The First Intermediate Period, described as a ‘dark period’ in ancient Egyptian history, spanned approximately 125 years, c. 2181–2055 BC. After the end of the Old Kingdom. It comprises the Seventh (although this is mostly considered spurious by Egyptologists), Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and part of the Eleventh Dynasties. The concept of a “First Intermediate Period” coined in 1926 by Egyptologists Georg Steindorff and Henri Frankfort.

Very little monumental evidence survives from this period. Especially from the beginning of the era. The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time in which rule of Egypt roughly equally divided between two competing power bases. One of the bases was at Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt. Which is a city just south of the Faiyum region, and the other was at Thebes, in Upper Egypt. People believed that during that time, temples pillaged and violated. Artwork vandalized, and the statues of kings broken or destroyed. As a result of the postulated political chaos. The two kingdoms would eventually come into conflict, which would lead to the conquest of the north by the Theban kings and to the reunification of Egypt under a single ruler, Mentuhotep II, during the second part of the Eleventh Dynasty. This event marked the beginning of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.

Events leading to the First Intermediate Period

The fall of the Old Kingdom is often described as a period of chaos and disorder by some literature in the First Intermediate Period. But mostly by the literature of successive eras of ancient Egyptian history. The causes that brought about the downfall of the Old Kingdom are numerous, but some are merely hypothetical.

One reason that is often quoted is the extremely long reign of Pepi II, the last major pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty. He ruled from his childhood until he was very elderly, possibly in his 90s, but the length of his reign is uncertain. He outlived many of his anticipated heirs, thereby creating problems with succession. Thus, the regime of the Old Kingdom disintegrated amidst this disorganization. Another major problem was the rise in power of the provincial nomarchs. Towards the end of the Old Kingdom the positions of the nomarchs had become hereditary, so families often held onto the position of power in their respective provinces.