Egypt's prosperity declined about 1630 B.C. when the Hyksos (HIK»sahs) gained control of Lower Egypt and part of Upper Egypt. The Hyksos had come to Egypt from western Asia.
Hyksos kings ruled over Egypt for about 100 years as Dynasty 15. During their rule the Hyksos introduced the Egyptians to many important military innovations.
These included the horse-drawn chariot and a stronger kind of bow called a composite bow.
Pharaoh Ahmose of Dynasty 18 defeated the Hyksos and reclaimed Egypt in 1520 B.C. The beginning of Dynasty 18 in 1539 B.C. marks the beginning of the New Kingdom.
Egypt's first full-time army began during the New Kingdom. Army troops protected Egypt and conquered lands beyond the Nile Valley. Pharaoh Thutmose I sent troops as far north as the Euphrates River. He also conquered parts of Nubia, pushing Egypt's border past the fourth cataract. His son, Thutmose II, continued to expand Egypt.
After Thutmose II died, his wife Hatshepsut (hat«SHEP»soot) became pharaoh. Hatshepsut was the only woman in ancient Egypt's history to take on all the titles of a pharaoh. Queen Hatshepsut sent armies into Nubia and southwestern Asia. She also sent a trading expedition south on the Red Sea to the land of Punt. Punt may have been located in what is today Ethiopia or Somalia.
Hatshepsut's stepson, Thutmose III, followed her as pharaoh. Under his rule, the Egyptian empire reached its largest size. By 1450 B.C. Egypt controlled lands from Syria to Nubia.
The early years of the New Kingdom were a time of splendor. The Egyptians of this period built huge temples to the gods, larger than any before them. The temple of Amon-Re at Karnak was the largest in the Two Lands.
Although the Egyptians of this time constructed many buildings, they no longer built pyramids. The mummies of Egyptian kings were instead placed in hidden tombs in the Valley of the Kings. This was done so that tomb robbers would not find the tombs and their buried treasures.
At the height of Egypt's prosperity, the Egyptian people faced change. In 1353 B.C. Amenhotep IV came to the throne. He and his wife Nefertiti (nef»er»TEE»tee) focused worship on a single god, the Aton. Some scholars think of this as the first example of monotheism in ancient Egypt.
Amenhotep was so devoted to the god known as the Aton that he changed his own name to Akhenaton (ahk»NAHT»uhn), meaning "servant of the Aton." Akhenaton ordered that the names of many other gods be removed from temples and tombs. Most Egyptians, however, continued to worship the old Egyptian gods along with the Aton.
To help strengthen belief in the Aton, Akhenaton moved Egypt's capital to Akhetaton, also called el-Amarna, in the central part of the country. There he built large open-air temples to the Aton. Because of this move, present-day historians call this time the Amarna period.
After Akhenaton's death, a nine-year-old boy named Tutankhaton became pharaoh of Egypt. Under pressure from his ministers, the new pharaoh restored the old Egyptian gods and changed his name to Tutankhamen (too*tahng*KAHM»uhn), or "Living Image of Amon." Tutankhamen died at age 18 and was buried in a solid-gold coffin in a tomb packed with gold and jewels.
About 1215 B.C., the Egyptians began to lose parts of their empire to invaders known as the Sea Peoples. The Sea Peoples came from Asia Minor and lands in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. Egypt itself remained united through Dynasty 20, which ended in 1075 B.C.
Where did Akhenaton move Egypt's capital?
After the Egyptians were conquered, the written languages of their conquerors were used rather than hieroglyphics. For thousands of years, no one could read ancient Egyptian writing. Then, in A.D. 1798, French armies led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded northern Africa.