The first three pharaohs
describe and assess the significance of key people, groups, events, institutions, societies and sites within the historical context
explain historical factors and assess their significance in contributing to change and continuity in the ancient world
Principal Focus: Through an investigation of the archaeological and written sources for New Kingdom Egypt to the death of Thutmose 1V, students learn about significant developments, forces and relevant historiographical issues that shaped the historical period.
Students learn about:
Prior to the period of the New Kingdom northern Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos while southern Egypt was ruled by local Egyptian rulers. It was Ahmose who successfully rid Egypt of the Hyksos. Once the expulsion of the Hyksos took place it became the task of each pharaoh to ensure that such an invasion would never occur again. Each pharaoh had his own method of establishing and maintaining control. In their endeavour to maintain ma’at (truth) the pharaohs began to change the nature of the Egyptian state. These pharaohs set Egypt gradually, but not entirely by design, on a course of imperial expansion and firmly established the image of the “warrior pharaoh”. By looking at the tasks facing each of the first three pharaohs of New Kingdom Egypt and their policies, we can see how they transformed New Kingdom Egypt.
First three Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty (1570–1518):
By liberating Egypt, it is safe to assume that Ahmose had already achieved military successes. The workings of an organised army were under way. His achievements were in fact recorded in the tomb of Ahmose son of Ebana. (A marine whose career we can follow, as he matured and gained prestige with each success of the pharaoh under whom he served.) The Pharoah Ahmose needed to re-establish authority within Egypt and did this by punishing Hyksos supporters and rewarding his loyal followers.
Ahmose’s next task was to restore the damage of previous years. Destroyed temples and neglected canals and buildings were repaired, land was redistributed and taxes were collected. He introduced new policies that set the wheels of the New Kingdom in motion. The economy was re-established and treasuries were filled. He renewed trade with other nations the result of which can be seen in Ahhotep’s jewellery.
To accomplish all the tasks that lay ahead, Ahmose needed a centralised government and effective policies. He appointed a loyal official as commandant of Buhen, in Nubia in the south. This post was a forerunner of the position of viceroy or governor of Nubia. The idea of the “warrior pharaoh” was born during his reign, but was not fully operational as evidenced by his Nubian campaigns. Once the Hyksos threat was overcome he turned his attention to the south.
Worship of the god Amun-Re began to gain status. Ahmose dedicated many of his triumphs to him. A stela found at Karnak not only provides detailed information of gifts offered to the god, but is also an excellent example of the wealth accumulating within Egypt at that time. He also embarked on a building program, adding cedar and limestone features to Amun’s temple at Karnak and Luxor. He also enriched Ptah’s temple at Memphis, and honoured his grandmother, by building a chapel at Abydos. Therefore through his actions and policies of liberation, the first steps towards imperialism were made.
Sources for Ahmose:
Evidence from the tomb of Ahmose, son of Ebana.
Jewellery of Queen Ahhotep.
Ahmose’s own cenotaph complex where fragments depict battle scenes, horses and archers.
On becoming pharaoh Amenhotep I immediately commenced a campaign of expansion into Nubia. This was the first deliberate expansion policy embarked upon by a New Kingdom pharaoh. This established a precedent for future pharaohs. Why did he do this? It is safe to assume that it was to increase Egypt’s wealth. Nubia was wealthy, paid taxes and, by incorporating Nubia into the growing Egyptian empire, a trade route was established which would prove beneficial for Egypt. Amenhotep I continued a policy begun by the Middle Kingdom pharaohs. He rebuilt forts, thereby protecting Egyptians living and working in Nubia. He also replaced the title commandant of Buhen with that of Viceroy of Nubia, King’s Son and Overseer of Southern Lands. This was an administrative office, which became, in the latter part of New Kingdom, an important position in the administration of the empire. In this way he ensured Egypt’s safety and economy. The image of the “warrior pharaoh” continued to take shape as evidenced by his military conquests.
Amenhotep I’s domestic policies also brought about changes in Egypt. As a result of his building program, art and architecture flourished. Egypt once again became a cultural centre; stable, wealthy and beautiful. Amenhotep I supplied Egyptians with a new and beautiful capital and further increased the god Amun’s status and position by dedicating many of the new buildings to him. He initiated the separation of the tomb from the mortuary temple and he founded a special workplace and workforce at Deir el Medina. All of these added to Egypt’s cultural development and prestige.
Sources for Amenhotep I:
The tomb of Ahmose, son of Ebana,
The Temple at Karnak
Deir el Medina,
Chapels at El Kab and Elephantine.
Thutmose I was ambitious, intelligent, energetic, ruthless, a patron of the arts and a pious and devoted follower of the god Amun. He maintained his control over Egypt through an active military campaign which led to the expansion of Egypt’s boundaries and meant that Egypt embarked on a period of empire building. He also maintained control through a building program throughout his empire. In this way he set a precedent for later New Kingdom pharaohs to follow. His campaign into Nubia established his authority as pharaoh. He penetrated the third cataract, constructed fortresses (an excellent form of control and administration), and he took possession of Nubian resources. Nubia was treated as a colonial land, administered directly by Egyptians under the King’s Son of Kush.
The Syrian campaign set the example for others to follow. Superiority of Egyptian troops was displayed. Local princes paid tribute and humbled themselves at his feet. He did not, however, attempt to control Western Asia. He did not set up an administrative system; rather he left that for later pharaohs. Egyptian presence in the empire was maintained by relatively small army detachments, accompanied by a few high officials. The “warrior pharaoh” image was fully established by Thutmose I. Successive Egyptian kings now realised the benefits to be gained by expansion.
Thutmose was an ardent and pious follower of Amun. He therefore set about glorifying him in many ways such as making additions to the Temple at Karnak. His building program is evidence of the wealth he acquired and displayed via pylons, flag masts with electrum tips and gates inlaid with gold. He, like past and future pharaohs, beautified Egypt to appease the gods and restore what had previously been neglected. He was also the first king to build his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Sources for Thutmose I:
Karnak pylons and portal, Karnak obelisks
Thutmose I rock “cut” tomb
Each pharaoh contributed to the transformation from state to empire. All were responsible for the growth of the Amun Cult and consequently the increased power of the priesthood. They improved the Egyptian economy as a whole and established Egypt as a major power.