressive statuary.
Our picture of the Middle Kingdom is formed by the arts of the ancient scribes and sculptors. Thus, the heritage of the Middle Kingdom is not monumental but nevertheless immortal: literature and faces. The faces of many people—royal and nonroyal—portrayed in stone, express concern and intent, and the texts offer sense and meaning.
Many chronologies of ancient Egypt attempt to equate cultural stages with the spans of dynasties. This custom often leads to questions whether, for instance, the Middle Kingdom began with the eleventh or twelfth dynasty, or whether the thirteenth dynasty belonged to the Middle Kingdom or to the Second Intermediate Period. Clearly, the answer depends on one's point of view. If one is speaking about royalty and royal families, it might be right to define breaks in terms of dynasties. But political, ideological, and technical developments evolve differently, and not simultaneously. The Middle Kingdom, defined as a cultural-historical entity, has no sharp limits.
In the political sense, the Middle Kingdom began about 2040 BCE, when the Theban lord Nebhepetre Montuhotep became sole ruler after about a hundred years of disunity, and the Herakleopolitan tenth dynasty came to an end. The Second Intermediate Period—defined as the time Egypt was under divided rule—commenced in the last fifty years of the thirteenth dynasty with the rise of local non-Egyptian (but Egyptianized) rulers in the eastern Nile Delta (the fourteenth dynasty). The collapse of political authority came only after the dissolution of cultural unity, when Syro-Palestinian rulers, called “Hyksos” by later tradition, usurped (at about 1650 BCE) the throne at Memphis. They held it for about a century, while the ruling political-administrative system of the thirteenth dynasty continued in a Theban-centered state labeled the seventeenth dynasty.
In the ceramic sequence, the different Lower and Upper Egyptian assemblages of the First Intermediate Period were replaced with uniform inventory by the early years of Amenemhet II; the styles started to separate again, with strong Syro-Palestinian influences and imports into the eastern Delta, by at least the first half of the thirteenth dynasty. In art, the Old Kingdom tradition prevailed against local styles late in the eleventh dynasty and were augmented in the twelfth dynasty by new types of statuary, such as squatting and cuboid forms. One change that marks the Middle Kindom apart from the Old Kingdom is the greater use of stone for temple-building in the twelfth dynasty. This corresponds to the growing importance of the temple as a social and economic institution, and of the role of the gods. Brick buildings are to be found in the twelfth dynasty to an unparalleled extent, as indicated by the pyramids or the Nubian fortresses.
Funerary culture changed markedly late in the sixth dynasty, when the Coffin Texts tradition began and anyone could aspire to become Osiris after death. A specialized funerary industry, increasingly and nationwide, produced the coffins, plaster masks, servant statues, and models—and doubtless the ideas associated with them—from their Memphite roots. Several religious conceptions (connected with the goddess Hathor of the human ba-soul) are attested on popular stampseal amulets for the first time, well before scarab seals appeared in the eleventh dynasty. Another major shift came around the time of Senwosret III, when significant changes were made in the underground design of the royal tomb, and the long tradition of decorated rock-cut tombs for the higher elite came to an end—for about 230 years, at least in the provinces. These trends accompanied changes in religious belief: for example, the idea of a difficult and dangerous journey to the netherworld, and of a free-moving ba-spirit.
The explicit ideology of ruling a harmonious society was the main achievement of the Middle Kingdom. These concepts were expressed in literary works like the Loyalist Teaching and the Instructions of a Man for His Son, which later became classics that were repeatedly copied. While in the Old Kingdom the pharaoh acted laconic and in solitude, nevertheless he was gracious to his courtiers. He engaged his nobles in dialogue and gave reasons for his actions. Kings not only displayed but also explained themselves. The major ideological and intellectual change between the Old Kingdom and the Middle was a movement from implicit statement to explicit reasoning, which was related to the spread and diversification of the written word and writings. The pharaonic regime in the reign of Senwosret I promulgated eloquently—by charisma and speeches, temple inscriptions and literature, by arguments and threats—a policy that could be defined by three elements. First, there was the desire for commemoration, using stone as the medium to promote cultural identity and remembrance. Second, there was the determined promulgation of an element of ideal social behavior: “to act reciprocally for the one who has acted before,” and to remember. Third, loyalty to the pharaoh guaranteed the well-being of all, while opposition brought annihilation. This was an intolerant program: everyone was concerned and involved, and there was no room for neutrality. Its reflection prevails in the autobiographies of the elite and in literature. Once formulated, it led to irrevocable developments and was impressed on the collective memory of future Egyptian societies. Amenemhet I had coined his Horus-name in a manner appropriate to the new spirit of the age, “Repeater of Birth: Creation” (Wehem Meswet); his son, Senwosret I, used the Horusname “Active One in Creation” (Ankh Meswet), and brought forth renaissance and restoration. His vast temple-building program made kingship omnipresent.
The social foundations of the Middle Kingdom lay in the system of ruling of the eleventh dynasty. People were tied to the ruler by personal fidelity, conviction, charisma, and material rewards—at least, this is the impression derived from comparing the inscriptions authorized by King Antef II, his chancellor Tjetji or Rediukhnum of Dendera. The king and his companions shared common ideas and views, and the Theban territory was enlarged by their military force and their persuasive powers. The spiritual and social unity between king and courtiers is made visible in the layout of the necropolis of Montuhotep I at Deir el-Bahri, where the royal mortuary complex is surrounded by the tombs of his followers, who are also depicted in the reliefs of the royal tomb.
These attitudes had parallels in other regions, and on a smaller scale. After the decline of Old Kingdom rule, things did not change very much for the common people outside the royal residental quarters. Local potentates, however, managed to gather groups of followers, promising security and welfare to their partisans, in exchange for their civil and military support. Bonds of fidelity developed which rewarded the loyalist with income and security. These relationships mirror the concern of the pharaoh for his subjects at a local level. Both patrons and followers spoke proudly in their autobiographies about the benefits of their actions and their own prosperity. Late in the eighth dynasty, and in the absence of centralized authority, the elites in Middle and Upper Egypt tried to assert elements of royal ideology, tied to local and regional networks and often in competition with each other. Finally, they became trustworthy adherents of the Herakleopolitan or Theban kings. The relationship between the pharaoh, courtiers, and underlings in the twelfth dynasty was modeled after these socio-political systems. Unfortunately, archaeology allows only a glimpse into the conditions prevailing in the country. From the late eleventh to mid-twelfth dynasty, there are few upper-class decorated tombs in the provinces (Aswan, Thebes, Qaw el-Kebir, Rifeh, Asyut, Bersheh, Beni Hasan, and Meir)—the tombs of the court circles in the Memphite region were largely destroyed for their stone. Hence the overwhelming majority of tombs from the Middle Kingdom have few written words. They offer much in other spheres of culture, but are silent about the professions, names, private histories, and personalities of the individuals buried within.
There are four major sources of texts for the study of Middle Kingdom administration and bureaucracy: the inscriptions about successful government expeditions in the Sinai, at Hatnub, Wadi Hammamat, and Wadi el-Hudi, and the numerous rock inscriptions and graffiti (within and outside the Nile Valley, along the caravan and mining routes, and near the Nubian fortresses). Then there is the corpus of more than two thousand inscribed stelae, donated by kings as well as inferior “nobodies,” and mostly erected at the holy site of Abydos. Another group consists of administrative papyri, with lists of workers' names; accounts of provisions, tools, work, and activities at the royal court; building projects; administrative decrees; juridical trials; wills; liveries, and simple letters (Reisner Papyri, papyri from Illahun, and Papyrus Brooklyn 35.144, etc.). The very existence of a large amount of papyri dealing with these matters has led some Egyptologists to a rather sinister vision of a rigid and over-regulated government, and a “prescriptive” society. However, there is no reason to assume that regulation, control, and bureaucratic complexity were features typical only of the late twelfth dynasty. It was only then that minor officials and state servants had the possibility and the wealth to donate stelae and/or other inscribed objects of their own. The interpretation of an all-pervasive administration overestimates the capabilities and intents of the courtly elite and bureaucrats. They eagerly tried to control the royal and governmental sector, but there was room for private property, interests, and enterprise, even within the households of extended families and their servants. The economic concept of redistribution seems to have been dominant only in the royal, government, and temple sectors of economy. There were various interwoven economic levels from family and village to temple and the royal palace, with different economic modes in coexistence, ranging from redistribution to free commerce. The slow process of growing possibilities and emerging prosperity of the lower and middle classes can be demonstrated by the evidence for the so-called soldiers of the town regiment (ʿnḫ nj nwt); early in the twelfth dynasty, they are mentioned only as groups in lists of participants on government expeditions, but later on, they appear as individual owners of stelae or statues.
Funeral Culture, Society, and Sociology.
Careful analysis of cemeteries, tombs, and funerary customs and culture can yield evidence for the existence of social inequality and stratification far beyond the simple two-tiered model of a society divided into producers and managers. This was, however, the ancient Egyptian elites' abstract view of society, which consisted of nobles (pat) and common people (rekhyt). Literary texts like the Loyalist Teaching speak only of a nonproductive managerial class (ranging from vizier to petty priests like Hekanakhte) and their servants and dependent workers, “who produce that which exists”—a division of society that is depicted in decorated noble tombs since Old Kingdom times, where there seems to be no place for an intermediary and independent middle group or class.
Research in Riqqeh, Haraga, and Abydos North demonstrated that there were at least three distinct levels of grave type, size, and wealth in certain Middle Kingdom cemeteries. There were three different types of burials: surface graves, with or without a coffin; shaft graves, usually with a coffin deposited in a subsurface chamber accessible by a rectangular shaft; and tombs, with the burial within several coffins and a stone sarcophagus in a stonemantled subsurface chamber accessible by a corridor. Additional status markers were the surface architecture of the tombs and the equipment of the funerary complex with (inscribed) stone objects like sarcophagi, statues, and stelae. There seem to have been no restrictions of access to cemetery areas. Semiprecious materials like amethyst and carnelian and even gold and silver, have been recovered throughout the cemeteries. A middle class may have been represented by the owners of the shaft tombs, but there are usually no inscriptions in the tombs, so one can never be sure whether the owner was an upper servant or minor official, or a true middle-class, “independent townsman.” The reality of a middle class of minor officials, professionals, craftsmen, and prosperous servants is beyond doubt, but evidence is scant for the existence of a middle-class economically and hierarchically, independent from the rulers and outside the state sector. Individuals depicted on their own inscribed objects, who had no official or professional titles, could have belonged to it.
While the proof for an independent middle class is elusive (or simply not mentioned in the texts), clear social distinctions existed between the ruling group of the royal court and provincial elites, as well as working people. Papyrus Boulaq 18 from the thirteenth dynasty offers insights about administrative matters at the Theban royal court and the ranking of officials and servants. There were inner and outer parts of the palace, each with its own officials and servants—those serving the royal family and those in charge of government affairs under the supervision of the vizier. The hierarchy at court was intricate and sanctioned by courtly discipline and custom. Below the king and his vizier, we can distinguish the highest officials (like the chief treasurer and high steward), various ranks of courtiers and the local elite, as well as medium- and low-ranking government officials. Outside the scope of the papyrus are the semiofficial and nonofficial tiers. Administration and policy were handled by three departments (vizierate, treasury, and military affairs), supplemented by officials working on the local level, and those dealing with religious matters and the economics of the temples. Clearly there existed some upward mobility—less in the twelfth dynasty, and more in the thirteenth dynasty. The grandfather of three kings (Neferhotpe I, Sihathor, and Sobekhotpe IV) in the thirteenth dynasty was of the same social stratum as the origins of some of their highest officials: he was a rank-and-file “soldier of the town regiment.” Knowledge of religious and professional matters was passed on from father to son by the priests and artisans, and one can often find relatives working in related administrative or economic branches. For the higher offices, the king had to confirm inheritance. Social tiers or groups of related rank and status seem to have functioned like peer groups, with prevailing and preferential horizontal connections and relations. There were no restricted classes or a caste system (as suggested by Herodotus II, 164), and because personal success was bound to favor from above in the hierarchy, even common people and Egyptianized foreigners could advance at court, in the administration, or in the army.
Social stratification also extended to the afterlife. Theoretically, by means of ritual and religio-magical knowledge, anyone could—and perhaps did—aspire to become Osiris after death. Practically, the access to this knowledge, the possibility of performing appropriate rites, and the acquisition of coffins and mummification were restricted; even the afterlife was not egalitarian but hierarchical. In real life, one looked for patrons in the higher levels of society. Accordingly, people both high and low looked for intermediaries, like the deified local saint Heka-ib at Elephantine Island, to communicate with the superior gods in the hereafter, and put shawabti-figures in their graves to serve the dead.
Anyone looking at Greek or Roman statuary could easily identify social types that correspond to certain personalities: the young, athletic aristocrat (the kouros), the politician, the emperor, or the philosopher. For the ancient viewer, the portrayal of a bearded, long-haired man served to represent, according to popular conventions, a philosopher. But ancient Egyptian sculpture does not provide immediate insight into the meaning of its messages. Certainly, it is easy to identify social types like a king, a god, or an official, but little can be said about the character and mood of the subject intended by the sculptor and his customer. It is even not clear if this is portraiture at all. The wigs, crowns, clothing, ears, and the whole body of the statues are clearly stylized. The anonymity of the sculptor and his subject requires close scrutiny.
Fortunately, many inscribed royal sculptures exist, representing beyond doubt Senwosret III and Amenemhet III. The suggestion of a long coregency of Senwosret III with his son Amenemhet III offers new insight into their portrayals. The elite mentality is displayed in these faces, frequently and more or less exactly copied and recited by contemporaries and posteriority. Senwosret III's expression appears “strong,” because we have a certain idea of this king's reign and mentality, whereas the same face labeled Amenemhet IV might be called “resigned,” “bitter,” or “weary” by us. The wide range of modern speculations on the meaning of Middle Kingdom royal and nonroyal statuary probably does not accurately reflect the views of the ancient artisan and his public about the meaning behind the faces.
The numerous royal and nonroyal faces of Middle Kingdom statuary express ethical values and character traits rather than naturalistic portraits—that is, how a member of the elite or even a king ought to be represented. They display rank, self-confidence in harmony with hierarchy, intellectual and economic prosperity, and well-being—in short, the ideal personality. In a society so rigorously held by the ideal of “perfection” (nfr), rank, and decorum, it seems inconceivable that statuary could display mental and physical indisposition, bad temper, or any other negative mood. Egyptian art was made to order, so it is understandable that its meaning had to be acceptable to the customer and the public.
While the stony faces display the character and mood of reigning, literature aims at the mind. For the Egyptians, papyrus was a writing material intended not for eternity but for daily use. Ironically, papyri survived much better than many stone buildings, and thus their words became immortal. The twelfth dynasty seems to have been fertile ground for literature, favorable for scribes to conceive discourses and tales. The scribes formulated teachings, thoughts, and insights, ageless and familiar to anyone living in an autocratic monarchy. Their writings are shaped by the society they belonged to: aristocratic and bureaucratic, courtly, male-centered, and martial.
Some common themes and patterns can be identified throughout the Middle Kingdom: the love of perfect speech; and a penchant for literary protagonists of rather low (or even marginal) social level (the Eloquent Peasant; the Shipwrecked Sailor; the wizard Djedi in the Westcar Papyrus; Neferti; Khakheperreseneb; Ipuwer; and the anonymous “man”), or, at the highest level (King Merikare, King Amenemhet I). These are literary devices showing a predilection for the uncommon, which clearly enhanced the attraction of the plot. It would be a mistake to say that the audience for literature originated from the same low social levels as some of the literary heroes. The heroes are not simply common people, but those fictionally equipped with extraordinary talents. Some texts mirror the courtly and scribal ambience of their audience, like the story of the adventures of the palace official Sinuhe, or the instructions of Vizier Ptahhotep, of Prince Hordjedef for Kagemni, and the Satire on the Trades. In their train of thought, these works formulate cultural values—how to think, and how to behave as a member of the elite.
The literary texts of the Middle Kingdom make room for fantasy—more so than any royal commemorative inscription—but nevertheless they promote the values of the nobility. This is clear in texts like the Loyalist Teaching—one of the earliest treatises about responsibility and sense of duty among the managerial elite. “Fight for his [the King's] name…he is life to the man who gives praise to him,” as well as “Fight for the working men… they are a flock, good for their lord!” are the two central devices that dictate action.
Another favorite theme is that of troubles and despair. Both can have many causes and dimensions, and affect the individual in various ways. Chiefly, troubles and despair are connected with events before the rise of the twelfth dynasty (as in the Prophecies of Neferti and the Eloquent Peasant), but they are also the point of departure for Sinuhe's flight, for the shipwrecked sailor's adventure, or for the laments of the anonymous man to his ba-soul, and for the lament of Khakheperreseneb to his heart. The reasons for the ancient Egyptians' love of the desperation theme are not well understood, because some of the laments seem to finish abruptly (or have lost their endings). But clearly, they attracted an audience with their vivid descriptions of turmoil, anxiety, and their resolution—situations familiar in any time. The story incorporating the exhortations of a king in despair (significant for the Egyptians' love of the extreme)—who even reports that he was killed in an attack by his conspiratorial courtiers (displaying the human elements inherent in divine kingship), was highly popular in the New Kingdom and was chosen by teachers as an appropriate text for school.
It seems beyond doubt that most of the texts were produced for the love of skilled readings in courtly circles of the Middle Kingdom and that they were not written at the times of their fictional events. Scholars are not unanimous about the dates of the Instruction of Ptahhotep, the Instructions for Merikare and the Admonitions of Ipuwer. Ptahhotep offers a mixture of early Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom traits, but it is metrically Old Kingdom. Merikare lacks definite criteria for determining if it is a work of the late tenth dynasty or early twelfth dynasty. The dialogue of Ipuwer with the Lord-of-All (presumably the king) reveals distinct themes and the lexicon of the First Intermediate Period, but it includes later features and titles as well. Its historical setting is open to question.
The traditional view of the Middle Kingdom was shaped by the works of J. H. Breasted, A. Gardiner, H. E. Winlock, W. C. Hayes, G. Posener, W. Helck, and J. von Beckerath, to name but a few. The research of archaeologists, philologists, and historians in the past twenty years has developed or changed the understanding of the Middle Kingdom in many ways, and here the names of J. Assmann, the Arnolds, O. D. Berlev, M. Bietak, E. Brovarski, H. G. Fischer, D. Franke, B. Kemp, D. O'Connor, R. Parkinson, S. Quirke, W. Schenkel, W. K. Simpson, S. Seidlmayer, P. Vernus, W. A. Ward, and H. Willems should be mentioned.
The absolute chronology of the twelfth dynasty, once the backbone for the chronologies of the entire ancient Near East, is now open for discussion. The relative and absolute chronology of the Middle Kingdom will remain uncertain with the sources currently available. The unfinished royal tomb in the valley west of the Ramesseum is ascribed now (by Dorothea Arnold) to Amenemhet I's Theban years, challenging a reassessment for the transitional period of late eleventh to early twelfth dynasty.
One recent challenge is Claude Obsomer's argument against coregencies in the twelfth dynasty. Most of the traditional evidence in favor of a coregency of Amenemhet I with his son Senwosret I have lost credibility, but discussion will continue. Another problem is the recent lengthening of the reign of Senwosret III (by eleven or twenty years), just when most scholars assumed that Senwosret III did not reign longer than nineteen years.
The excavations in the Middle Kingdom cemeteries and the cenotaph area at Abydos, and the publication of material, mostly stelae, from this site by D. O'Connor and W. K. Simpson have stimulated a new period of growth for Middle Kingdom research. The publication of the dozens of statues and stelae from the sanctuary of Hekaib on Elephantine Island by L. Habachi has provided a deeper understanding of many facets of Middle Kingdom culture. Excavations by C. von Pilgrim will carry this work forward. Surveys by the Darnells on the desert routes between Western Thebes and Nag Hammadi have brought to light forgotten, much-traveled communication lines, with rock inscriptions of great importance. Specialized research in the Faiyum has revealed enormous works projects to enlarge the area of arable land and increase fertility, with dams and a huge reservoir, probably begun in the reign of Amenemhet III.
Lake Nasser has brought archaeology and the documentation of antiquities in Lower Nubia to an end, but research on the excavated, rescued, and recorded material goes on. Moreover, the complexities of Egyptians in Nubia and foreigners in Egypt continue to fascinate scholars.
One of the most astonishing discoveries is the annals of Amenemhet II at Memphis, which give evidence for far-reaching military enterprises on the orders of this king—even to Cyprus, some philologists believe. Amenemhet II has experienced a veritable renaissance, from a nobody to an energetic ruler.
Research has changed our picture of the thirteenth dynasty, too. It is no longer viewed as a period of decline, but as a period that had to accommodate many problems: more than a single royal family, foreign intrusions, cultural diversity, a large bureaucratic apparatus, and growing martial and military influence. The fifteenth dynasty reign of the Hyksos gave important stimuli to Egyptian culture that shaped society: the custom of usurpation of other people's statuary, the horse and the chariot, and intensified international relationships and trade. The recent discovery of Minoan wall paintings at Avaris (Tell ed-Dabʿa), the capital of the Hyksos, has raised many new questions. The seventeenth dynasty became a focus for speculation on the sequence and grouping of kings, for example, the placement of King Antef.
New work on autobiographic inscriptions, administrative and literary papyri, and ostraca is in progress. Urgent tasks are, for example, the complete rerecording of the inscriptions in the rock-cut tombs at Asyut, as well as an inventory of neglected Middle Kingdom sculpture. Analyses of material culture, excavated long ago, or just recently, have yielded fascinating and promising results. Excavations in the Nile Delta, at Memphis, Dahshur, el-Lisht, Bersheh, Abydos, Thebes, Elkab, and the region of Aswan are making enormous contributions to Egyptology, especially where settlements and cemeteries can be excavated together (as at Tell ed-Dabʿa, Elephantine Island).
See also AMENEMHET I; AMENEMHET III; MONTUHOTEP I, NEBHEPETRE; SENWOSRET I; SENWOSRET III; SOBEKNEFERU; THIRTEENTH DYNASTY; TWELFTH DYNASTY; and articles on the various literary works mentioned in this article.
- Franke, Detlef. “Erste und Zweite Zwischenzeit—Ein Vergleich.” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 117 (1990), 119–129. Comparative study of socio-political and ideological traits of the First and Second Intermediate Periods.
- Franke, Detlef. “The Middle Kingdom in Egypt.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by J. M. Sasson, vol. 2, part 5, pp. 735–748. New York, 1995. Overview article treating major kings and events, with bibliography.
- Vandersleyen, Claude. L'Égypte et la vallée du Nil. Paris, 1995. Vol. 2, pp. 37–39, 43–55. General outline, with archaeological and textual sources.
Textual Sources and Literature
- Assmann, Jan. Ma'at: Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im Alten Ägypten. Munich, 1995. Study of the fundamental mental and ethical values underlying Middle Kingdom societies.
- Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Autobiographies Chiefly Of The Middle Kingdom. Freiburg and Göttingen, 1988. Translations of many important texts.
- Parkinson, Richard B. Voices from Ancient Egypt. An Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. London, 1991.
- Parkinson, Richard B. The Tale of Sinuhe and other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940–1640 bc. Oxford, 1997. Recent and reliable translation of Middle Kingdom tales and Wisdom Literature.
- Assmann, Jan. “Das Bildnis in der ägyptischen Kunst: Stile und Funktionen bildlicher Selbstdarstellung.” In Stein und Zeit: Mensch und Gesellschaft im Alten Ägypten, edited by Jan Assmann, pp. 138–168. Munich, 1991. Development and function of Egyptian sculpture, Old to New Kingdom.
- Fay, Biri. The Louvre Sphinx and Royal Sculpture from the Reign of Amenemhat II. Mainz, 1996.
- Spanel, Donald B. Through Ancient Eyes: Egyptian Portraiture. Birmingham, 1988.
People and Administration
- Franke, Detlef. Personendaten aus dem Mittleren Reich. Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, 41. Wiesbaden, 1984. Prosopographic dossiers for people of the Middle Kingdom who appear on more than one inscribed object.
- Franke, Detlef. Das Heiligtum des Heqaib auf Elephantine: Geschichte eines Provinzheiligtums im Mittleren Reich. SAGA, 9. Heidelberg, 1994. The history of Heqaib's sanctuary as part of Middle Kingdom cultural history.
- Obsomer, Claude. Sésostris 1er: Étude chronologique et historique du règne. Brussels, 1995. Basic study on his reign and on coregencies, with translations of all relevant sources.
- Quirke, Stephen. The Administration of Egypt in the Late Middle Kingdom: The Hieratic Documents. New Malden, 1990. Analyzes the administrative papyri of the Middle Kingdom: Boulaq 18, Brooklyn 35. 1446, Illahun papyri, etc.
- Ward, William A. Index of Egyptian Administrative and Religious Titles of the Middle Kingdom. Beirut, 1982. Useful in concordance with the reviews of D. Franke and W. K. Simpson, and especially H. G. Fischer's additions and corrections.
- Wegner, Josef W. “The Nature and Chronology of the Senwosret III/Amenemhet III Regnal Succession.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 55 (1996). Publication and discussion of the year date “39” of Senwosret III from his mortuary complex at Abydos-South.
Nubia and Nubians
- Meurer, Georg. Nubier in Ägypten bis zum Beginn des Neuen Reiches. Berlin, 1996. Concise summary of the facts and problems.
- O'Connor, David. Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa. Philadelphia, 1993.
- Smith, Stuart T. Askut In Nubia: The Economics and Ideology of Egyptian Imperialism in the Second Millenium bc. London and New York, 1995.
Second Intermediate Period
- Franke, Detlef. “Zur Chronologie des Mittleren Reiches Teil II: Die sogenannte ‘Zweite Zwischenzeit’ Altägyptens.” Orientalia 57 (1988), 245–274. Research on the relative chronology of dynasties 13–17.
- Ryholt, Kim. The Second Intermediate Period in Egypt, c.1800–1550 b.c. Copenhagen, 1997. A study with challenging results.
- Bietak, Manfred. The Capital of the Hyksos: Recent Excavations at Tell ed-Dabʿa. London, 1996. Report on the Austrian excavations to 1995.
- Hein, Irmgard, et al. Pharaonen und Fremde: Dynastien im Dunkel. Vienna, 1994. Excellent entries on the Hyksos period for an extraordinary exhibition.
Archaeology and Society
- Garbrecht, G., and Horst Jaritz. Untersuchung antiker Anlagen zur Wasserspeicherung im Fayum, Ägypten. Braunschweig, 1990.
- Orel, Sara E. Chronology and Social Stratification in a Middle Egyptian Cemetery. Ph.D. dissertation, Toronto, 1993. Research on the cemetery of Beni Hasan.
- Quirke, Stephen (ed.) Middle Kingdom Studies. New Malden, 1991. Important contributions by J. Bourriau, D. Franke, R. Parkinson, and S. Quirke.
- Richards, Janet E. Mortuary Variability and Social Differentiation in Middle Kingdom Egypt. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1992. Statistical analysis of grave types in the cemeteries of Riqqeh and Haraga and of a small-scale survey excavation at Abydos North.
- Seidlmayer, Stephen J. Gräberfelder aus dem Übergang vom Alten zum Mittleren Reich. SAGA, 1. Heidelberg, 1990. Basic analysis of funeral data from cemeteries to establish an archaeological and chronological frame for the timespan from the sixth to early twelfth dynasty.
- Tooley, Angela M. J. Middle Kingdom Burial Customs: A Study In Wooden Models and Related Materials. London and Ann Arbor, 1991.
- Wiese, André B. Die Anfänge der ägyptischen Stempelsiegel-Amulette: Eine typologische und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zu den ‘Knopfsiegeln’ und verwandten Objekten der 6. bis frühen 12. Dynastie. OBO, Series Archaeologica, 12. Freiburg and Göttingen, 1996. Research on typology and mental worlds associated with the stamp seal amulets, an object typical of the First Intermediate Period and originating in popular magico-religious concepts.