Mentuhotep II Nebhepetra
Describe the most important features known from that king's reign and the surviving sources of evidence about them.
Mentuhotep II Nebhepetra is considered to be most famous for reunifying Egypt under Theban rule, thus ending the turmoil of the First Intermediate period and establishing the far more stable Middle Kingdom.
The beginning of his reign seems relatively peaceful until evidence suggests that 14 years in, the last phase of civil war between Herakleopolis and Thebes (Mentuhotep's region) erupted, culminating in Mentuhotep defeating the Herakleopolitans and reunifying Egypt. As to how Mentuhotep actually unified Egypt remains broadly unknown. Historians have argued that a collection of unmummified bodies of 60 "soldiers" found not far from his mortuary complex prove that there was a battle. This collaboration of Egypt, regardless of how it actually occurred, is considered a 'tremendous achievement'1 in the history of Egypt and its significance is not only recognised today, but was by the Ancient Egyptian's themselves. Discoveries have been made as late as the 20th Dynasty of private tombs containing inscriptions 'celebrating [Mentuhotep's] role as founder of the Middle Kingdom'2.
Among Mentuhotep's achievements as king were his various temple buildings, the most famous being his 'innovative mortuary complex at Deir el-Bahri'3 (see Fig 1) which was entirely 'unique'4 when built. Its novel plan was the inspiration for Hatshepsut's later neighbouring monument. The complex is seen to be 'evidence [...] of the transition from the Old Kingdom pyramid temple to the 'houses of millions of years' of the New Kingdom'5 and so is significant in the movement of Ancient Egyptian architecture. Within the complex, a series of painted sandstone statues of Mentuhotep were found which 'are the earliest to represent the dead king in the so-called 'Osirian' pose'6 (see Fig 2). Additionally, Mentuhotep seems to have been the first king...
Bibliography: Arnold, D., Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003) p.149
Lehner, M., The complete pyramids (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1997) p.167
Murray, M., Egyptian Temples (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co Ltd, 1931) p.129
Shaw, I., The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) pp.139-142
Taylor, J., Death and the afterlife in Ancient Egypt (London: The British Museum Press, 2001) p.167
Wilkinson, T., Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2005) p.150
Reconstruction by Naville, 1910
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