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First Intermediate Period

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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 (Thebes only)
Middle Kingdom
11th (All Egypt)
12th 13th 14th
Second Intermediate Period
15th 16th 17th
New Kingdom
18th 19th 20th
Third Intermediate Period
21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Late Period
26th 27th 28th
29th 30th 31st
Graeco-Roman Period
Alexander the Great
Ptolemaic Dynasty

The First Intermediate Period is the name conventionally given by Egyptologists to that period in Ancient Egyptian history between the end of the Old Kingdom and the advent of the Middle Kingdom. As such, depending on when individual historians place the 'downfall' of the Old Kingdom - with the end of either the Sixth Dynasty or the Eighth Dynasty - the First Intermediate Period (sometimes abbreviated as "FIP") can be considered to embrace the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and most of the Eleventh Dynasty.

End of the Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom was weakened by famine and weak leadership. One theory holds that a sudden, unanticipated, catastrophic reduction in the Nile floods over two or three decades, caused by a global climatic cooling, reduced the amount of rainfall in Egypt, Ethiopia, and East Africa, contributing to the great famine and subsequent downfall of the Old Kingdom.

The last pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty was Pepi II (or possibly Nitocris). He was 6 when he ascended the throne and believed to have been 100 years old when he died, for a reign of 94 years, longer than any monarch in history. The later years of his reign were marked by inefficiency because of Pepi's advanced age. A dark time marked by unrest followed. The Union of the Two Kingdoms fell apart and regional leaders had to cope with the famine.

Conditions of the First Intermediate Period

While there are next to no official records covering this period, there a number of fictional texts known as Lamentations from the early period of the subsequent Middle Kingdom that may shed some light on what happened during this period. Some of these texts reflect on the breakdown of rule, others allude to invasion by "asiatic bowmen". In general the stories focus on a society where the natural order of things of both society and nature was overthrown. One particularly interesting phrase talks about times of high taxation even when the waters of the river Nile were abnormally low ("Dry is the river of Egypt, and one can cross it by foot"). Since traditionally people were taxed by the inundation level of the Nile in a given year, where people were taxed by what they should have been able to grow instead of what they actually did grow, suggesting a long period of relatively low inundations that historically often led to famine (an instance of which was recorded on the Famine Stele at Elephantine). The high taxation also implies an inherent breakdown of rule, reflecting an arbitrariness not evident during the Old Kingdom.

It is also highly likely that it was during this period that all of the pyramid and tomb complexes were robbed ("Those who were entombed are cast on high ground"). Further lamentation texts allude to this fact, and more directly at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom we begin to see mummies decorated with magical spells that were once exclusive to the pyramid of the kings of the sixth dynasty.

Around 2160 BC a new line of pharaohs (the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties) consolidated Lower Egypt from their capital in Herakleopolis Magna, descended from a pharaoh named Akhtoy. In the meantime, however, a rival line (the Eleventh Dynasty) based at Thebes reunited Upper Egypt and a clash between the two rival dynasties was inevitable.

Rise of the Middle Kingdom

Around 2055 BC a descendant of Inyotef defeated the Heracleopolitan Pharaohs, reunited the Two Lands, and ruled as Mentuhotep II thereby ending the First Intermediate Period.

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