From the 11th dynasty 2125-1991 BC to the 17th dynasty 1650-1550 BC
Egyptian dating is expressed by ruling families - dynasties. The historian Manetho (270 BC) wrote a history of Egypt giving the number of dynasties, the number of kings, their names and the length of each reign.
The Middle Kingdom begins with the reunification of the country under Mentuhotep I who ousted the kings of Herakleopolis.
He assumed the Horus name Divine of the White Crown, implicitly claiming all of Upper Egypt. This was later changed to Uniter of the Two Lands.
His remarkable mortuary complex at Dayr al-Bahri was the architectural inspiration for Hatshepsut's temple which was built alongside some 500 years later
Amenemhet I moved the capital back to the Memphis. There was a revival of Old Kingdom artistic styles.
He later took his son, Sesostris as his co-regent. During the 10 years of joint rule Sesostris undertook campaigns in Lower Nubia which led to its conquest. Amenemhet was murdered during Sesostris' absence on a campaign in Libya, but Sesostris was able to maintain his hold on the throne and consolidated his father's achievements,
Sesostris III reorganised Egypt into four regions the northern and southern halves of the Nile Valley and the eastern and western Delta. He and his successor Amenemhet III left a striking artistic legacy in the form of statuary depicting them as ageing, careworn rulers.
It was during this period that the written language was regularised in its classical form of Middle Egyptian. The first body of literary texts was composed in this form, although several are ascribed to Old Kingdom authors. The most important of these is the "Instruction for Merikare," a discourse on kingship and moral responsibility.
Queen Sobeknefru, the first female monarch marked the end of the dynastic line.
The true chronology of the 13th dynasty is rather vague since there are few surviving monuments from this period. There were many kings who reigned for a short time, who were not of a single family and some were born commoners. The last fifty years represents a gradual decline. It seems that after the death of Ay, the eastern Delta broke away under its own petty kings (14th dynasty). There is even less known about this dynasty.
Asiatic immigration became widespread, the northeastern Delta being settled by successive waves of Palestinians.
The Second Intermediate Period
The Middle Kingdom fell because of the weakness of its later kings, which lead to Egypt being invaded by an Asiatic, desert people called the Hyksos.
These invaders made themselves kings and held the country for more than two centuries. The word Hyksos goes back to an Egyptian phrase meaning "ruler of foreign lands".
The Jewish historian Josephus (1st century AD) mentions them. He depicts the new rulers as sacrilegious invaders who despoiled the land but with the exception of the title Hyksos they presented themselves as Egyptian kings and appear to have been accepted as such.
They tolerated other lines of kings within the country, both those of the 17th dynasty and the various minor Hyksos who made up the 16th dynasty.
The Hyksos, sometimes referred to as the Shepherd Kings or Desert Princes, sacked the old capital of Memphis and built their capital at Avaris, in the Delta. The dynasty consisted of five possibly six kings, the best-known being Apepi I, who reigned for up to 40 years.
Their rule brought many technical innovations to Egypt, from bronze working, pottery and looms to new musical instruments and musical styles. New breeds of animals and crops were introduced. But the most important changes was in the area of warfare; composite bows, new types of daggers and scimitars, and above all the horse and chariot. In many ways the Hyksos modernised Egypt and Ultimately Egypt was to benefit from their rule.
While the Hyksos ruled northern Egypt a new line of native rulers was developing in Thebes. They controlled the area from Elephantine in the south, to Abydos in the middle of the country.
The early rulers made no attempt to challenge the Hyksos but an uneasy truce existed between them. However, the later rulers rose against the Hyksos and a number of battles were fought.
King Tao II, also know as Seqenenre, was probably killed in one of these battles since his mummy shows evidence of terrible head wounds.
It was to be one of his sons Ahmose, the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty, who was to expel the Hyksos from Egypt.