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Ancient Egypt: 1st Intermediate Period

Following the death of King Pepy II, Egypt was controlled by a number of rulers (Seventh to Eighth Dynasties) with very brief reigns. Power in Egypt became fragmented: the north of Egypt was ruled by kings from Heracleopolis, while rulers at Thebes had dominion over the south. Literary works that looked back on the period were influenced by concerns about the fragility of the state and the position of the individual within it.

There are relatively few lavish monuments from this period. However, the decoration of the rock cut tombs of provincial governors show that artistic traditions continued. The richness of these burials suggests that the provinces flourished during this time of political disunity. Tomb inscriptions stress the independence of the individual, sometimes referring to local conflict. The use of funerary symbols and concepts previously reserved for the king shows that members of the élite could hope to reach the afterlife.

Control of the south eventually passed to the Theban king Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (about 2055-2004 BC), who became king of a united Egypt. Little evidence is available as to the progress of his conquest of northern Egypt. The greatest surviving monument from the First Intermediate Period is the mortuary temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II at Deir el-Bahari, close to Thebes.