First Intermediate Period of EgyptHistory of Ancient EgyptPredynastic EgyptProtodynastic PeriodEarly Dynastic PeriodOld KingdomFirst Intermediate Period Middle KingdomSecond Intermediate PeriodNew KingdomThird Intermediate PeriodFirst Persian PeriodLate PeriodSecond Persian PeriodPtolemaic Dynasty
The First Intermediate Period is the name conventionally given by Egyptologists to that period in Ancient Egyptian history between the end of the Old Kingdom and the advent of the Middle Kingdom. As such, depending on when individual historians place the 'downfall' of the Old Kingdom - with the end of either the Sixth or the Eighth Dynasties - the First Intermediate Period (sometimes abbreviated as "FIP") can be considered to embrace the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and most of the Eleventh Dynasty.
Conditions of the First Intermediate PeriodThe nomes of Ancient Egypt. The realm of Intef II included the first to the twelfth nome of Upper Egypt
While there are next to no official records covering this period, there a number of fictional texts known as Lamentations from the early period of the subsequent Middle Kingdom that may shed some light on what happened during this period. Some of these texts reflect on the breakdown of rule, others allude to invasion by "asiatic bowmen". In general the stories focus on a society where the natural order of things of both society and nature was overthrown. One particularly interesting phrase talks about times of high taxation even when the waters of the river Nile were abnormally low ("Dry is the river of Egypt, and one can cross it by foot"). Since traditionally people were taxed by the inundation level of the Nile in a given year, where people were taxed by what they should have been able to grow instead of what they actually did grow, suggesting a long period of relatively low inundations that historically often led to famine (an instance of which was recorded on the Famine Stela at Elephantine). The high taxation also implies an inherent breakdown of rule, reflecting an arbitrariness not evident during the Old Kingdom.
It is also highly likely that it was during this period that all of the pyramid and tomb complexes were robbed ("Those who were entombed are cast on high ground"). Further lamentation texts allude to this fact, and more directly at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom we begin to see mummies decorated with magical spells that were once exclusive to the pyramid of the kings of the sixth dynasty.
Around 2160 BC a new line of pharaohs (the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties) consolidated Lower Egypt from their capital in Herakleopolis Magna, descended from a pharaoh named Akhtoy. In the meantime, however, a rival line (the Eleventh Dynasty) based at Thebes reunited Upper Egypt and a clash between the two rival dynasties was inevitable.