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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt
Predynastic Period
Protodynastic Period
Early Dynastic Period
1st 2nd
Old Kingdom
3rd 4th 5th 6th
First Intermediate Period
7th 8th 9th 10th 11th
Middle Kingdom
11th 12th
Second Intermediate Period
13th 14th 15th 16th 17th
Abydos Dynasty
New Kingdom
18th 19th 20th
Third Intermediate Period
21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Late Period
26th 27th 28th
29th 30th 31st
Hellenistic Period
Argead Dynasty
Ptolemaic Dynasty

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt once again fell into disarray between the end of the Middle Kingdom, and the start of the New Kingdom. It is best known as when the Hyksos made their appearance in Egypt, whose reign comprised the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasty.

The brilliant Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty came to an end around 1800 BC, and was succeeded by the much weaker Thirteenth Dynasty. Both ruled from Itjtawy ("Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands") near Memphis and el-Lisht, just south of the apex of the Nile Delta. The Thirteenth Dynasty proved unable to hold onto the long land of Egypt, and the provincial ruling family in Xois, located in the marshes of the western Delta, broke away from the central authority to form the Fourteenth Dynasty. The splintering of the land accelerated after the reign of the Thirteenth Dynasty king Neferhotep I.

It was during the reign of his brother and successor, Sobekhotep IV, that the Hyksos made their first appearance, and around 1720 BC took control of the town of Avaris (modern: Tell el-Dab'a), a few miles from Qantir. The outlines of the traditional account of the "invasion" of the land by the Hyksos is preserved in the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Manetho recorded that it was during the reign of one "Tutimaios" (who has been identified with Dedumose I of the Fourteenth Dynasty) that the Hyksos overran Egypt, led by Salitis, the founder of the Fifteenth Dynasty. This dynasty was succeeded by a group of Hyksos princes and chieftains, who ruled in the eastern Delta with their local Egyptian vassals, and are known primarily by scarabs inscribed with their names, called by modern Egyptologists the Sixteenth Dynasty.

The later kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty appear to be only ephemeral monarchs under the control of a powerful line of viziers, and indeed it has been suggested that the kingship in this period might have been elective if not actually appointive. One monarch late in the dynasty, Wahibre Ibiau, may have even been a former vizier. Beginning with the reign of Sobekhotep IV, the power of this dynasty, weak to begin with, deteriorated. The later king Merneferre Ay (ruled c. 1700 BC) appears to have been a mere vassal of the Hyksos princes ruling there; his successors held onto their diminished office until 1633 BC.

Around the time Memphis and Itj-tawy fell to the Hyksos, the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from the vassal dynasty in Itj-tawy and set itself up as the Seventeenth Dynasty. This dynasty was to prove the salvation of Egypt and would eventually lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos back into Asia. The two last kings of this dynasty were Seqenenre Tao II and Kamose, whom tradition credited with the final defeat of the Hyksos. With the Eighteenth Dynasty, the New Kingdom begins.

Second Intermediate Period

Table of the Second Intermediate Period by Khaemwaset based on Ryholt (rough timestamps).

Danish Egyptologist Kim Ryholt reviews the political history of this period in his book, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period. It is the most up-to-date study of this onscure period and he provides a more accurate reconstruction of the Turin Canon. Ryholt reveals the discovery of a new Hyksos king named Sakir-Har and establishes that Sobekemsaf II was the father of the 17th Dynasty Theban kings Intef VI and Intef VII.

Ryholt argues – like Manfred Bietak – that the 14th Dynasty was a forerunner of the 15th Dynasty. The most controversial conclusion concerns the identity and dating of 14th Dynasty; Ryholt contends that the Canaanite Fourteenth Dynasty instead already arose in the Nile Delta at the end of Sobekneferu's reign, thus rivalling the Thirteenth Dynasty.[1]

Furthermore Ryholt argues strongly that the Sixteenth dynasty of Egypt was made up of poorly attested Theban kings, rather then vassals of the Hyksos.[2][3]


  1. Ryholt 1997, p. 75.
  2. Von Beckerath 1965.
  3. Helck et al. 1986.


  • Beckerath, J. von, 1965: Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten. Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23. Glückstadt.
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Oxford, 1964, 1961.
  • Hayes, W.C., 1965: Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II. Chapter 2, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition.
  • Helck, W./Otto, E./Westendorf, W., 1986: Lexikon der Ägyptologie: Stele - Zypresse. Vol. 6, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I." Chapter 8, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A., "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," Chronique d'Egypte, 63 (1968), pp. 313-324.
  • Oren, Eliezer D. The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, Philadelphia, 1997.
  • Ryholt, K. 1997: The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C. Museum Tuscalanum Press.
  • Seters, J. van, 1966: The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven.
Preceded by:
Middle Kingdom
Second Intermediate Period
Succeeded by:
New Kingdom