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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

The Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1292 BC) is perhaps the best known of all the dynasties of ancient Egypt. As well as boasting a number of Egypt's most famous pharaohs, it included Tutankhamun, the finding of whose tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 was a sensational archaeological discovery despite its having been twice disturbed by tomb robbers. The dynasty is sometimes known as the 'Thutmosid Dynasty' because four of the pharaohs had the name Thutmosis, which means "(The God) Thoth (Appears as a) Child." Hatshepsut and perhaps two others of a handful of native women known to be crowned king of Egypt, ruled during this dynasty, as did Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV), the "heretic Pharaoh" who with his wife, Nefertiti, instituted what many identify as the first recorded monotheistic state religion.

This dynasty often is combined with the Nineteenth and Twentieth dynasties under the group title, New Kingdom.


Ahmose and Amenhotep I

The Eighteenth Dynasty was founded by Ahmose I the brother of Kamose, the last ruler of the Seventeenth Dynasty. Ahmose finished the campaign to expel the Hyksos rulers and after his victory he continued his campaign into Asia, setting a precedent for most kings in the next five centuries. During Ahmose's time the Egyptian state was unified again and Egypt became one of the main Near-Eastern powers. His reign is therefore seen as the end of the Second Intermediate Period and the start of New Kingdom. Ahmose was succeeded by his son, Amenhotep I, who was later revered for founding the institution responsible for building the royal tombs, although he himself was not buried in the Valley of the Kings proper.

Each king ruled Egypt for more than two decades.

Thutmose period

Amenhotep I probably left no male heir and the next Pharaoh, Thutmose I, seems to have been related to the royal family through marriage. During his reign the borders of Egypt's empire reached their greatest expanse, extending in the north to Carchemish on the Euphrates and up to Kurgus beyond the fourth cataract in the south. Thutmose I was probably also the first king to be buried in the Valley of the Kings. The dynasty next included Thutmose II and his queen, Hatshepsut. She was the daughter of Thutmose I and soon after her husband's death, ruled for over twenty years after becoming pharaoh during the minority of her stepson, who later would become pharaoh as Thutmose III.

Hatshepsut was considered a usurper by nineteenth century researchers, but more recent evidence indicates that she was a very effective and successful ruler, as related in ancient histories. She reestablished international trade, restored the wealth of the country, fostered large building projects, created architectural advances that would not be rivaled for a thousand years, and restored ravaged temples. Thutmose III who later became known as the greatest military pharaoh ever, also had a lengthy reign after becoming pharaoh. He had a second co-regency in his old age with his son by a minor wife who would become Amenhotep II, when he succeeded him.

Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III

Amenhotep II was succeeded by Thutmose IV, who in his turn was followed by his son Amenhotep III. The reigns of these two kings, which lasted some 50 years in total, are generally seen as a single phase. At this time a peace was reached with Mittani, Egypt's main adversary in Asia and during these two reigns Egypt enjoyed a further economic boom. Amenhotep III undertook large scale building programmes, the extent of which can only be compared with those of the much longer reign of Ramesses II during the 19th dynasty.

Some records of Amenhotep's international relations were preserved in the el Amarna letters many of which were scattered before they could be protected properly.

Akhenaten, the Amarna Period and Tutankhamun

Amenhotep III's successor Akhenaten instigated the earliest verified expression of monotheism, (although the origins of a pure monotheism are the subject of continuing debate within the academic community and some state that Akhenaten restored monotheisim while others point out that he merely suppressed a dominant solar cult by the assertion of another, while he never completely abandoned several other traditional deities). Later Egyptians considered the so-called Amarna Period an unfortunate aberration. The events following Akhenaten's death are unclear and the identity and policies of his co-regent and immediate successor are the matter of ongoing scholarly debate.

Tutankhamun died before he was twenty years old, and the dynasty's final years, clearly, were shaky. The royal line of the dynasty died out with Tutankhamun. Tutankhamun was succeeded briefly by his widow Ankhesenamun, who, from the circumstances, must be the queen identified in Hittite documents as Dakhamunzu, a word which is probably the Hittite transliteration of the Egyptian phrase "Great Royal Wife," which is how she signed herself in communications to the Hittite court. She is further identified as the widow of "King Nibhururiya," a Hittite transliteration of Tutankhamun's throne name.

Ay and Horemheb

The last two members of the eighteenth dynasty - Ay and Horemheb - became rulers from the ranks of officials in the royal court, although Ay may have married the widow of Tutankhamun in order to obtain power and she did not live long afterward. Ay's reign was short. His successor was Horemheb, a general during the reign of Tutankhamun whom the childless pharaoh may have intended as his successor. Horemheb may have taken the throne away from Ay in a coup. He also died childless and appointed his successor, Ramesses I, who ascended the throne in 1292 BC and was the first pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

Eighteenth Dynasty timeline




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