THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (1070-657)
Dynasties XXI – XXV – Period of anarchy and foreign conquest.
Smendes became the first ruler of the XXIst Dynasty.
The XXI (1070) Dynasty is a weaker version of the XX Dynasty, whose most conspicuous feature is the virtual independence of the High Priests of Amon at Thebes, a phenomenon that began with Hrihor during the reign of Ramesses XI. Thebes retained its autonomy under the descendants of Hrihor, who solved the tomb robbery problem by hiding the remaining royal mummies.
So the most durable job done by the priests of Amon in the period was the reburial of all the earlier Egyptian New Kingdom kings, whose tombs had already been robbed. It became soon well known that the kings were reburied without treasures, so they remained undisturbed. Some intact burials of XXI kings have been found, though the quality of the work is inferior to Tutankhamon’s tomb.
Soon the country would be reunited by a dynasty that the Egyptians considered foreigners, ethnic Libyans who had somewhat penetrated the Delta and become Egyptianized. The first Libyan king, Sheshonq I, a general under the last king of the XXI. Dynasty, gives us a moment of overlap with Biblican history, since, as “Shishak,” he beseiges Jerusalem and is bought off with most of the treasures of Solomon’s Temple. The Ark remained safely in Jerusalem, until the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. It is after then that the fate of the Ark becomes a matter of legend and speculation.
The best stories about the Ark concern the Crusading Templars, who quartered on the Temple Mount and deliberately excavated for relics. The Templars were actually reputed to have found the Ark.
Towards the end of the XXII Dynasty, the country began to break up. The XXIII (828-712) and XXIV Dynasties, with other rulers of uncounted Dynasties, were rival Libyan lines. The XXIV Dynasty at Sais, however, may actually represent the ancestors of the later XXVI Dynasty. In the end, all the Libyan dynasties combined were defeated by Piankhi of Napata, and his successors, who then imposed a Kushite rule on Egypt.
Taharqa was then the King who had to face the Assyrians. Esarhaddon successfully invaded Egypt in 671. This was followed by another invasion of Ashurbanipal in 669 which got as far as Thebes. His son Tanutamon briefly reconquered Egypt. Asshurbanipalwho in revenge stripped and looted the great temple of Amon at Karnak of its age old treasures when he returned and sacked Thebes, around 660 BC, ending forever its influence in Egyptian history. The Nubians moved their capital even further south to Meroe and continued a kind of Egyptian culture of their own.
Tanutamun retired to Napata, and just before his death it was Psamtik I of Sais who definitively expelled the Assyrians, who had become distracted with other problems. Nevertheless, Tanutamun’s line continued at Napata, and up the Nile at Meroë, for many centuries, in fact a thousand years, not only ruling as good Egyptian kings, always calling themselves “King of Upper and Lower Egypt,” but actually building pyramids, as at right, for their burial, turning Egypt’s one black dynasty into a separate historic black African kingdom, whose rulers were often Queens as well as Kings.
The Abyssinians did press down to the Nile, but Kush already seems to have been in decline, and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason for it. We don’t even have the names of the last three rulers. The most obvious record of Kushite history, the line of pyramids, simply ends. In part, the ideological basis may have been undermined by Christianity.
By 355, all the surrounding states, Egypt, Abyssinia (with Ezanas), and Rome, were Christian. The last named Kushite ruler, Yesbokheamani (283-300), still bears the name of Amun. We can’t say what happened, but the times were not going to allow the traditional regime to continue as it was.
After the fall of Kush, small Christian kingdoms succeeded it in Nubia.
Osorkon the Elder