Your Guide to Ancient Egypt (Part 3)

What changed and what didn’t over the centuries

Well, today we are back to finish off our Timeline of Ancient Egypt! Let’s crank this out. For reference, last time we made it up to the Middle Kingdom. So that means we now have to talk about:

The Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550 BC)

The Second Intermediate Period was a weird time. Basically, a culture called the Hyksos, probably from the modern Levant (Canaan during the Bronze Age), came in and took over the northern parts of Egypt. Now before all you people who know the Moses story get excited, these were not the Hebrews.

Some people interested in trying to date the Bible place the Joseph story during this time period. This makes zero sense to me (I’ll talk about this in another post).

Highlights of the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC)

Eventually the Egyptians kicked the Hyksos out and had full control over Egypt again. Welcome to the New Kingdom!

King Tut’s treasure survived because his tomb (not a pyramid) was invisible to thieves. Here’s his gold-covered chair. Because he could.

NO MORE PYRAMIDS – If a movie is set in the New Kingdom and someone is building a pyramid, they. Are. So. Wrong. Society realized that pyramids were basically big signs saying: “HEY A RICH PERSON IS BURIED HERE WITH LOTS OF GOLD, WANNA SEE???” Unsurprisingly, pyramids were getting robbed left and right, so they moved to much more austere (from the outside) and easily hidden tombs. The famous Valley of the Kings is the site of many New Kingdom burials.

ALL THE PEOPLE YOU’VE HEARD OF (EXCEPT CLEOPATRA) – The New Kingdom has an impressive assortment of famous Kings and Queens. While you might not be able to name them off the top of your head, I’d bet some of these names sound familiar: Rameses, Tutankhamun, Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Thutmose, Seti, Hatshepsut, and Tiye.

THOSE WHITE SKIRTS GOT WEIRD – The shendyt continues, except it gets super pleat-y. That’s right. The more folds and bunches, the better. If I ever see a Hollywood costume designer actually do this, I’ll eat my hat.

ALL THE GOLD – Remember when I said that in the Middle Kingdom, you can’t imagine dudes with solid gold collar-necklaces and cuff bracelets? Now is the time, my friends. Go wild.

The Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BC)

Here we come to somewhat of a mystery. If you’ve studied ancient history, you may have heard of The Bronze Age Collapse. Basically, every civilization in the Middle East fell apart, and historians don’t really know why – they only know that it happened.

The Third Intermediate Period coincides with The Bronze Age Collapse, and continues onward in time with various civil wars and different rulers in different parts of the country.

The Late Period (664-332 BC)

Unfortunately, the New Kingdom was the last big hurrah of Ancient Egypt. The Late Period is a time where, although Egyptian culture flourished, rulers were often from a foreign, conquering people, such as the Nubians or Persians.

I think this is important to note, though. Remember how we talked about Egypt presenting a consistent face to the outside world, no matter what was going on internally? It’s happening right here.

The Late Period came to an end when Alexander the Great came knocking in 332 BC.


And thus began Hellenistic (Greek) Egypt, and the dynasty in power, the Ptolemies, was Greek in origin. Cleopatra, the last great Ptolemy, had a Greek father, although questions remain about the heritage of her mother. She was known for embracing Ancient Egyptian culture despite her heritage, the last Pharaoh to show the face of Ancient Egypt to the world. She died in 30 BC.

I hope this three-part series gives you a taste of Ancient Egyptian history – enough of a taste to feel more confident when watching a movie or documentary on the subject! Join me next time for my addendum to this topic – Hieroglyphs.

Do you have any questions you want me to answer? Topics you want me to cover? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @headdeskliz .

Published by headdeskliz

Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of Not by Sight: a novel of the patriarchs. She lives and teaches in sunny California and loves fantasy, science fiction, and historically-based Christian fiction. She has multiple other titles in the works.

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