The demise of the Old Kingdom brought a period of chaos and anarchy which characterized the Seventh Dynasty (2181-2173BC). During this brief period over 70 rulers were said to have laid claim to the throne. The Eighth Dynasty (2173-2160BC) followed the same pattern. Civil disorders multiplied and a drought struck Egypt. Out of the turmoil and Pharaonic inertia, principalities within the realm rose up to challenge the authority of the kings. Achthoes, ruler of Heracleopolis, seized control of Middle Egypt, seized the throne and founded the Ninth Dynasty (2160-2130BC). The kings of Heracleopolis maintained control over northern Egypt through the Tenth Dynasty (2130-2040BC). However, the rulers of Edfu and Thebes fought over control of Upper Egypt. The battle over Upper Egypt was won by Thebes and its ruler Inyotef Sehertowy founded the Eleventh Dynasty (2133-1991BC) with the aim of extending his power over all the land. The north-south battle for control of Egypt ended with the victory of Nebhepetre Mentuhope II who reunited the country under one king and launched the Middle Kingdom.
Mentuhope II reigned over Egypt for fifty years and re-established political and social order which in turn revived the economic and artistic development that characterized the glory of the Pharaohs. Trading was resumed and mines were reopened. Expansionist campaigns were relaunched against Libya, Nubia and the Bedouins of the Sinai. His successors Mentuhope III and Mentuhope IV continued to rule from Thebes, maintaining the strength of the Eleventh Dynasty, building and expanding their kingdom until Amenemhat, a minister during the Eleventh Dynasty, assumed the throne and founded the Twelfth Dynasty (1991-1786BC). Amenemhat moved his capital from Thebes back to Memphis. From here he annexed Nubia and extended his kingdom to the land of Sham, as far as Syria and Palestine. Al Fayoum became the capital of the Middle Kingdom during the reign of Amenemhat's son Senusert I. His successors Amenemhat II and SenusertIII built the last pyramids in Lahun, Lisht and Hawara. During this long period provincial governors or nomarchs began to vie for power and threaten the Pharaonic authority and it is said that the power of the nomarchs was gradually eliminated. Over time the central authority weakened, leading to civil disorder and instability and a prolonged period of upheaval.
The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties were powerless to put down the Hyskos, tribal warlords with foreign support who seized control of the Delta, establishing the capital of Avaris and moving south. Despite their alien origins (Hyskos means "Princes of Foreign Lands") and foreign ties, the Hyskos assumed an Egyptian identity and ruled as pharaohs. The Hyskos dominion was shaken by Thebes which established the Seventeenth Dynasty and, under Wadikheperre Kamose, laid siege to Avaris. When his successor Ahmosis expelled the Hyskos from Egypt in 1567BC, the New Kingdom was born.
Ahmosis founded the Eighteenth Dynasty (1567-1320BC) which reigned over the first part of a prosperous and stable imperial period during which Pharaonic culture flowered and Egypt became a world power. During the Eighteenth Dynasty Nubia was subdued and its wealth of gold, ivory, gemstones and ebony flowed into Egypt. Pharaonic armies conquered the Near East, Syria and Palestine and workers from these new-established colonies, and a cultural cross-fertilization took place as artisans and intellectuals transplanted their knowledge, skills and culture onto Egyptian soil. The temple of Karnak at Thebes grew with the expansion of empire. Tuthmosis I constructed the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings. His daughter reigned as pharaoh and built the temple of Deir Al-Bahri. Tuthmosis III expanded the empire beyond Nubiaand across the Euphrates to the boundaries of the Hittites. Imperial expansion continued under Amenophis II and Tuthmosis IV. The reign of Amenophis III was the pinnacle of Egyptian Pharaonic power. Under Amenophis III the kingdom was secure enough for the Pharaoh to build many of the greatest Pharaonic structures including the Temple of Luxor. His son Amenophis IV fought with the priesthood of the god Amun and changed his name to Akhenaten in honour of the god Aten. With his wife Nefertiti Akhenaten he established a new capital at Tel El-Amarna dedicated to the worship of Aten, which many believe was the first organized monotheistic religion. Both his predecessors and successors denounced his beliefs as heresy. During their short reign (1379-1362BC) Pharaonic obsession with the afterlife was banished as was the old idolatry. Art began to reflect human concerns. This was called the Amarna revolution, which barely survived Akhenaten's reign. His successor Smenkhkare upheld Akhenaten's ideals but died within a year, leaving the child pharaoh Tutankhamen under the influence of the priesthood who easily convinced him to renounce the monotheism of his father-in-law and return to rule from Thebes. This period has been called the Theban counter-revolution during which time the priesthood destroyed any traces of Akhenaten's reign, including the Temple of the Sun at Karnak. Tutankhamen ruled for nine years until just before reaching manhood, when he died. He is most remembered in modern times for the fabulous and pristine treasures uncovered when his tomb was discovered in 1922. Tutankhamen was succeeded by Ay and Horemheb, the last Eighteenth Dynasty kings, both of whom worked to eradicate Akhenaten's revolutionary beliefs and restore the status quo.