The New Kingdom (c. 1539-1075 BC)

The New Kingdom was the period of Ancient Egypt that spanned from c. 1539 to 1075 BC and encompassed the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties. It was Egypt’s most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.

A Map of Egypt during the New Kingdom. (c) Andrei Nacu & Jeff Dahl

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The New Kingdom began with the reign of Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and expelled the Hyksos from Egypt, reunifying Egypt. This was also a period of conquest for Egypt with Ahmose I, Thutmose I and Thutmose III expanding into the Levant and Amenhotep I and Thutmose III expanding into Nubia. Hatshepsut was one of the most powerful kings of this dynasty and she re-established the trade network, which brought great wealth to Egypt at this time. Due to this wealth, great building projects were undertaken with Hatshepsut building her own mortuary temple, expanding Karnak Temple and Amenhotep III constructing Luxor Temple and his own mortuary temple.

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. (c) Nowic

This was also a period of religious change with Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten in honour of the god Aten, making Egypt monotheistic. This was not a popular move. After his death, he would suffer damnatio memoriae and his son Tutankhamun reinstated previous deities of Egypt. The death of Tutankhamun saw a period of court officials rule as king until Ramesses I founded the Nineteenth Dynasty.

A Relief of Akhenaten as a Sphinx Worshipping Aten. (c) Hans Ollermann

The Nineteenth Dynasty took Egypt to the height of its power and its greatest extent. Seti I expanded into Nubia and Libya as well as confronting the Hittite Empire in the Levant. His Hittite campaign would be carried on by his son Ramesses II and would culminate in the Battle of Kadesh. Ramesses II also implemented huge building projects in Egypt, such as Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum, as well as usurping building projects constructed by his predecessors.

Abu Simbel.

The Twentieth Dynasty was founded by Setnakhte after the short and volatile reigns of Ramesses II’s descendants. The last great king of the New Kingdom was Ramesses III, who dealt successfully with the invasion of the Sea Peoples and invasions of the Libyans at different periods during his reign. These campaigns drained the Egyptian treasury and was one of the reasons for the decline of New Kingdom. After the death of Ramesses III, Egypt was increasingly beset by droughts, below-normal flooding of the Nile, famine, civil unrest and corruption of officials.

While the New Kingdom was viewed as one of the Golden Ages of Ancient Egypt, it was followed by a period of disunity and relative cultural decline known as the Third Intermediate Period.

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