Ancient history

Cultural Manifestations in the New Kingdom of Egypt

The cultural manifestations in the New Kingdom are many, a change in the language, with abandonment of the classical Egyptian in which it was written during the Middle Kingdom, and adoption of a language closer to the spoken one, the Amarna revolution is indicated as a starting point of this transformation.
In the heyday, in the New Kingdom, the temple of Amun was built in Karnak, next to Thebes, considered the most representative of the Egyptians. In sculpture, the Middle Kingdom already offers evolved examples such as the statue of Amenemhet III, and in the New Kingdom this art reaches its full maturity, in the Amarna period it has produced one of the most famous sculptures, the bust of Nefertiti, a prodigy of stylization and harmony. With regard to painting, in the New Kingdom thematic richness is recovered, which reaches its culmination with the 18th dynasty, with a manifest overcoming of rigidity and conventionalism.

Religion in the New Kingdom

Until Amen-Hotep/Amenophis IV

The advent of the god Amun as a royal god during the New Kingdom marked a very important milestone in Egyptian religion.
Thebes was the great theological center of the country, although somewhat artificial, since this religious unity was greatly influenced by the religious division of previous times, especially by Osiriac mysticism and the multiple local cults.
Amon :Since the XI Dynasty, when he was confused with Ra, he became a solar god, performing a mixture or syncretism, merging all the elements of the two divinities. The clergy itself ceased to be local and centralized under the power of the High Priest of Amun in Thebes, undertaking great work that culminated in the elaboration of an official doctrine.
Through these transformations, a great effort can be seen to return to the old spirituality, approaching more and more Heliopolitan theology. Pharaohs Thutmose IV and Amen-Hotep/Amenophis II and III tend to keep the High Priests of Timon away from political positions by approaching the clergy of Heliopolis. Above all, Amenophis IV, invoked Ra with his new name of Titan, symbolized in the solar disk, perhaps to free himself from the power of the priests of Timon and following the religious currents of the time. For Moret, Aton will be the Egyptian parallel to the Syrian Adonis and the Hebrew Adonai, approaching the solar cults celebrated throughout the previous Asia.

The Time of El-Amarna

This era brought about a profound transformation in the framework of the economy, customs and art , as if Egypt had suddenly renounced all its traditions, except religion, which continued to be the center of the conception of life.
The Amarna monarchy was absolutist . The king was the Aten incarnate and this absolutism was the same as that of the Memphite kings of the 4th Dynasty, becoming essentially religious as it was in the time of Cheops/Kufu, although now the king is god made man , making him an asexual, universal being. And almost all the strange and ammalistic symbols used in the ancient Egyptian religion are no longer used, although the uraeus, ureo or cobra on the solar disk and the images of the pharaoh and his family are preserved.
The royal family will be the center of everything, once again marking the change in the customs of Egypt . Respect for the mother and the wife was, according to many opinions, an essential theme that marked the entire life of the king, who appears surrounded by his daughters and main wife in scenes of his family life that are made public, while at the of private life kept the ancient customs of a numerous harem and other wives, like Kiya.
The architecture will show this religious evolution. The temples are made in the open air, bright, open. And both in them and in the tombs the king was represented, who was loved because he was a god. Everything at this time tried to be pleasant, optimistic and beautiful or at least that is how it is interpreted, ignoring the harsh realities of marriages of the king in his daughters-girls who will die in childbirth, and other issues that are sensed in the royal environment. And this conception of life, iconographically different from previous times, translated directly into art. The architecture will be made to human measure. Warehouses are made beautiful. And realism and individualism give rise to a completely new school of sculpture and painting in el-Amarna in which the personality of the artist stood out, disappearing the classic postures and hieraticism, the painted scenes occupy an important role in the decoration and the nude. It is frequent, as well as transparent feminine dresses.
Literature he abandoned all conventionalism, rejecting hermetic symbolism, since, as literature is addressed to the people, they should understand it. Its best example is the Hymn to Aten , composed by Amenhotep IV, which we find reproduced in the tombs of the nobles of the el-Amarna period.

Egypt since the restoration of the cult of amon

The century that followed the Ammonite restoration is one of the most brilliant in Egyptian culture.
In Literature , the adoption of the vulgar language as a literary language gave a great impetus, which is manifested more widely since the reign of Amen-Hotep/Amenophis III, with the following characteristics:
In the first place, the fondness for the historical genre is appreciated, motivated by the great conquests of Thutmose III, with works such as La querella de Apopi (king of Avaris) and Sekenenra (king of Thebes), the Victory of Kamose over the king of Avaris , the Biography of Ahmes, the Annals of Thutmose III and the Poem of Pentaur:A papyrus with the campaigns of Ramses II, which are also known to be engraved and figured on the walls of the temples of Karnak, Luxor, Abydos, Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum.
Scholarship developed everywhere, due to outside influences and travel, teachings, and the study of foreign languages ​​and Asian civilizations and cults.
But he also turned to the Memphite era for models and studied the ancient texts with respect and admiration. The work Maxims of Any, whose main source for its knowledge is the Bulaq Papyrus dating from the XXII Dynasty. Love poems were born at this time, which were sung and recited among young people in social gatherings . In addition to small poems we know of a larger one, contained in the Chester Beaty Papyrus, written in verse.
The story achieved great popularity and the genre appears in the traditional line. We know among others:Unamón's journey , the Tale of the Predestined Prince , the Tale of the two brothers , the Story of Truth and Lies , the Tale of Horus and Seth , also preserved these last two in the Chester Beatty Papyrus. There are also fables such as The wolf and the kid .

Artistic manifestation in the New Empire

The New Kingdom was not only the period of greatest political and economic power for Egypt but also that of its greatest artistic and cultural development.
During the reign of three royal dynasties (from the XVIII to the XX), more monuments and constructions will be erected than in all past and future times in this country. The entire Nile Valley up to the Second Cataract, and even beyond, was filled with temples, chapels, and rock stelae.
Even if there were no other information about the power of the Egyptian state, the works of art of the New Kingdom that have survived would attest and inform us extensively of this great moment of political splendor and economic boom of the country.
There is no field in the artistic manifestations of this time that has not reached great perfection, both technical and artistic, and in all of them it is clearly demonstrated that the Egyptian population enjoyed great economic and social well-being, of which art was a faithful reflection. .

Architecture in the New Kingdom

The great achievement of the New Kingdom in monumental architecture was to set the typical scheme of the great temple consecrated to the divinity that we know today as the classical Egyptian temple .

Religious Architecture

The power of the clergy and the enrichment of temple treasures provided ideal conditions for the creation of a canon of sacred architecture. It should also be noted that, from this moment on, the war exploits of the pharaohs appear on the walls of the temples in the form of large reliefs of battles. The temple becomes the most representative national construction, with an enormous load of political propaganda, skillfully managed by the priestly class, represented on the walls. This is how we find it in the Nubian temple of Ramses II in Abu-Simbel, in the sanctuaries of Deir el-Bahari, the sanctuary of Mut and the grandiose complexes of Karnak and Luxor.

The classical Egyptian tempo

The plan of the classical egyptian temple Thus, a small dock was presented on the banks of the Nile River for the boats that carried the statue of the god and his entourage in procession. From the wharf itself, an avenue decorated with sphinxes led to the pylons of the temple, bekhene in Egyptian. Generally, in front of these pylons were placed the colossal statues of the kings and the tall poles for the banners. Behind the pylons, there was a patio, usually surrounded by columns on three sides. Past the courtyard, there were the hypostyle (closed) and hypetra (open) rooms that used to have the two central rows of columns higher, forming a kind of central nave, an example that we see in the temple of Amun in Karnak. Sometimes, at the end, a door led to a smaller hypostyle room and this to the room of the sacred boat; sometimes there were corridors on both sides. Finally, the Sancta Sanctorum , the chapel where the statue of the god was located, sometimes preceded by a small vestibule. Sometimes the temple had a main chapel and other smaller ones, generally three, due to the religious system of the divine triads.
The great cave tombs such as that of the Pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenophis III, are true labyrinths with chambers and chapels and important polychrome paintings and bas-reliefs. Among the mortuary temples are those of Sethi I at Gurna, that of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari and the imposing group of ruins of the mortuary temple of Ramses II, the famous Ramesseum, all facing Thebes on the west bank of the Nile. .

Civil Architecture

As a manifestation of civil architecture, we will mention the royal palace, which sometimes communicated with the funerary temple, such as that of Ramses III in Medinet Habu, only residence in religious festivals. Every king in Egypt was in the habit of erecting his own palace. Thus, Amen-Hotep/Amenophis III built to the west of Thebes, the palace of Malkata. The palace that is best known for representations is that of Amen-Hotep/Amenophis IV in el-Amarna .
Urban populations very often had two-story houses. Generally, the ground floor was occupied by workshops and the next two were used as living quarters.
The Schism of el-Amarna also left its mark on architecture. Thus, the temple dedicated to Aton had pylons and a hypostyle hall, but it lacked a roof, so that the sun's rays would reach its faithful without obstacles. In its walled enclosure there were columns that supported simple isolated architraves.

Sculpture and Painting in the New Kingdom

Painting and sculpture at this time are experiencing a true golden age . The human representation, in general, becomes more slender and full of grace and lightness. The artist's work is individualized, it is freed from the schemes of a traditional canon, more hieratic and depersonalized.
Much of the pictorial works of the New Kingdom have been preserved in the tombs of Theban notables at Gurna and Deir el-Medina and in the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings.


The development of painting follows the same stages as bas-relief and statuary.
Until the end of the reign of Thutmose III, artists continued to draw inspiration from the examples of Old and Middle Kingdom masters. Of this style are the paintings of the tomb of Meneperreseneb, High Priest of Amun. The best works of sculpture from this period are the bas-reliefs of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut and those of the temple of Thutmose III , both in Deir el-Bahari, the cube-statues of the architect Sennmut, the great helper of Queen Hatshepsut and that of Thutmose III in black granite.
With Amen-Hotep/Amenophis II and Thutmose IV, a new style full of grace and elegance triumphed. In painting, one of the most representative works may be the scenes from the tomb of the scribes Nakt and Menna .


In sculpture, it is worth highlighting the very flat reliefs, from the tomb of Ramosé, vizier and governor of Thebes under Amen-Hotep/Amenophis III and IV, as well as the sculptures that represent the pharaoh Amenophis III. The evolution of this style is broken by the isolated episode of el-Amarna.
In a very short time, the Amarna artists made a series of artistic monuments in accordance with the spirit of the time, such as the statues of the pharaoh himself with all his physical imperfections and the deformed princesses, which contrast with the beauty of the queen. The most recognized sculpture was the bust of Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten, created in the Amarna period.
But the best creations of this time are the reliefs and paintings that represent intimate scenes of court life:the queen and the king sitting, surrounded by their daughters in their rooms and worshiping the solar disk .


In Egyptian art, the Amarna trend, outside the traditional and freer rigidity, ended up degenerating into a mannerism that lasted only until the death of Akhenaten. However, some forms initiated in this period survived, such as the way of drawing the folds of the clothes, softer and more flexible and above all, it gave Egyptian art a greater naturalism and elegance that rejuvenated the classical forms.
With the XIX Dynasty, the ancient rules of Egyptian art returned with the official representations of the pharaohs, the divinities, the liturgical processions and great deeds of the kings, but all of this imbued with the lightness and naturalness of Amarna. Sample of the beautiful works of this moment is the bas-relief of Sheti I presenting offerings to Isis and Osiris in the temple of Abydos.
Under the Ramesidas, art developed on two planes:Works that continue to have a high level of execution such as the sculptures representing Ramses II and his wife Nefertari, or the paintings that decorated the tomb of the queen.

Minor Arts

Decorative art enjoyed an important tradition in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but it is at this time that it reaches greater perfection and beauty . The best example of sumptuary art is the furniture in Tutankhamun's tomb:its tables, chairs, painted beds, chests, jugs and, above all, the famous throne.
Sumptuary objects were not only the heritage of royal tombs or the great mansions of royal officials. Metal toilet articles, pottery, and alabaster jars have been found in the homes of artisans and people of lower social class.
The love of sumptuous objects was born from the contact between Egypt and the Asian peoples from the earliest stages of their history. In the New Kingdom, commercial and political relations became very accentuated.
Outstanding in sumptuary art are the vanity pieces in wood, metal and stone, the jewels, the carved canes of the pharaohs, the necklaces and Pectorals, the scarabs and amulets, as well as the ceramics, the chests, little boxes and ointments.

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