1st Intermediate Period

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After the collapse of the Old Kingdom at the end of the 6th Dynasty, there was first a short interregnum (a period of 70 days, misunderstood by later editors of Manetho's 'Aegyptiaca' and turned into the 7th Dynasty). There then followed a long-drawn out fight for the throne (8th Dynasty), during which time no less than 17 kings ruled in less than 20 years, according to the Abydos king list, among others. The kings of Herakleopolis near the Faiyum eventually seized power, although not over all of Egypt. They are called the 9th and 10th Dynasties - the division into two dynasties goes back to the Greek tradition concerning Egyptian history. Many kings followed each other in quick succession. The names of only a few are known, and there are hardly any monuments. In addition to the Herakleopolitans, other kings ruled over southern Egypt from Thebes and in the early 11th Dynasty, which is sometimes included in the 1st Intermediate Period, conflict broke out between the two royal houses. In their inscriptions, the governors of the various nomes and cities not only describe their own achievements as rulers, but also their loyalty to one of the two royal houses. Eventually the Theban king Mentuhotep II succeeded in gaining control over the whole country; it is not clear whether this was a diplomatic or a military victory over Herakleopolis. The 1st Intermediate Period is a period of decay. Not only royal power collapsed, but also that of the government and its many bureaucrats thoughout the land. The quality of the art declined dramatically. Tribes from outside invaded Egypt, and occasionally there was famine. The tombs, pyramids and mortuary temples were plundered, which led to the realisation that no measure was sufficient to guarantee life after death. Despite the omnipresent decay, this was an important mental development. At the same time use of the funerary texts became more widespread. What had previously been a royal prerogative (Pyramid Texts) was now available to an elite level of the population (Coffin Texts). This trend was to continue and would eventually make this textual material available to the poorer levels of the population (Book of the Dead). Towards the end of the 1st Intermediate Period, the artistic production of places such as Gebelein and Asiut once again began to flourish.